SUMMARY In the frame story of the film, H. P. Lovecraft (Jeffrey Combs) learns of a monastery where a copy of the Necronomicon is held. Having been a regular there for his research, he sets up an appointment, his cab driver told to wait outside. Taking insult when the head monk calls his work “fiction”, Lovecraft insists that all his writings are true. Requesting to read the Alchemical Encyclopedia Vol. III, Lovecraft steals a key from another monk and flees to the cellar where the Necronomicon is being held. Unknown to him, a monk has seen him. Unlocking the vault where the book is held, the door closes behind Lovecraft unexpectedly, making him drop the key down a grating and into the water below. As that happens, one of the seals is opened.
Lovecraft sits to read and record what he is reading. It’s not specified if he sees visions of the future through the book, or if the book contains future accounts. It’s likely the stories will come to pass, and for the Necronomicon have already passed, alluding to the Necronomicon’s timelessness, as all the stories take place well beyond the 1920s.
Lovecraft is confronted by the head monk, who assures him that all will be fine if he opens the door. Lovecraft admits he dropped the key. Furious, the monk warns Lovecraft to replace the book, but the author is attacked by a monster in the water beneath him, and the last of the seals opens up. The head monk reveals himself to not be human at all, as he begins stretching his body through the bars to enter the room, and Lovecraft uses a sword in his cane to defeat the monster in the water.
Gathering his things and grabbing the book, Lovecraft begins to depart, being caught by one of the monks who warns him of the foolishness of his actions, telling him he will pay for his misdeeds. Lovecraft then escapes to the taxi and orders it to leave, and it leaves unpursued.
Originally envisioned as a small linking device tying the movie together, the story was fleshed out further by Yuzna and writer Brent Friedman as shooting progressed. The result is an Indiana Jones-flavored tale in which H.P. Lovecraft (Jeffrey Combs) visits a secret room in a library, where he sneaks a peek at the Necronomicon and starts to read its various tales. In the process, he unleashes some wicked forces that will stop at nothing to dispatch those who have disturbed its resting place.
Optic Nerve’s Vulich took on that challenge. “I like the idea of doing these subtle makeups anyway, and it’s kind of rare for us to get a chance to do something like this, so we jumped at the opportunity,” says Vulich. “Having worked on Re-Animator, Jeffrey may have been concerned at first about the makeup being too outlandish or heavy. When I started to tell him it would be very subtle, he kept on saying, ‘I like this word “subtle.”
Turning Combs into the reclusive writer was a “weird task,” according to Optic Nerve’s Everett Burrell. “First of all. hardly anybody knows what Lovecraft looked like. Very few photos of him have been published, so we had to dig around a bit.” Burrell’s partner, John Vulich, did the makeup, “which was basically a chin and a nose. You could only do so much. You couldn’t make him heavy, or he would look fey. People are so used to seeing Jeffrey in the RE-ANIMATOR films that it’s a nice change.”
Combs appreciates the way Vulich’s makeup helped capture some of the real character, who was altered for the purposes of the film. “I don’t think we were necessarily going for a dead-on, ‘Wow, look-that’s him!’ appearance, but at least we wanted to attempt a resemblance, for the hard-core fans,” the actor explains. “I tried to incorporate elements of the real H.P. Lovecraft, but because of the way the script was written, my characterization wasn’t the way he really was. So that’s why the makeup was a little more important; otherwise, I could have gone in there and just been myself without any alterations, but I wanted to do something that would at least harken back to the real guy.”
The end result Involved allowing as much of Combs as possible to be visible in the makeup, in order for his charismatic personality to shine through. Jeffrey is a known actor, and we didn’t want to diminish that aspect of it,” says Vulich. “We wanted people to know it was Jeffrey, yet still give it a Lovecraft feel.”
Screaming Mad George creation in which Lovecraft rips a librarian’s head open only to reveal a monster inside remained from principal photography, while the reshoots added more creatures to spice things up.
“Essentially, we were just trying to show a monster down in the pit to match a shot of a tentacle coming up through a grate that Optic Nerve had done,” says John Foster, who co-supervised the show with Buechler for MMI (Magical Media Industries). “We made it look like a Cthulhu variation-it’s basically a creature with some tentacles and a lot of eyes.”
