Lovecraftian is a term that gets thrown around a lot to describe an intellectual property that has been heavily influenced by the work of bizarre fiction author H.P. Lovecraft. It's a word I use sparingly, especially since I happen to be a very hardcore and very nerdy Lovecraft fan. If I told you how many times I've read the countless short story collections I have tucked around the house, you might label me as obsessive, or, worse yet, a deranged shut-in that needs to spend some time outdoors every once in a while. To keep such negativity away from my tender feelings, I'll just declare myself a rabid fan and be done with it. Moving along at this point is highly recommended.
Not surprisingly, I'm very skeptical of motion pictures that are described as Lovecraftian in nature by people with only a working knowledge of the author's literary output. When a good friend of mine handed me a copy of writer/director David Prior's surprisingly effective horror outing "AM1200", my first reaction was to narrow my eyes and wrinkle my brow. After all, this is the same person who suggested that I watch Barrett Leigh and Thom Maurer's abysmal direct-to-video tumor "Beyond the Wall of Sleep", a film loosely based on a short story by Lovecraft himself. Although I was reluctant to grant Prior's frightening little effort the time of day, I decided I would give the film the benefit of the doubt. I'm extremely glad I did.
The story follows the illegal maneuvers of misguided corporate nobody Sam Larson, a man who, with the help of Ray Rise, has just stolen a large sum of money from the financial firm that employs him. Paranoid that he's about to be apprehended by Johnny Law, Sam hits the road with the cash in tow. As night falls without incident -- accept, of course, for the "close call" with a patrol car and a quick roadside puke session -- our hero begins to relax, which, unfortunately, causes him to fall asleep at the wheel. To help him stay awake, Sam begins scanning through the available radio stations in hopes of finding something that will help him fight off the Sandman. Bad idea.
Naturally, it doesn't take long for this poor schmuck to stumble across a cry for help on a station dedicated to Godly worship. In an extremely poor move, Sam foolishly decides to answer this distress call by tracking down the location of this peculiar AM station and rescuing the person on the other end of the dial. What he's yet to realize, of course, is that something incredibly sinister and impossibly evil is waiting for someone to stop by and stay awhile. The end result is nothing short of brilliant, so much so that I'll refrain from revealing any more specific details about the plot.
Prior has done more with 40 minutes than most seasoned genre directors can accomplish with 90. The film is unsettling from frame one, and gradually builds upon this growing sense of unease as its narrative transports our hero from the big city to the far reaches of absolutely nowhere. Prior's ability to generate suspense, as well as his loving, well-executed nods to Lovecraftian horror, is beyond impressive. Sam's descent into the AM1200 offices is one of the most unexpectedly unnerving sequences I've encountered in recent memory. What's more, the film's gory finale is top notch, and only adds to the feature's spooky aesthetic.
If there's any film that rightfully deserves the Lovecraftian badge of honor, it's "AM1200". If you haven't already popped over the film's official website to purchase a copy of your very own, I strongly suggest you do so as soon as inhumanly possible. David Prior has skillfully captured the spirit of what makes H.P. Lovecraft's otherworldly tales so dreadfully creepy without compromising himself as a filmmaker in the process. There are moments of pure genius at work in "AM1200", and one can only imagine what Prior could do with a decent budget and longer script. Then again, considering what he's managed to achieve in only 40 minutes, I honestly don't care if he ever makes a feature-length film. Just as long as he keeps working.