By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom is the second chapter of a three-part saga. Here, the child version of this seminal writer (voiced by Kiefer O’Reilly) has to deal with untold dangers from more than one dark world. Youths can be introduced to H.P. Lovecraft before he became the recluse and derisive adult.
This film is humourous at times. It’s also a safe product to teach young viewers the importance of never forgetting their elders, even when the world shuns them. When considering what the real-life figure was like, perhaps all he needed was more familial love.
After the events of the first film, he has to keep the three books from being put together to form the Necronomicon. He does not know of this tome’s secrets, but in what he learns — how to use magic — he has to use it to fight the minions mad Abdul (Jeffrey Combs) is sending after him! Although his father is committed to a sanitarium and his mother is possessed (and eventually kidnapped), this lad is proving to be able to take on the challenges from the mysterious city of R’yleh and other strange worlds which lays in this maddening multiverse.
This film is adapted from Bruce Brown’s work (original creator) which is published by Arcana Comics. The print edition (available on Amazon) is much more violent when compared to this cinematic version. The changes required to make this product accessible for youths does not distract. Even as I’m thumbing through my hardcover copy of the complete story while watching this film to find what writer and director Sean Patrick O’Reilly changed, general aspects of all three issues (when it was released as individual comics) are retained. He brings much-needed character development to Winfield Scott Lovecraft, the father. While none of this is true to the real life counterpart, to understand this individual offers to fans a hint at what could have influenced the boy to become the man with unsettling dreams.
After Howie escapes an encounter with Abdul at the sanitorium keeping pops safe, he lands at Miskatonic University instead of a moor. The situations are kept and instead of a constable, he meets Dr. Henry Armitage, a renowned scholar of the occult. Mark Hamill‘s voice is hardly recognizable. After hearing him in one too many Joker iterations, perhaps I was expecting a particular crazed tone. Hamill is remarkable in providing a gentleman’s voice and when considering The Last Jedi is less than a week away, I may be screaming go Henry in the movie theatre than Luke when he trains Rey.
The character designs will not be for everyone. Those who think the quality of the production is subpar do not know what they are missing. When considering there are UK made animations like Matt Hatter Chronicles which matches the style and budget involved in products of this range, this work is far more notable for its story than visual style. The voice cast has the entire O’Reilly family involved in different aspects of the production.
Multi-talented Jeffrey Combs is clearly having fun in this animation. In the only bonus feature of the home video release, he talks about his long time association with Lovecraft’s works ever since he played Herbert West in Re-animator. In hindsight, if he played this role instead of Plummer, I would have been cackling gleefully. But casting was set when the first movie, Frozen Kingdom, was planned. Most of the written work by Lovecraft does not always stitch all the tales together. A shared universe exists, but it rarely sees characters crossing paths because not many mortals tend to survive. Well, except for Randolph Carter because he likes to dream and travel strange worlds with the help of a Silver Key. I’m waiting for O’Reilly to include mention of this magical item in the final installment.
Kingdom of Madness is expected to arrive at the end of the 2018 year. This animated series is certainly one of the better planned franchises without the huge wait.
4½ Stars out of 5