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Friday, April 6, 2012

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

During the 1970's we were all a bit Satan obsessed.  In school they warned us about cults and how we should keep an eye out for Satanic symbols.  Handouts were even passed around in the hallways with these symbols on them so we would know a Satanist when we saw one.  The Dunwich Horror is one of a long line of movies in this vein.  Based on a story by H. P. Lovecraft, the story centers on Wilbur Whateley who is desperate to get his hands on the Necronomicon, which contains a history of the "Old Ones" and how to summon them.  Dean Stockwell [Quantum Leap] plays the high priest of darkness with cold detachment.  It is an understated performance to say the least.  I would have liked to have seen a bit more menace in the role myself.
Sandra Dee [Gidget] plays Nancy who becomes Wilbur's love interest/virginal sacrifice.  You decide.  It's amazing she doesn't see that this guy is bat-shit crazy from the moment she set eyes on him.  She willingly trusts him without any red flags going off which is surprising to say the least.  I know some women who are attracted to bad boys but they usually don't go for psychopaths!  Oh, well!
The acting The Dunwich is fine but nothing special.  There are a number of scenes that have the feel of a hippy acid trip with strangely costumed naked people awash in psychedelic color filters and patterns.  This same use of color filters is employed every time something ominous is happening on screen and it gets old quickly.  It's a poor substitute for actual special effects.
Even though the film is only 90 minutes along, it felt much longer which is never a good sign.  I think the reason for this is that during the first 60 minutes of the movie the pacing is way too slow.  Things don't really pick up until the end of the film.  But by then it's really too little, too late.
When it comes to occult films, there are much better ones out there.  The story in this one has a lot of potential that The Dunwich Horror doesn't quite capture.  Too bad.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

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