by Patrick Fuller ’21
Two Providence College alumni walk into a bar. No, this scenario is not a setup for a joke. However, this situation is the birthplace of the short film The Call of Charlie, a kind of largescale joke in its own right. Director Nick Spooner, used to working with commercials, noted that “alcohol was involved,” in the creation of this far-fetched idea.
As Spooner answered questions from the front of the Guzman lecture hall on Sept. 28, writers Guy Benoit ’91 and John Simpson ’85 nodded in agreement. The Providence College Department of English, Department of Theatre, Dance, and Film, and the Alumni Association invited the creators of The Call of Charlie onto campus to show their horror-comedy creation to students. The Call of Charlie displays what happens when you set someone up on a blind date with Cthulhu. Cthulhu is the ancient, octopus-faced monster worshipped by cultists in the short story “The Call of Cthulhu,” written by H.P. Lovecraft.
As one might expect, bringing this fictional creature to life was no small feat. Spooner mentioned struggling to find a means to create the mask of Cthulhu out of a sketch he made himself. Eventually, he stumbled upon some ambitious teenagers at Basement FX, a silicon mask manufacturing company in Wisconsin, who were willing to make Spooner’s vision come true.
Special effects alone made up a lot of the film’s charm in that everyone was equally confused as to how Cthulhu was blinking, moving its tentacles, and making strange sounds; a creature from fictional mythology was made eerily realistic. At the same time, the short film managed to elicit both laughter and shock as characters interacted with each other at a casual dinner party. All of this emotion was consolidated into a mere 15 minute screenplay.
To think this whole piece came about in such a short time is amazing. Benoit estimated, “From the gag at the bar to the shooting…about three months went by.” In this time, there was no cutting corners. The crew hired a strong cast consisting of Brooke Smith from The Silence of the Lambs and Roberta Valderrama from The Purge: Anarchy. At one point, they even had Marilyn Manson lined up for a minor part as Spooner thought, “It would be really funny to get someone big to play a really insignificant role.”
The short film succeeded. In 2016, the year the film debuted, the team won the Audience Award at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon and was nominated for the Best Screenplay Short at the Nightmares Film Festival. The following year, the cast and crew won the Best New England Film at the Boston Underground Film Festival, Best Effects in a Short Film at the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival, and was nominated for Best Horror Short at the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival.
These accolades make up a small portion of 21 wins or distinctions and 66 festival selections. Independent bloggers, such as Joseph Perry of the horror movie site Gruesome Magazine, rave about this film calling it “a wry, sly horror comedy that satirizes social affectations.” The story of the bachelor Cthulhu, however, may end here. Spooner, Benoit, and Simpson denied a sequel, but followed up with a hopeful spoiler: although they will not make a sequel, they have “two different suburban horror features in the works.”