The Dunwich Horror

February 22, 2015 at 9:37 pm (8 Heads, Dunwich Horror) (, , , , , , , , , )

The Dunwich Horror – 1970 – United States

At Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts, a female student attends a lecture on the Necronomicon. The Necronomicon, an ancient tome of occult lore, is coveted by a warlock from the nearby town of Dunwich. With hypnotic powers, he seduces the student to help steal the book. After discovering its secrets, the couple perform a sexual ritual to summon extradimensional beings known as the Old Ones. Only the student’s professor and her best friend can stop the ritual and prevent doom for all mankind.

H.P. Lovecraft’s brooding cosmic horror is challenging to portray visually. His stories rely on readers’ paranoid imaginations to embellish his world where evil beings of phenomenal power lurk beyond mankind’s perception. With The Dunwich Horror, American International Pictures tries admirably to capture the spirit of Lovecraft, but ultimately fails due to illogical scripting and the unabashed thriftiness of producers Samuel Z. Arkoff and Jack Nicholson. The director Daniel Haller also directed Die, Monster, Die!—another Lovecraft adaptation for American International Pictures. The Dunwich Horror is at least more Lovecraftian than that.

In any case, The Dunwich Horror has plenty of weird imagery. Elaborately costumed cultists have orgies in psychedelic dream sequences. The warlock is tattooed with hieroglyphics and lives in a mansion with an Egyptian-like motif. There are horrific monsters too, but in proper Lovecraftian fashion, they are glimpsed only fleetingly.

Sandra Dee is the alleged star of The Dunwich Horror. However, as the hypnotized student, she spends half the film in a trance. The real star is Dean Stockwell playing the soft-spoken, sexually harassing warlock. Whatever spell he casts to seduce Sandra Dee must be really great, because he is totally uncharismatic and creepy.

Rating: 8/10 Shrunken Heads. The Dunwich Horror’s best moment is its scary yet whimsical animated title sequence, complete with groovy epic music by Les Baxter.

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