Film: The Whisperer in Darkness
A short story by HP Lovecraft
, first published in Weird Tales
in August 1931. Although it makes numerous references to the Cthulhu Mythos
, the story is not a central part of the mythos, but reflects a shift in Lovecraft's writing at this time towards Science Fiction
. The story introduces the Mi-Go, an extraterrestrial race of fungoid creatures.
In 2011 a film version was produced by Sean Branney, Andrew Leman, and David Robertson and distributed by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society. As per HPLS's The Call of Cthulhu
, it uses the Mythoscope blend of vintage and modern filming techniques to produce the look of a 1930s-era Universal Horror
film, through given the era this one is a talkie instead of a silent film.
The film and short story have the following tropes:
- Ascended Extra:
- The characters of Wilmarth's three friends at Miskatonic University were developed from Call of Cthulhu role-playing characters created by the filmmakers years before.
- George Akeley didn't make any physical appearances in the original story.
- Action Survivor: Wilmarth is a sheltered academic, but according to other stories set in the Cthulhu Mythos survives to old age. In the film though he's captured by the Mi-Go and his fate is uncertain.
- Adaptation Expansion: The movie depicts the events of the short story but adds a 'third act'. Where the book ends with the protagonists' flight from Akeley's farm and back home, the movie goes on to have him thwart a ritual preceding an Alien Invasion by the Mi-Go, and fight them in a mid-air combat scene. Since the ending is no less Lovecraftian for it, general consensus is that the movie is, as per HPLS's silent movie The Call of Cthulhu, a loyal adaptation of the Cthulhu Mythos to film.
- Alien Invasion: In the film. In the short story the Mi-Go are only here for mining and research purposes, and don't harm humans as long as they stay away, as conquering Earth would be too much trouble.
- And I Must Scream: When Akeley realises he's been turned into a Brain in a Jar, he begs Wilmarth to kill him. When B-67 is murdered by Noyce all he can do is scream.
- A Storm Is Coming: Floods and constant rain herald the upcoming apocalypse.
- Battle Discretion Shot: Wilmarth notes the bulletholes in the wall next to the door, implying that Akeley had fired at something inside the house.
- Better to Die Than Be Killed: Will Masterson shoots himself rather than face the Cosmic Horror to come.
- Big Electric Switch: As per the genre, one is used by Wilmarth to shut down the Mi-Go's Mad Scientist Laboratory.
- Black Speech: Nathaniel Ward quickly switches off the phonograph when Wilmarth says he's been listening to the wax cylinder recording of the cultist ceremony throughout the night.
- Blue and Orange Morality: The Mi-Go have long been Ur Examples for this trope: most people would see the extraction of a brain and putting it in a canister as a morally-questionable act; for them it's a reward.
- In the film they do this to Wilmarth, after he ruins their ritual and destroys their stone circle, despite having said that he's unworthy, uninteresting and weak-willed earlier that night.
- Blood-Splattered Innocents: Hannah is splattered with her father's blood when he kills himself.
- Brain in a Jar: The Trope Codifier — the alien Mi-Go place living human brains in cylinders to transport them through space to other planets. Unlike later versions of the trope, the cylinders are not transparent (though they are in the film).
- Brain Transplant: The Mi-Go can remove and implant brains with ease. Not necessarily in the same body
- California Doubling: Averted with location filming in Vermont and Massachusetts (with Mount Holyoke College as Miskatonic University).
- Cat Scare: Hannah grabs Wilmarth's shoulder while he's listening in on the cultists.
- Chekhov's Gun: The cropduster on the Masterson farm.
- Close-Up on Head: Turns out it's only the head, as Wilmarth is narrating events via the holographic projection machine.
- Creator Cameo: Producer Andrew Leman as Charles Fort.
- Consummate Liars: The Mi-Go about most things, according to Masterson.
- Loners Are Freaks: Rumor has associated the strange beings with recluses.
...there are shocked references to hermits and remote farmers who at some period of life appeared to have undergone a repellent mental change, and who were shunned and whispered about as mortals who had sold themselves to the strange beings. ...it seemed to be a fashion... to accuse eccentric and unpopular recluses of being allies or representatives of the abhorred things.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: Once they're unplugged, those in the brain cylinders experience 'vivid, fantastic dreams'.
- Mood Dissonance: The calm telepathic voices of the Mi-Go.
- Music for Courage: Averted when Wilmarth offers to sing for Hannah like he did for his daughter to lift her spirits. Hannah refuses and Wilmarth looks relieved.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Akeley's reaction to the news that he sent his son to his death by asking him to deliver the black stone to Wilmarth.
- The Nameless: The man whose brain is in cylinder B-67.
- Nothing Is Scarier: The opening line of the short story is Bear in mind closely that I did not see any actual visual horror at the end.
- Not So Dire: Wilmarth looks away in horror as a Mi-Go advances towards Hannah, only for it to be revealed it hasn't hurt her.
- People Jars: The bodies are stored separately in a cave which the protagonist later enters, horrified to find the headless corpse of Akeley plugged into tubes and twitching as if still alive.
"Have you seen one, up close? They can put thoughts right into your head!"
- Title Drop: In the short story.
Great God! That whisperer in darkness with its morbid odour and vibrations!
- You Have Failed Me: The Mi-Go butcher Noyce (and presumably the other cultists) after the gate is closed on them.