THE QUANTUM DEVIL *** USA 2023 Dir: Larry Wade Carrell. 95 mins
H.P. Lovecraft wrote The Call Of Cthulhu in 1926 and ever since then filmmakers have attempted to bring the tentacled, mind-bending monster, to life. Although some productions have broken into cultural
relevance with mainstream financial and critical success (The Mist, The Cabin In The Woods, Color Out Of Space and The Void) most attempts have been abysmal failures. The recent resurgence of Quantum Physics as a creative framework of cinematic exploration (Ant Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, Everything Everywhere All At Once) also opened new, and previously unexplored, avenues for genre filmmakers to probe and examine.
Director and Co-Writer Larry Wade Carrell is the latest filmmaker to venture into a creative amalgamation of these metacognitive and theoretical realms with The Quantum Devil.
An international team of scientists are summoned to a remote location in eastern Europe in an effort to breach the quantum barrier and travel to another dimension. Their shady pasts are revealed, and the true nature of the experiment is beyond anything they could have predicted.
The scope of creating a Lovecraftian horror film is a staggering challenge due to the magnitude of the literary creature and the profoundly existential mythology created since H.P. Lovecraft’s original works. Filmmakers often struggle to do these aspects justice and fail miserably in the execution of intricate, yet universal, meta-physical concepts. Carrell’s approach to the topic is fantastically ambitious as he not only explores the Cthulhu mythos, but also connects it with more modern films, including the science fiction elements of Minority Report and Inception, the claustrophobic paranoia of Escape Room and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, as well as hints of body-horror from Hellraiser and Dawn Of The Dead. These elements blend together seamlessly enough to pay homage to the originals as well as justify the ambitions of the director.
The Quantum Devil does suffer significantly from a lack of likeable characters and an inordinate use of scientific jargon that feels rehearsed and unnaturally performed. The cast of scientists are truly unbelievable as serious Academics, with both female protagonists (Tamara Radovanovic and Ariadna Cabrol) either dressed as early 2000’s ravers, prostitutes, or at best, Alice from the Resident Evil franchise. Their male counterparts, Tyler Tackett and Edward Apeagyei, are given more development and pathos, but ultimately, they too, are left floundering in a sea of chaotic dialogue and underdeveloped motivations. The standout performance of the film is undoubtedly Neil Dickson (Inland Empire, Haunting Of The Innocent) as the disgraced Physicist, Dr. Richard Cernovich, who calls the other scientists together to complete his quantum experiment. Dickson’s intense, but fun performance is a much needed, professional, and devious delight.
The second half of The Quantum Devil leans heavily into the horror aspect of the Lovecraftian mythology, unfortunately, with SyFy channel quality CGI, but rectifies the flawed special effects with high-standard practical gore. The visualisation of Cthulhu is a stunning sight to behold, and the voice-acting cameo is a stroke of sublime genius.
Larry Wade Carrell is obviously a H.P. Lovecraft fan and his attempt at creating something in the author’s literary universe is commendable and brave. His affinity bleeds through The Quantum Devil’s narrative, with easter-eggs and foreshadowing, playfully, sprinkled throughout the film, and although the lofty ambitions weren’t fully realized, there is definitely some bloodstained fun to be had by all horror fans.
Review by Louis Du Toit
THE QUANTUM DEVIL is out now in the UK from High Fliers Films and is available to rent/buy on Amazon Prime Video