The Call of Cthulhu was met with enthusiastic support by audiences and critics alike. Below are some excerpts from various reviews.
An absolutely gorgeous telling of HP Lovecraft's cult story. Every note is hit exactly right... the end result will leave you delirious. [a] must-see... a gorgeous, haunting, pitch-perfect mini-epic.
...This is one of those genius, word-of-mouth, Hollywood-will-never-understand-it kind of films. ...Best $20 I ever spent on a DVD.
Directed by Andrew Leman from a screenplay by Sean Branney, The Call of Cthulhu is determined to be faithful. It runs under an hour, thankfully avoiding the fleshing out of scenes and characters to meet those unwritten rules of feature length. There is a lot to be said for such consideration—as well as reminding us that movies needn’t fall back on superfluous baggage simply to fill for time. Leman braves a unique gimmick by utilizing standards of the time the story was written, filming in black and white, silent (complete with decorative title cards and subtle aging devices superimposed on the image), enhanced by a rousing musical score. For scenes with the monster, stop-motion animation was revitalized in lieu of CGI. There are several instances when Branney’s screenplay is in absolute control of the suspense within the source material, building to a heated climax.
So how does this vast, multi-storied tale come across as a low-budget silent movie? Impressively well. Director Andrew Leman does an excellent job handling The Man's growing understanding of the connection between events, the calm of characters who don't know the extent of the events around them, and the action of the swamp raid and frantic flight from the island of R'lyeh. Word cards aren't used for every utterance, but they provide enough information for viewers to piece together the rest of the dialogue from the gestures and mannerisms of the actors. (Fans of Lovecraft's most famous story will have no problem reading the lips of the character that first utters that famous unpronounceable name.) Hear the call of this silent movie and watch The Call of Cthulhu. This adaption would make H.P. Lovecraft proud.
The very best thing about it is its chosen method of presentation. Cthulhu is a black-and-white silent film, which proves brilliantly appropriate for a yarn written in 1926, the very end of the silent era. Director Andrew Leman and scripter Sean Branney serve Lovecraft´s words and mood faithfully, as the story of an unnamed man (Matt Foyer) relating stories within stories to a doctor at what must be a mental institution. The man has inherited reams of research from his uncle, and through those documents, and then through our protagonist´s further research, pieces of a puzzle are assembled, all pointing to the existence of a demon-worshipping cult. The more you know about Lovecraft and his overwrought, tightly wound horror fiction, the more you´ll appreciate the fine details in this small gem.
It must be stated: "The Call of Cthulhu" is the dominant film adaptation of a Lovecraft tale. This movie will soon become the high-bar to which future Lovecraftian movies are measured. First and foremost is the excellent acting. Even without dialog these actors put on amazingly convincing performances. The symphonic score is simply awesome. Obviously influenced by silent films of the past the score heightens the tension and accentuates the action; essentially, it completes the film. The HPLHS has amazing attention to detail, and no detail was spared here. The sets and wardrobe all appear period and the props are excellent. The special effects, especially during the R’lyeh scenes are great. The scenes in the Louisiana swamp are another highlight; how could one-hundred silent but screaming cultists be wrong?
The Great Old Ones are back, and they haven’t looked better. For those who are familiar with the lore of Lovecraft, you will be heartened by the fact that this is an incredibly faithful adaptation of the titular story. The entire film production is set up to resemble the old silent films, the kind of motion picture that would have existed when the story was originally written. Shot in black and white, the silent film is extraordinary at some of its recreations of a bygone era (purposely created damage, “hair” in the projector) and only gives away its true nature in some of the film stock, which is not quite like that used almost a century ago. Not only is CTHULHU faithful, but it’s damned good, silent or not. It builds its moments of dread at just the right points and moves along at a clip that would do its source justice.
The Call of Cthulhu, on the other hand, is absolutely a Lovecraft adaptation -- and it's an entirely awesome expenditure of 47 minutes. Halfway through this lovingly crafted and wonderfully reverent mini-movie I leaned over to a critical colleague and said "Dude ... this is some really good stuff!" His response: "It absolutely is! Who put this thing together??" Andrew Leman and Sean Branney, creators of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, are who put this thing together -- and if every "fan-made" movie were this curiously cool and bizarrely entertaining, well, it'd put a lot of Hollywood suits out of a job. I could rant and rave about the silent movie "gimmick" or the drop-dead wonderful musical score; the painstakingly difficult work that comes with the "old-school" look of the movie; or the wonderfully dreadful atmosphere that bubbles up from every frame of the flick, but you'll just have to trust me on this one.
Every single one of the actors in Call of Cthulhu, all wearing pancake makeup, do an exceptional job with the material and most of their acting coming from facial expressions and body language. Using masterful scene transitions to mark the narration within-narration style of the story, Andrew Leman keeps the viewer engrossed throughout the entire film and with the help of cinematographer David Robertson, succeeds in bringing scenes that are beautiful, frightening and hard to forget. The music in The Call of Cthulhu is an achievement in itself. Created by Chad Fifer, Ben Holbrook, Troy Sterling Nies and Nicholas Pavkovic, these guys did an exceptional job. From simple conversations, to action sequences, the score to this film ranges from calming, epic, to frightening.