Steve Johnson was also called in to create the “wall safe monster” that emerges from the library walls where the Book of the Dead routinely rests in peace. “It was basically a hand puppet operated by four people, explains Johnson of this creation, which resembles a huge hand with teeth in the middle that is capable of flopping and bending in unnatural ways. “There was a webbing material around the slots where people would place their hands in it to operate it. Then we had silk bags filled with methylcellulose on the fingers of each of our hands which had about 20 teeth attached to them. So it was this very mobile mouth that could stretch and get really big and then condense and constrict down. We kept it very simple, but also made it really come alive.”
This wasn’t the creation originally intended for the segment, according to Johnson, who went back to the drawing board to rethink the final incarnation before shooting commenced. “The end result became more simple and direct,” says Johnson. “It was a non-linear creative process which I’ve been leaning towards lately. The first creation we did didn’t move in the right manner and the stuff didn’t look alive. So we came up with a new technique and approached it a different way. When you do that. sometimes you end up with a better product.”
Jeffrey Combs as H. P. Lovecraft
Tony Azito as Librarian
Brian Yuzna as Cabbie
SUMMARY Edward De LaPoer, a member of the De La Poer family, is tracked down in Sweden after inheriting an old, abandoned family hotel (the name of this character is the only resemblance of this segment to lovecraft’s story The Rats in the Walls). Left a sealed envelope from Jethro De La Poer, he learns of his uncle’s tragic death. Upon a boat trip return to New England, a crash on the shore killed Jethro’s wife and son. Distraught, Jethro picked up a copy of the Holy Bible in front of several funeral mourners, tossed it into the fireplace and announced that any god who would take from him is not welcome in his home. That night, an odd fishman arrives and tells him he is “not alone”, then leaves behind an English translation of the Necronomicon. Using the book, Jethro brings his family back to life. However, they are revived as unholy monsters with green glowing eyes and tentacles in their mouths. Feeling guilty, he chooses to commit suicide by casting himself off an upper floor balcony.
Edward, distraught over a car accident years before which killed his wife, Clara, finds the Necronomicon and performs the ritual to revive her. That night, Clara arrives and asks to be invited in. Edward apologizes for the accident. Clara begins to regurgitate tentacles from her mouth, and in a panic, Edward pushes her away. Clara angrily attacks, but Edward, with a sword taken from a nearby wall, cuts her. She turns into a tentacle leading underneath the floor. Drawn underground from the injury, the creature below destroys the main floor and rises, a gigantic monster with tentacles, one eye and a large mouth. Edward cuts a rope holding the chandelier, jumps to it and climbs to the ceiling. “Clara” again tries to restrain him, but Edward destroys a stained glass window, the sunlight driving her away.
Edward pushes the chandelier rope free from the pulley, the pointed bottom piercing the monster in the eye, presumably killing it. Now on the roof, Edward has avoided the same fate that Jethro had years before, and decides to live.
Part of the appeal of adapting Lovecraft, according to director Christophe Gans, is the author’s very precise mythology, which he wanted to adhere to as much as possible. “He’s created a mythology where there is no heaven or hell,” explains Gans. “He was trying to go beyond the dream world, beyond the appearance. If we can see that, we can explain the success of Lovecraft. He really is one of the great authors who predates the post-acid culture.”
In fact, he was so determined to bring his specific vision to the screen that for his 30-minute segment, he had nearly twice the amount of storyboards usually required. “You could flip the pages of the story. boards and watch the movie.” explains FX consultant Tom Savini, who worked with Hadida on the upcoming Killing Zoe before reteaming with him on Necronomicon. An admirer of Savini’s work, Gans had hoped the esteemed goremeister would do a major chunk of his segment, but because of time constraints and a lack of prep time following Killing Zoe, Savini opted to hire his former colleagues at Optic Nerve to help out.
Heading up the FX team on this segment was Optic Nerve’s John Vulich and Everett Burrell (the latter has since left the company to focus solely on computer-generated FX). “Christophe wanted to approach this stuff with real striking imagery. going for the feel of a Maria Bava film mixed with a classic Hammer aesthetic,” says Vulich. “The trick with this segment was trying to come up with really disturbing setpieces, but also creating effects that were beautiful yet horrifying. There are a lot of contradictory images, which I think works well in the horror genre.”
