TAMPA — This month, Tampa Bay area horror fans will have a rare opportunity to catch the world premiere of a brand-new film based upon H.P. Lovecraft’s ambitious classic weird horror tale “The Call of Cthulhu.” The film will make its debut at an in-person screening Saturday, Oct. 15, in the main theater at the Carrollwood Cultural Center, 4537 Lowell Road, Tampa.
Doors will open at 7 p.m., as attendees experience a bit of red carpet treatment. The screening gets underway at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10. Call 813-269-1310 or visit carrollwoodcenter.org or ci.ovationtix.com/35845/production/1073949.
Adapted for film by Mackley Fogarty, Kyle Brady, and Brian Petkash, and directed by Fogarty, “The Call of Cthulhu” features several local actors including Craig Ruska, Benjamin Gregory, Pete Zalizniak, Diego Rosado, Keith Eisenstadt, Jessica Duncan, Terry LaRosa, Hippie Griswold, Mary Lee Bellis, Christopher Kadonsky-Grant, Natasha Infante, and Bill DeMare. The film was produced by the Carrollwood Cultural Center’s film studio. “The Call of Cthulhu” is a continuation of the center’s new film program that started during the COVID-19 shutdown.
The story follows an unnamed protagonist who inadvertently flirts with madness when he stumbles upon “terrifying vistas of reality.” The protagonist, played by Ruska, discovers odd and ancient pieces of artwork, tortured artists who are plagued with dreams of horror as well as dedicated and highly secretive cultists as he tries to unlock a mystery involving a colossal cosmic entity worshipped by devotees. Cthulhu, as described in the original tale, has a “pulpy, tentacled head” and “a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings.”
First published in fantasy and horror fiction pulp magazine Weird Tales, Lovecraft’s short story has been described as one of the author’s major achievements. It helped establish Lovecraft’s self-contained literary universe that would eventually be referred to as the Cthulhu Mythos. It also expanded upon the author’s philosophy of cosmicism, which emphasizes the insignificance of humanity. Lovecraft scholar Peter Cannon wrote that the story is one of the author’s “bleakest fictional expressions of man's insignificant place in the universe.”
Fogarty, a fan of both literature and horror cinema, was drawn to Lovecraft’s work.
“One thing that helped bring H.P. Lovecraft to my attention was the influence his stories have had over the horror genre, especially in film,” Fogarty told Tampa Bay Newspapers in a recent interview. “‘The Call of Cthulhu’ specifically has always been a favorite of mine due to the fact that Lovecraft manages to create a solid atmosphere and was able to tell a story that spans across so many different characters in a really short span of time and this tale really contains some really solid lines littered throughout.”
This entire project is being produced by the Carrollwood Cultural Center, a nonprofit in the Carrollwood area that specializes in the arts. Working with limited resources was both a challenge and a source of innovative thinking.
“Being that the film is being produced by a nonprofit, we have had to work with virtually no budget, which has caused us to think creatively in order to make this project work,” he explained. “The Carrollwood Cultural Center does regular theatrical performances, so most of our setting and costuming were recycled from other live performances and some of our props were developed in-house via some of our art programs. This entire project has been a community effort and I am excited to unveil what we were able to create with so little resources.”
Another part of the process for the filmmaker involved making Lovecraft’s tale more suitable to modern audiences.
“There is the undeniable truth that Lovecraft was not fond of cultures outside of his own,” Fogarty said. “Throughout the process of recording the dramatic reading of the original story, we had to make multiple changes to the language to update the tale to modern standards in regard to those kinds of ideals. I wouldn't say this was a challenge per se, but something we needed to be aware of from the start.”
While the Oct. 15 premiere is the only scheduled in-person screening, beginning Friday, Oct. 22, at 10 p.m., “The Call of Cthulhu" will be available on demand, through the website at www.carrollwoodcenter.org. The cost to screen “The Call of Cthulhu” is $10. The film will be available through Friday, Nov. 5, at 9 p.m.
“Even though this is not a high-budget production, a lot of passion and a lot of creativity went into this film, not just from myself, but from everyone involved,” Fogarty said. “This project has been a labor of love and I think that will definitely show in the end product.”
Boasting themes of religious fanaticism, madness, and cosmic horror, the new, locally-produced adaptation of “The Call of Cthulhu” would make a fitting addition to any horror fan’s Halloween movie marathon lineup.
“At least as far as ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ is concerned, the message I take is that one mustn't be too eager to solve every mystery — and sometimes things are best left unconnected,” Fogarty said. “In ‘Cthulhu,’ we see at least two gentlemen who cause their own ends by prying too much into a conspiracy of cultists and deranged artists — and in both cases could have been spared had they not pried too much at something so dangerous. Not every mystery needs to be solved … and in some cases it's best if they aren't.”