Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (PG)
Arcana; IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; Shout! Factory; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; FandangoNOW; Google Play; iTunes; Vudu
This is the first of a trilogy of movies that are based on a trilogy of graphic novels (which I haven't read), which were inspired by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. The first movie was released in 2016, but I didn't see it until 2019, on Amazon. I wasn't generally wild about the writing, or the acting, or the animation, or the story in general. I mean, I kind of liked the animation, and anyway I knew what to expect from that before I watched the movie, so I can't say I was disappointed by that. But I was kind of disappointed by everything else, even if I didn't think it was terrible. At least I still want to watch the other two movies in the series.
Anyway... there's a young boy named Howard Lovecraft (who I guess is meant to be H.P. Lovecraft as a child), whose father, Winfield, is locked away in a sanitarium. Howard's mother takes him to visit Winfield, who gives Howard some warnings in a raving way. (Oh, I should probably mention that the psychiatrist they talk to before seeing Winfield, Dr. West, is voiced by Christopher Plummer.) Later, when Howard and his mother have returned home, she gives him a journal that his father had written before he went mad (though honestly he doesn't sound much saner in the journal than he did in the sanitarium). It tells of a land called R'yleh, where there are terrible creatures, and stuff. I guess all that was stuff Winfield had learned about from someone else, who had provided an incantation that Winfield had later used himself, which transported him to R'yleh, and his experiences there were what had driven him mad. Naturally, Howard reads the incantation in the journal, and soon finds himself in R'yleh.
It's a frozen land, which he begins exploring, and he's soon chased by a creature, which ends up falling over a ledge and barely hanging on. The creature begs for Howard's help, which he only agrees to after the creature promises not to hurt him. Once the creature is safely back on solid ground, he apparently feels obligated to some sort of life-debt, and calls Howard "Master." I need to mention, the first time I saw this creature, I assumed he was Cthulhu. But he calls himself Thu Thu Hmong, which Howard can't pronounce, and instead begins calling him "Spot." Howard rides on Spot's back (which kind of reminded me of Ray and Bob, from Kaijudo). They meet a family of sort of humanoid people, who I guess are orphans. The oldest is a girl named Gotha, and then there's her brother, Davik (who doesn't speak), and a pair of young twins named Twi'i and Innes (who talk a lot). The family gives Howard shelter for the night, and he learns a bit from them, before continuing on his journey with Spot. Howard teaches Spot about playing (making snowmen, having snowball fights... there aren't a lot of options, in a frozen kingdom).
Eventually they reach a castle, where they meet someone named Algid Bunk (Jane Curtin), who explains how the kingdom came to be frozen. And apparently there's a prophecy about someone who could restore R'yleh to its former natural splendor, and she believes that person to be Howard. So she asks him to retrieve a book (similar to his father's journal, which I think is still back in Howard's world). She says this book could not only end the endless winter, but also send him home. (There's also some mysterious masked figure who works with or for Algid, who is apparently called "the Envoy" in this movie, though I don't remember ever hearing him referred to by any name or title, let alone getting a clear idea of exactly what his function is in the story. But just from looking things up on the internet, it's easy to be vaguely spoiled about another name he goes by- I'm assuming it isn't actually revealed until one of the sequels, but I could be mistaken. Anyway, I'm not going to mention that other name here. Though I will say he's voiced by Doug Bradley, a name not familiar to me, but it may be familiar to serious horror fans. Oh, and there are a bunch of little creatures that the internet informs me are called "govlins," who are supposed to be guards or soldiers or something, but are basically just comic relief. I guess they're all voiced by Scott McNeil, though only one of them has any actual dialog.) So... Howard and a reluctant Spot set out to find the book, which turns out to be guarded by some creature called Shoggoth (Ron Perlman), who tells Howard some things I don't want to spoil. But anyway, they manage to get the book away from him and bring it back to Algid, and then... more stuff happens that I don't want to spoil. I'll just say that Howard does eventually get home.
Well, I feel like the movie is kind of silly, most notably in the parts that should be scary. It never really gets "eldritch" enough to be worthy of Lovecraft. But... I suppose I'm not in the target age group. And if it feels too "kid-friendly" to me, I'll look at it like this: it's never too early to start molding people into fans of Lovecraftian horror. (Or even just gothic horror, in general.)