On the set. Payne as Edward is visited by his beloved Clara. Ford has been made up to look pale and sickly, and Vulich has airbrushed intricate, soft-looking veins over her naked body. It’s an appealing sight to Payne’s character, who is nonetheless unsure how to react. With lightning flashing constantly outside the set window, the whole sequence has an eerily sexual feel as Ford slowly crawls toward the distraught Payne, seducing him with an impossible sight-the watery resurrection of his wife.
“We wanted to make her horrible, but in very subtle ways.” says Vulich. We put these white, pasty veins on her because Christophe wanted to make her look like a marble statue. She also had this weird tubing stuck to her back, since the water god Cthulhu keeps his victims on a sort of tentacle to use them as puppets. So we have this scene where she’s writhing on the ground in this pseudo-sexual position. Even in dailies, it kind of made you queasy to watch it.”
Another Optic Nerve creation was a Cthulhu minion that visits Jethro one rainy night. It was originally conceived as a simple character appliance, but Vulich ultimately opted to sculpt an elaborate fullhead mask. “We came up with this fish monster that’s sort of a henchman and definitely a homage to Lovecraft’s Shadow Over Innsmouth,” the artist reveals.
The zombie attack by the ocean victims, which was to be spearheaded by Tom Savini. “There was once a scene where we would see Cthulhu controlling all these people with his tentacles, and all the shipwreck victims would come back and Bruce Payne’s character would have to fight them, recalls Tom Rainone. It was cut out of the film early on and almost came back at the last minute, and it would have been classic Savini. Brian, Samuel Hadida and Savini sat down to figure out what they were going to do, and Savini just went off on an excellent tangent about how to do it in the easiest fashion. This would have been a pretty neat scene, but they finally cut it for time and budget reasons.” – Tom Rainone
Optic Nerve was deep into working on the first season of Babylon 5 and couldn’t come back to do all the necessary additions and reshots, so Bart J. Mixon landed the job, working under the banner of Bart Mixon’s Monster Fixin’s (he has since formed ME.FX with longtime collaborator Earl Ellis). These tricky reshoots included a full-body appliance for actress Ford as Clara turns into a long, veiny, tentacled mass from the waist down. This was the most appealing segment, because it wasn’t so much redoing things that didn’t work but adding to what was already there,” says Mixon. “The show happened relatively quickly. and therefore the techniques had to be down and dirty. We set Maria up through the floor with this tentacle makeup. She wore a long wig in the film which was nearly 6 feet long, so we were also able to design the effect around our limitations, using the hair to hide any seams we might have had.” A second stage of this makeup followed as Clara rises from Cthulhu’s watery pit to convince her beloved Edward to join her in briny bliss. Additionally, computer-animated enhancements were an integral portion of these two gags.
Mixon also provided a one-eyed Cthulhu monster that rips through the hotel floor and tries to pull Edward down. “The basic design was two skulls fused together at the eye sockets,” the artist explains, “Christophe saw this image in some photo collages created by J.K. Potter, and we extrapolated the design from that. We used it as a foundation and built upon it. You can still kind of see the twin skulls, but we added tentacles and various other factors onto it.”
Further additions to this segment included a flashback insert shot of a little boy who looks up at Jethro to reveal glowing green eyes and a squid like mass squirming out of his mouth. Newcomer Todd Rex recalls sculpting this creation without the aid of a lifecast and only a blown-up still frame of the young actor to work from. “It was a 112-hour week and very little money.” says Rex, who also worked with Spectral Effects Studios’ Sam Greenmun on other blood gags and minor FX throughout the extensive week of reshoots. “The puppet looked pretty good. considering it was just a rubber head with a giant syringe in its back filled with squids and goo.”
