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Strega Unbound (2013)
Tonight's Short Presentation

STREGA UNBOUND (2013)

Starring: Don McDaniel, Gary Lobstein, Kate Baue, Jason Orsega, Steven Gruhala

Written By: Gary Lobstein, Patrick R. Murray Directed By: Patrick R. Murray

See It Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lXV9seZyTA


The Story

It is the 1940s.  A professor nervously stumbles his way toward the campus library.  There, hidden behind a stack of books in a forgotten corner of an anonymous shelf, rests an old wooden box.  Inside the box and further wrapped in cloth, there lies an ancient tome filled with sinister alien writing that only the professor and a select few others can read.  Someone equally sinister wants the tome and its secrets for himself, and he and his agents have coerced the professor into stealing it.

Too bad that someone representing the interests of the tome’s original authors has something different in mind…


The Rundown

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

MONTEREY JACK.

A few little cubes on toothpicks.  Try not to imagine them as little square eyes staring at you.


Pairs Well With...

THE KRAKEN.

Rum, with tentacles.  Drink enough of the stuff, and who knows what new and unwelcome realities you might start to behold?


“Your superstitions do not concern me, professor. Begin translating the manuscript!  Now!”

 

Ah, H.P. Lovecraft.  Underappreciated in his own time, the creator of the “Cthulhu Mythos” is now regarded as a master storyteller and the father of modern non-Gothic horror.  Many try their hands (or tentacles) at playing in Lovecraft’s world; in most cases, the attempts come up short.  Sometimes, though…

With Strega Unbound, the creative team of Patrick R. Murray, Gary Lobstein, and their associates has done a highly credible job of capturing, for a moment, the spirit of Lovecraft’s stories.  What’s more, this team has done it on a shoestring budget… though that may in fact be one of the best things going for this picture.

Strega Unbound is presented in noir style, and shot in the glorious black and white most appropriate to its story’s era, allowing the viewer to be drawn in that much more easily.  The production design is just north of minimal, but no more so than many real films of this era; indeed, the lack of clutter helps to keep things focused.  The detail is spent exactly where it needs to be: the car, the clothing, the pages of the nasty tome, the “Beware Nazis and Cultists” sign; that sort of thing.

Why yes, I did just mention Nazis!

As movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark have proven, one can never go wrong with Nazis as a choice of villain, and bringing Nazis into the same story as Cthulhu cultists just multiplies the nasty (and leads to a darkly humorous one sided debate about who truly represents the “master race”).  But here’s the trick: the team behind Strega Unbound doesn’t overdo it.  There’s just enough detail put in to establish the plot and flavor the characters, and not one grain more.  To me, that’s damn impressive; how tempting must it have been to go for the hard sell, and how many other creative teams wouldn’t have been able to resist?  This team takes it exactly as far as it needs to go and no farther, and that economy keeps the story flowing while allowing the focus to remain squarely on the horror that any loyal Mythos fan knows must surely be coming.

As for how that horror – and the arrival of Strega – plays out… I’ll leave that for you to experience.  What I will say is that the final act of Strega Unbound is absolutely spot on; well played, deftly shot, and perfectly edited to demonstrate a descent into what by definition is indescribable Lovecraftian madness.  And then… it’s over, just like a real Lovecraft story would be.  If you understand, it’s wonderful; if not, you try it again.  There’s no hand holding, there’s no cheat sheet; there’s just story, words unspoken, and atmosphere.  (And, of course, a desire to see more that you’re not allowed to see.)  Perfect.

When all is said and done, my only complaint isn’t even a complaint.  There are artifacts made to look like old school film scratches on one of the title cards; that effect carried on throughout the picture would only add to the atmosphere (though I was relieved to see that it is not too distractingly HD).  Overall, though… I just want to see another movie made along these same lines, because this one’s great.

A few extra notes about continuity before I go.  Though the title antagonist of Strega Unbound is drawn from the Day 304-produced webseries, Dirigible Days (which takes place many centuries into a future that is not compatible with the version of the 1940s depicted here), one does not need to be at all familiar with that series to enjoy the short; it stands alone quite well.  And for those who question how Strega can exist in incompatible universes… the story takes care of that small detail rather nicely, as well, and in a fashion that is wholly consistent with H.P. Lovecraft’s own approach to things.

Bottom line, if you’re at all into Lovecraft or older school horror with a twisted side, Strega Unbound is more than worth twelve minutes of your time.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, August, 2014


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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