The Dunwich Horror starts as a strange fellow named Wilbur Whateley (Dean Stockwell) ask’s college professor Dr. Henry Armatige (Ed Begley) whether he can borrow the magical book of the Necronomicon, Armitage refuses. Whateley’s sinister attention then turns to college student Nancy Wagner (Sandra Dee) who offer’s Whateley a lift home to the small town of Dunwich after it turns out he missed the last bus, it turns out to be a less than inspired decision as Whateley ‘fixes’ her car so she can’t go anywhere & convinces her to stay for the weekend. Dr. Armitage & Nancy’s friend Elizabeth (Donna Baccala) become worried when she doesn’t return & set out to look for her, Elizabeth has the unfortunate luck to find the ‘thing’ which lurks in the attic in Whateley’s house while after some investigation Armitage discovers that Whateley is in fact trying to resurrect an ancient race of evil beings from another dimension & he plans to use Nancy as the virgin sacrifice…
Directed by Daniel Haller The Dunwich Horror is far from the best film out there but if your in the right mood & have a certain aptitude for this sort of over-the-top badly dated horror film from the 70’s then you might just like it. The script by Curtis Hanson, Henry Rosenbaum & Roland Silkosky was based on the short 27 page story by H.P. Lovecraft & you can tell because this film is pretty stretched out, to be fair not that much actually happens apart from Whateley kidnapping Nancy & her friends come looking for her before the sinister truth is revealed which is pretty obvious to begin with. Hving said that The Dunwich Horror is full of bizarre scenes which make it watchable on a ‘what the hell?’ sort of level. There’s Whateley’s weird Grandfather who carries what resembles a large lollipop around with him, the scenes when the thing from the attic attacks & the whole screen flashes red & everyone just sort of falls over or the bits in the insane asylum which are funny & then there’s the bit when Nancy is enquiring about her friend Elizabeth whose car is outside & who has met the thing from the attic but within the space of a half a scene Nancy suddenly loses all interest in her so-called best friend who is missing. It doesn’t have a great pace to it, it’s not particularly exciting, it takes itself far too seriously & it lacks exploitation elements but I thought it was an entertaining laugh all the same.
Director Haller adds much unintentional hilarity to the proceedings, the way people talk, behave, the set-ups, the story & the film is terribly dated which adds a certain charm to it. The opening credits are amazing & worth watching on their own, I doubt there’s many like them around. There’s nothing one would describe as being scary & there’s no blood or gore either.
Technically The Dunwich Horror is OK, it looks like a 70’s detective show with some very garish colours & embarrassing fashions. I have to say though that I really rather liked the music. The acting is either terrible if it was unintentional but an absolute brilliant masterstroke if it was deliberate.
The Dunwich Horror is a entertaining way to pass 90 odd minutes for all the wrong reasons, for those who like their films pretty out there. Remade as Dunwich (2006).