Bruce Payne as Edward De Lapoer
Belinda Bauer as Nancy Gallmore
Richard Lynch as Jethro De Lapoer
Maria Ford as Clara
Peter Jasienski as Jethro’s son
Denice D. Lewis as Emma De Lapoer
Vladimir Kulich as a Villager
SUMMARY Reporter Dale Porkel is suspicious of a string of strange murders in Boston over the past several decades. Confronting a woman at a local apartment building, he is invited in only to find the entire place is very cold. The woman he has confronted claims to suffer a rare skin condition which has left her sensitive to heat and light. Demanding the truth or his story runs as-is, Dale is told the story of Emily Osterman’s arrival to Boston twenty years before.
Emily had supposedly taken residence in the apartment building, and told by Lena, the owner, not to disturb the other tenant, Dr. Richard Madden, a scientist. Her first night, she is attacked by her sexually abusive stepfather, Sam, who has tracked her down. Running away, the two struggle on the steps leading to the apartment next door. Dr. Madden opens his door, grabs Sam’s arm and stabs his hand with a scalpel. He falls down the stairs and dies. Emily is bandaged up and given medication. That night, Emily is awakened by the sound of drilling and she sees blood dripping from her ceiling. Heading upstairs, she finds Dr. Madden and Lena mutilating Sam’s corpse. She passes out, to awaken later in her bed with a clean ceiling. Dr. Madden assures her that it was all a bad dream.
The next day while job hunting, Emily sees two cops with flyers asking for information about the murder of Sam. She confronts Dr. Madden, and he comes clean: though Sam was already dead from the fall, Dr. Madden claims he would have killed Sam regardless for what he had done to Emily. Dr. Madden reveals his copy of the Necronomicon to Emily and explains to her how he learned of its information on sustaining life. In the greenhouse, Dr. Madden proves this by injecting a wilted rose with a compound to revive it, claiming that as long as it is kept out of the sun, it will never die. The two have sex, with a distraught and angry Lena spying on them.
That night, Lena threatens to kill Emily if Emily will not kill her, as Lena is in love with Dr. Madden, a feeling that has never been returned. Emily flees, only to return months later. Upon arrival, Emily finds her boss from the diner in Dr. Madden’s apartment, struggling to avoid death. Lena stabs the man in the back, killing him. Lena insists on killing Emily, but Dr. Madden will not allow it. The two struggle, destroying lab equipment in the process. The resulting fire injures Dr. Madden severely, and without his fresh injection of pure spinal fluid, feels no pain as his body disintegrates before he dies. Lena shoots Emily with a shotgun in revenge. Emily announces her pregnancy, and Lena, feeling a loyalty to Dr. Madden, saves her.
Dale suspects the woman he’s talking to is not Emily’s daughter, but Emily herself, having contracted a disease from Dr. Madden during intercourse. Emily reveals he is right, and that she is still pregnant, hoping one day that her baby may be born. She also reveals that she has continued murdering for spinal fluid, and chooses to keep a supply stockpiled. Dale realizes his coffee has been drugged as an aged Lena approaches him, brandishing a syringe.
The segment to be filmed was “The Cold”, directed by Shusuke Kaneko. The story focuses on creepy scientist Dr. Madden (David Warner), who has a special secret for eternal life that a young woman (Bess Meyer) soon discovers.
Screaming Mad George, who was responsible for the main FX involving Dr. Madden’s meltdown, was interested in doing it in a totally different way. “We created a radio controlled head with skin over it that was made out of gelatin, but not as flexible,” George says. “We wanted to have the makeup melt on the inside in increments instead of strictly on the outside. It was a subtle effect, but it was only shot from one angle and there was no coverage. It became difficult to cut together later in editing.”
“From the beginning, I talked with Brian about conceptualizing what is melting in ‘The Cold’ and why he is not undergoing the typical meltdown we’ve seen before,” says George. “So I experimented with it and tried to have the skin remain on the outside and have the insides melt and ooze out. It looked pretty good, but when we shot it, the camera was only pointing in one direction and they had no coverage on anything, so it became a problem in the editing to cut it together. So all there was this dummy moving and melting a bit, and because the outside didn’t dissolve, it was much too subtle.”
For “The Cold,” George was also unavailable, so Mixon provided additional FX to Dr. Madden’s meltdown, taking it a few extreme steps forward. “This effect ended up being the single goriest thing I’ve ever done, and it was a refreshing change of pace since at the time I was working with the Chiodo Brothers, and they were heavily into character puppet stuff that had a cartoony, fanciful edge to it,” recalls Mixon. The goal was to make it the sloppiest, drippiest, grossest thing we could, with pus foaming out of the body for no reason and eyeballs collapsing out of the head. We threw whatever we had in there to make it as grotesque as possible.”
