THE THING ON THE DOORSTEP opens with a bang. Six of them. Fired through Edward Derby’s head to be exact. After a brief explanation by narrator Daniel Upton the meat of the story begins. THING is brought forward through time to a contemporary setting keeping the story intact and not detracting from Lovecraft’s style in any way.
Edward is a free spirit from a well monied family who goes through life without a worry. Daniel looks after Edward and the story follows the affair between Edward and Asenath Waite. Things take a turn into Lovecraftia when Edward’s father calls on Daniel to try to convince his son to leave Asenath because she is a necromancer. Daniel is much too late however and he does not even meet Aseneth until after the wedding is concluded.
Shortly after the wedding friends had noticed Edward began looking like Asenath and he is taken seriously ill. Soon after Dan finds out Edward’s father had died two days prior and is shocked by Edward’s seeming indifference. As Edward becomes more and more ostracized by the more dominant Asenath he visits less frequently and Dan realizes he misses Edward and had enjoyed the previous “life of surprises” that Edward’s friendship would bring.
After a very brief period of joy it becomes readily apparent that Edward has made a terrible mistake. Edward confides in Dan while Mary tries to make inroads with Asenath despite the obstruction by her very creepy and rude servants. Asenath tells Mary someone is hurting her-the servants on Edward’s behalf. Afterwards Dan and Marian begin fighting what seems to be a gender proxy battle of sorts Dan siding with Edward and Marian with Asenath and all the while Edward spirals into a cycle of erratic behavior. His visits are more desperate and he becomes more and more paranoid thinking that Asenath has people watching him at all times. Edward tells Daniel that he is always monitored and isn’t allowed to be himself anymore. He would later visit and convince Dan that everything was all right and that he just had a moment.
As the rocky marriage and erratic behavior of a seemingly vacillating Edward build to a crescendo we, the viewers, eventually find ourselves back at the beginning. For those who may not be familiar with this particular piece of Lovecraft’s work I will not spoil it. The retelling holds true and modernizes the tale in such an unobtrusive manner that it seems the story could have been authored recently.
Visually, THE THING ON THE DOORSTEP delivers crisp nightmarish images. Almost like very brief but powerful set pieces. Showing just enough but done so quickly. There is a drowning in a car parked on a street side. Flashing images of a person bound to a chair, hallways with bodies all awash in green hues lend to the unease created by the slow burning story.
The camera work is well done. The attention to detail is apparent as even motes of dust gliding across frame are given attention. Dark interiors lit solely by a flashlight look very sharp and the nighttime exteriors help create the ever darkening atmosphere. Imagery plays strong in this film; take for example the dilapidation of the exterior of the Derby’s house mirrors the decay of the souls within. The score is fitting and the sound layering (so many indie flicks ignore this crucial aspect!) is well done.
The acting is top notch. David Bunton carries the film well as Daniel Upton and acquits himself quite well. The film however revolves around Edward Derby and Rob Dalton steals the show. He has to play a bon vivant who descends into madness and begins to lose himself. Dalton plays the part to the hilt always being a tad megalomanic. Changes in Edward’s demeanor and mannerisms such as a long glance at his reflection as though he is amused by what he sees make the character shine. Mary Jane Hansen plays an ethereal Asenath Waite and Susan Cicarelli-Caputo helps keep the viewer grounded as things slowly slip out of control.
Lovecraft fans should check this out. If you are a fan of psychological horror you should definitely check it out. THE THING ON THE DOORSTEP is a worthy entry into the canon of Lovecraftian cinema.