Column: Summer Screams: Dark Adventure Radio Theater

By Brian M. Sammons

We continue our summer audio horror column with a little Lovecraft:

Now, I’m sure you’ve all heard of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, right? I mean, any Cthulhuheads worth their Essential Salts know about those Lovecraft-o-philes. They are the same creative geniuses that brought out the wonderful black-and-white, not to mention silent, Call of Cthulhu movie, back in 2005, and the new HPL-adapted film, The Whisperer in Darkness. And hey, wouldn’t you know it, I reviewed both of those here and here. Anyway, when the HPLHS isn’t busy making movies, it pretty much does everything Lovecraft. Its members create some truly gorgeous art and props for Lovecraft collectors, and those who play the Call of Cthulhu game. When not doing that, they make t-shirts, mugs, hats, and idols of evil alien gods. And somehow, in the midst of all that, these crazily creative cultists managed to bring out four truly awesome radio plays based on four of Lovecraft’s best stories.

Called the “Dark Adventure Radio Theater“, these four CDs cover the HPL stories of “At the Mountains of Madness”, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, “The Shadow Out of Time” and “The Dunwich Horror”. Each is a fully-acted-out radio play, the kind you could imagine Lovecraft himself listening to back in the “good old days”, with music and sound effects. The presentation comes complete with an announcer/host at the beginning and end of each story and humourous sponsor spots also at the start of the shows. And since I just mentioned the word “presentation”, let me say, WOW! Does the HPLHS believe that presentation is everything. Each CD comes packed with artistic goodies to more fully enhance your enjoyment of the story. “Mountains of Madness” has photos of the ancient alien city and a newspaper article about the ill-fated expedition. “Innsmouth” has a map of the town drawn on the back of a fish wrapper and a matchbook (complete with a single remaining match) with an important name scribbled inside. “Dunwich” has a hand-drawn page of magical incantations from Wilbur’s notebook and even a page from the dreaded Necronomicon itself. Those are just some of the extras you get with the CDs. But wait: I didn’t even mention the cool box that looks like an antique radio that holds all the discs. Believe me when I say that this is one set you are far more likely to display somewhere proudly rather than file away with all the other, far-more-mundane CDs.

As for the radio shows themselves, they are, in a word, mondo-super-deluxe-fantastic! I’ve listened to each radio play more than once and they have yet to get old. The acting is top notch, the music is wonderful, and the sound effects are brilliant and sometimes, as with the flying polyps’ screeching whistling in “The Shadow out of Time”, terrifying. Whoever adapted the original Lovecraft stories did a great job of making sure not to leave any important bits out. Here, all the bases are covered and then some, and they are the most complete and entertaining HPL radio dramas I’ve ever heard. There’s also something else that pops up from time to time in these radio shows that you would never find in any HPL story: humour. That’s right. While the stories are (thankfully) played, for the most part, very straight, I did find myself giggling on more than one occasion. Honestly, I can’t think of any way in which these shows could have been any better. As an overly opinionated bastard, I can’t think of a higher compliment than that.

Fans of Lovecraft simply must get this CD set now. Right now! Do not pass GO; do not collect $200, but instead, go here and order your own copy of Dark Adventure Radio Theater today. You can thank me later.

Tune in next week, and each Friday all summer long, for more thrilling, chilling reviews and articles about audio horror, past and present.