Filling in for the absent Warner was actress Dinah Cancer, who was disguised by extensive makeup. “She had been in this corpse suit for 18 hours on Fright Night 2 and wasn’t eager to do that again, but I assured her it was only heads and hands,” says Mixon.
The result was a very bloody scene whose over-the-top nature so impressed Yuzna that he started coming up with other gags to throw into the sequence. “Todd Masters had this chest appliance lying around, so at the last minute. we did a quick shot Brian wanted where we rip open the character’s chest and see the ribcage, and there are hunks of foam and organs inside.” Mixon recalls.
David Warner as Dr. Madden
Bess Meyer as Emily Osterman
Millie Perkins as Lena
Dennis Christopher as Dale Porkel
Gary Graham as Sam
Curt Lowens as Mr. Hawkins
SUMMARY During a pursuit of a suspect known as “the Butcher”, two police officers, Paul and Sarah of the Philadelphia Police Department, are arguing over their failed relationship and the coming baby. The argument leads to a crash, flipping the cruiser upside down. Paul, having unbuckled his seat belt in the argument, is knocked out and dragged off by an unseen person. Sarah unbuckles herself, breaks the window and exits the vehicle. Unable to call for backup, she follows a blood trail alone.
Inside the old warehouse, Sarah follows as Paul is taken down a service elevator. Sarah trips on a rope and falls through to the floor, saved from impact by the rope around her ankle. The rope breaks a second after. As she gets up, she finds a man in glasses, Harold Benedict. Insisting he is merely the landlord of the warehouse and the Butcher is a tenant, he offers to lead her to him. Downstairs, the two are shot at by Mrs. Benedict, a blind old woman. Sarah, sick of getting a run-around, takes the shotgun and orders the two to lead her to the Butcher. Mrs. Benedict indulges in gossip first, insisting she’s not really Benedict’s wife. She also claims the Butcher is an alien. While searching for the Butcher, Sarah makes her way to a cavern filled with bat-like creatures and other monstrosities, but the Benedicts pull the ladder from the hole, leaving Sarah trapped. As Sarah ventures through the cavern, she starts to become scared, even promising to keep her unborn child. She later sees Paul, but he has already been eaten by the bat-like creatures that inhabit the cavern. His brains are needed by the bats to reproduce. The bats then begin to corner her. She later wakes up on a table where Mr. and Mrs. Benedict are seemingly trying to feed Sarah to the alien bats.
Sarah suddenly wakes up in a hospital. Her mother and a doctor (who resemble the Benedicts) rush into her room. Sarah was forced to have an abortion as a result of the car accident earlier, but her mother insists that she will be forgiven if she forgives herself. Sarah wants to see Paul, but Paul is brain dead and turns out to be in the very same state that he was found back in the caverns. Sarah screams in terror in spite of her mother’s pleas to not scare the baby. Sarah does not understand what her mother is talking about, as she thought the baby had to be aborted. Her mother opens her blouse and reveals that the baby is inside the womb of the alien-bat creatures. Sarah is even more scared especially after removing her bed sheets and finding out she has lost half of one of her arms. Suddenly, the hospital setting changes back into the cavern. Sarah is still on the table, about to become a meal for the alien bats. Harold wants to leave but Sarah still has the keys.
“This became a sort of existentialist horror show, which is a very bizarre way of approaching a genre film,” notes Todd Masters, who handled FX duties on what may be the most viscerally intense and surrealistic story of the bunch. More “symbolically figurative than literal,” the most prominent creations were the monster puppets dubbed “turkey birds,” which bear suspiciously vaginal slits in their centers out of which the creatures talk.
“They also had beaks that came out of the mouths and were essentially chain-driven with electric carving knives,” says Masters. “They had little blades that moved back and forth and a fluid sucker you could actually drain liquids through.”
