The Dunwich Horror is ’70s-era horror at its finest. Oh, it’s not scary; it’s not even good, for that matter. But it encapsulizes that time in such a way that once glance tells you exactly when it was made – not in the ’60s, not in the ’90s – it’s thoroughly 1970s all the way, from the music to the wardrobes to the less-than-special special effects.
In a nutshell, the story (based on an H.P. Lovecraft tale) revolves around a young man from a sleepy little town with a weird past who shows up at a nearby university to woo a woman and take a peek at an invaluable book known as the Necronomicon. This book is so invaluable that the professor in charge of it lets his students lug it around like a regular textbook, as long as they take it straight back to the library and place it under its protective, unlocked case of glass. The young man, tagged with the unfortunate name of Wilbur, shows up to find the book he’s seeking in the possession of a cute blonde. Score!
The professor, it turns out, knows of Wilbur, as well as the town he comes from. Seems the prof may or may not have been involved with some unseemly business there in the past, so he’s wary of letting the Necronomicon fall into Wilbur’s hands. This forces Wilbur to break into the library at night, where he gets into a fistfight with the security guard that turns out to be the action centerpiece of the whole movie. Book in hand, Wilbur uses his powers of persuasion (brought about by widening his
eyes, furrowing his brow, and waggling his bushy ’70s eyebrows and Super ‘Stache) to bring the blonde (who, it should be noted, is played by Sandra Dee) back to his home. Some suggested sexual shenanigans take place, and when Blondie doesn’t come home, folks come looking for her.
The climax involves a mysterious cliffside ritual involving tons of candles, a duel of incomprehensible Lovecraftian language between Wilbur and the prof, and the momentary appearance of an “Old God” that looks like an old mop. There’s also a twist ending that I won’t give away here, but if you haven’t guessed it by the time it happens then you’re obviously not up-to-date on your horror movie twist endings. (I think this particular one is number 14 in the official horror movie twist ending manual).
I know it sounds like I didn’t like this movie, but that’s not true – I had a ball with it. This is what those of us twisted enough to enjoy “bad” horror live for – laughable acting, terrible effects, but enough earnestness and atmosphere to keep it all from being a total waste of time. I’m sure this will be running on various cable channels this month – that’s how I caught it – so give it a look if you get the chance.
There was a time when horror was a television staple. You had anthology series such as Tales From The Darkside, new versions of old favorites like The Twilight Zone, and movie carry-overs such Freddy’s Nightmares and the Jason-less Friday the 13th The Series.
The F13 series followed a monster-of-the-week formula with a simple framing device: two cousins inherit an antique shop which specializes in cursed curios. The setup has the two tracking down a different item each week, making way for plenty of different supernatural situations.
After years spent as a staple of the bootleg market, the series is finally getting a legitimate DVD release. The last time I saw these were when they were broadcast; I remember it being pretty good for network TV. We’ll see how it holds up, starting with the pilot, “Inheritance.”
“Inheritance” sets up the series in quick fashion – we get a taste of what the antique shop is about, and we meet cousins Mickie and Ryan, as well as their soon-to-be-mentor, Jack. The two are quickly plunged into pursuit of their first cursed object, a doll with a killer attitude that was given to a child named Mary (played by a young Sarah Polley, who would survive her brush with Chucky Lite only to face down zombies in the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead). The doll, a porcelain number with bone-white face and black eyes, is genuinely creepy, and there’s a surprisingly graphic throat slashing early in the episode. The acting is a cut above most television genre fare of the time (especially Freddy’s Nightmares), and the production values are fairly decent.
I’ll be progressing through the series throughout the month – we’ll see, now that the setup is out of the way, what, if any, surprises the show has in store.