Plot: Howard is just seven and his father is in a mental institution, so he misses his dad greatly and would love to spend more time with him. But his father Winfield is troubled by some of his experiences when he tinkered with the occult, to the point that doctors feel he may never recover. When Howard goes to visit his dad, Winfield tells him that he must destroy the Necronomicon. His father is manic and very nervous, but he insists that Howard has to find and destroy that book. His mother tries to ease Howard’s nerves by letting him read one of Winfield’s journals, so he can better understand the frame of mind involved. But when he reads some passages from the journal, Howard opens a portal into another realm, one his father also explored. Soon he is drawn into an epic conflict that has rendered the land frozen nearly solid, but can he help the locals and somehow find a way back home?
Entertainment Value: The concept here is a bold one, to take the dark, visionary work of H.P. Lovecraft and conjure up an animated movie suitable for all ages, including young children. The result is Howard Lovecraft and while the movie is a little rough around the edges, it nails the Lovecraft vibe and entertains both fans of his work and newcomers to this strange world. The narrative is a simple one, as Howard gets pulled into an alternate dimension and needs to get back home, but of course, the journey is more involved than that. The attention to detail is remarkable, as there are little touches of Lovecraft all over this movie, which fans will love. A lot of information is thrown out in a short while though, so for those unfamiliar with Lovecraft, it can be a lot to digest on the fly like this. But while Lovecraft’s dark, creative vision drives the movie, it does lean on comedic elements and family film conventions, so it does have appeal even beyond the writer’s fan base.
This movie was made by an independent studio named Arcana, so the visuals aren’t up to the level of Pixar or other big studio backed animation houses. The character designs are simple, but work well and create an interesting visual dynamic, especially in the creatures and more mystical elements of the world. As you’d expect, the visuals have a dark atmosphere, but never overly dreary or bleak, just enough to remind us of the fantastical nature of this alternate dimension. The most detail went into the beasts and creatures, which should be no surprise. The main issue is that background detail can be sparse at times and the animation isn’t as fluid as we’re used to, but I think the end result is impressive, given the limited resources. The voice cast is solid as well, including some well known names such as Christopher Plummer, Ron Perlman, Jane Curtin, and Doug Bradley, while the director’s family also voices a number of roles and does pretty good work in the process. While Howard Lovecraft isn’t as polished as the big studio animation, it is creative and a great love letter to Lovecraft, so if you’re intrigued by the premise, give it a chance.