Ultimately, the pressures of having little time to conceive these creatures resulted in Masters having to cast the birds out of a reliable but very heavy substance called Skinflex, which made it more difficult for the operators to control them. “The plan was not originally that they were going to be suspended by puppeteers as they were, so ultimately they looked like these big floppy birds,” says Masters, who crafted various versions of the creatures, including one which had eyeballs and a brain in its belly and another with a fetus growing inside.
“Since the budget was cut at the last minute, we originally planned to shoot the puppets basically as shadows, Masters continues. “We were always told we wouldn’t see them that much, so we didn’t have to worry about putting much money into making them animatronic, but we still needed them to be flexible. Brian wanted to leave some holes in the rough cut as well, so he could show investors what was missing in order to get more money for reshoots and have time to create better payoff shots.”
As for “Whispers.” Masters returned to pick up where his company left off, doing a few more shots of the “turkey bird” puppets and a wide assortment of blood gags as well as a couple of stop-motion flying puppets created specifically for this shoot. “We ended up filming these animated shots of them flying around the room and blending into the walls,” recalls Masters. “I was leaving for Africa the morning after we wrapped. so I didn’t even see what the shots looked like until I came back.”
Signy Coleman as Sarah
Obba Babatundé as Paul
Don Calfa as Mr. Benedict
Judith Drake as Mrs. Benedict
“This is the Necronomicon I wanted to do for Sam Raimi in ARMY OF DARKNESS, but that one had to look something remotely like the one in EVIL DEAD II, which had a sort of twisted face on the cover. I stuck with the same kind of design but on a much bigger book. It turned out fairly interesting, but it was not the book I wanted to do for Sam. I wanted a more ornate version. This one is a bronze skeleton over an animal skin cover, with embossing and engraving on the bronze.” – Anthony Tremblay (Production Designer)
In 1992. director Brian Yuzna came up with the idea of creating an anthology film franchise using the book as a linking device to tell various H.P. Lovecraft-inspired stories, each helmed by a director from a different country. With financing in place, Necronomicon went before the cameras in spring 1993, but a funny thing happened on the way to the screen. Despite receiving release overseas, the makeup FX-heavy movie seemed as if it had been left for dead as it waited for an American distributor to pick it up.
“My producing partner on the film, Samuel Hadida, was determined that we could get a nice theatrical release out of this picture.” Yuzna explains. “I believe that because the film was a trilogy and distributors felt it was a bit uneven, Sammy could never land a good enough deal. It’s hard to get theatrical distribution for these movies anyway, so the film just sat around.”
Written by Brent V. Friedman, Necronomicon features tales loosely inspired by the HPL short stories “The Rats in the Walls,” “Cool Air” and “The Whisperer in Darkness.” Originally intended as a low-budget direct to-video entry, the project slowly evolved beyond that as international financing started trickling in and each director’s input expanded the production. The film now promises to be the largest FX extravaganza to come from the independent arena in quite some time, though a theatrical release still hasn’t been ironed out.
“I was brought in to rewrite three stories scripted by Lisa Morton and make them scarier, but in the course of doing so the whole project changed,” Friedman explains. “Everything got upscaled. Instead of doing a simple horror film, everyone thought that we should get a little arty here and do something different. All the boundaries got completely expanded when more money came in-for better and for worse.”
Necronomicon has been Yuzna’s pet project for years. He’s always secretly desired to create the ultimate Lovecraft movie, with faithful adaptations of his stories, but as the film went through development he admits that it eventually became only “loosely based on Lovecraft.”
“We realized it wasn’t going to work, and we needed to just make a movie, Yuzna says, while Friedman adds, “We tried to keep the spirit in there, but it’s tough because we really have three different visions of what Lovecraft is about. It’s good because each interpretation is so unique and varied. At the same time, it’s going to be hard for people to see what my concept of Lovecraft was because when I wrote them, there was an underlying theme of my vision of Lovecraft and three people have interpreted that, so it’s kind of diluted.”
“Having three directors is like making three separate movies,” says Yuzna. “However, there are also three different cultures as well. Shu Kaneko doesn’t speak any English and Christophe has never directed a movie before, so it’s been very difficult from that position.”
The film is broken into four separate features: “The Library”, “The Drowned”, “The Cold” and “Whispers”. “The Library” segment is the frame story, which begins and ends the movie.