Necronomicon: Evocative Magic is a 2019 fantasy horror, directed by Mitsunori Hasegawa. Mitsunori is known for directing Onigokko (2013) and Machiawase (2013) and has also won the Grand Prize at the 1st CyberSpace Film Festival. The film is loosely based on the dark fantasy novel Cthulhu Mythos by H.P. Lovecraft.

In 1938, an unemployed Masao Hatta returns to the city of Insuma before the Pacific War. He finds work in a university library under the guidance of Professor Masazo Orisu. One day, Marty spies a suspicious man named Agami Danichi, Orisu, and a number of others attending a cult ceremony for the Church of Dagon. At the head of this cult, Agami is in possession of the fabled Nekura Mikotonori (Necronomicon), gifted to him when he was a child by folklore legend princess Otohime. Unfortunately, Orisu steals this precious heirloom for his own personal gain, leaving Agami no choice but to hire Marty to steal his belongings back. Blinded by the money, Marty steals the book but he does not give it to Agami. Instead, taking it home and casting a number of spells inside out of curiosity.

The very first of its kind, Necronomicon: Evocative Magic is a unique eastern take on the popular short stories from American author H.P. Lovecraft. Faithful in its delivery, the film follows the formula of Lovecraft’s stories very closely in design. From the framing device to the inevitable calamitous ending, the production fully encompasses the structure popularised by Lovecraft with great efficiency. However, Necronomicon: Evocative Magic diverges into its own original take on the author’s work with its inclusion of traditional Japanese folklore, interspersed comfortably within the film’s horrifying bestiary. The inclusion of Otohime, princess of the undersea palace Ryūgū-jō, the undersea palace of Ryūjin strengthens the link to Japanese culture organically.

Furthermore,  Necronomicon: Evocative Magic deviates from the usual representation of these elder gods and great ones in their overall design. The story features all your favorite nightmare creatures such as Nyarlathotep, Yog-Sothoth, Azathoth, and Narrathoth; all with contrasting human designs adorned in historic-inspired Gothic-style clothing and communication through telepathy. By comparison, in the representation of Shoggoth, Ubbo-Sathia–and even Cthulhu–the biggest change is to their elder personas. Represented in a highly sexual fashion, these usually otherworldly beings are now scantily clad women ready to fulfill all your innermost desires. This is by far the film’s most unique rendition of the source material, delivering a shocking change of tone compared to the otherwise overly serious atmosphere.

Although Necronomicon: Evocative Magic features an in-depth, fleshed-out story, its pacing becomes a little slow during the film’s second act. Unfortunately, the elements of cosmic horror take a backseat for a large part of this section, seeming to drag on up until the hour mark. However, the drastic change in tone over the forty minutes that follow more than makeup for the slower tone in the middle.

Visually, the production also has its own moments of flair that add to the experience. Exploring much of the story through flashbacks, the cinematography employs great use of soft focus, the implementation of lens blur as well as highly saturated color to indicate this back-and-forth change in time. The effortless indication of this divergence from one to the other is incredibly clear without the need for any greater transition and avoids the inevitable confusion that can complicate this trope when done ineffectively.

One of the craziest (and sexiest) Lovecraft adaptations to have ever been created, Necronomicon: Evocative Magic subverts all expectations to deliver something completely unique. The film starts off relatively slow and maintains this pace throughout the majority. Admittedly, it is unlikely to enthrall a general audience, yet, with its beautiful cinematography, eccentric character design, and distinctive charm; Necronomicon: Evocative Magic certainly counterbalances its story-driven introduction to make for a wholly unique and exciting experience.

We Watched Necronomicon: Evocative Magic as Part of the 2022 Japan Film Fest Hamburg (JFFH) Line-up

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