Posts Tagged ‘Lovecraft

22
Oct
14

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

For Day 18 of 31 Days of Horror, I finally broke the seal on The Dunwich Horror. Roger Corman, Dean Stockwell, Sandra Dee, Ed Begley, the Necronomicon, psychedelic nightmares, satanic impregnation and bulging eyes aplenty, this movie is pretty damn amazing. Again I have to wonder: what took me so long? Fans of Lovecraft will be disappointed with this loose interpretation of one of his stories, which I suspect is why so many people seem to hate this movie. Having never read a lick of Lovecraft myself, I am more than content with the psychedelic smear Corman brings to the screen in this film.

Dean Stockwell wants you to watch The Dunwich Horror. Don't you?

Dean Stockwell wants you to watch The Dunwich Horror. Don’t you?

It’s just another normal day at Miskatonic University; local coeds Nancy Wagner (Sandra Dee) and Elizabeth Hamilton are finishing up at the library, casually putting the Necronomicon back in its glass case. Out of nowhere, a handsome man with compelling eyes, curly hair and what must be a fake mustache (right?) walks up to them requesting to see the book… just for a few minutes, he promises. Elizabeth outright refuses, but there’s something about this man’s eyes Nancy can’t resist, and she allows him to take the book. When their professor, Dr. Henry Armitage (Ed Begley) discovers the book is not where it should be, he is rightly concerned and promptly goes over to the young man, demanding he return it. But his anger turns into joy when he discovers the young man interested in one of the world’s most powerful books is none other than Wilbur Whateley, the youngest in a family known for their connection to the book, among other things…

Nancy's psychedelic dream bed. Do they sell those at Ikea?

Nancy’s psychedelic dream bed. Do they sell those at Ikea?

It seems as though Nancy has no control over herself when she is with Wilbur, so when he misses the last bus back home, she insists on giving him a ride. Though Nancy intends to return home after dropping Wilbur off, it seems he has other plans, and he convinces her to stay for tea and take a rest before getting back on the road. Of course, Wilbur has more than just tea in mind; after drugging her and ripping vital parts of her engine out of her car, he can now be sure that she will stay the night, if not forever… mwahahahaha!

More psychedelic nightmares... nothing scarier than primal, painted humans, right?

More psychedelic nightmares… nothing scarier than primal, painted humans, right?

Though there are a host of very strange things going on (Wilbur’s grandfather, a crazed old man always spouting nonsense; the locked door upstairs Nancy is forbidden to explore; the hallucinations; the hatred the locals have for the entire Whateley family), Nancy is too drugged-up and entranced to give any of them a second thought. Elizabeth and Dr. Armitage come looking for her, but she sends them away saying she is staying the weekend with Wilbur. Everything is going as Wilbur had planned, now if he can just get his hands on that Necronomicon, his plans for the return of the “Old Ones” will finally come to fruition.

Nancy at the altar of the Old Ones.

Nancy at the altar of the Old Ones.

Don’t go into The Dunwich Horror expecting a faithful Lovecraftian horror adaptation. This is Roger Corman we’re talking about; this is all psychedelic hallucination and exploitation, and it is god damn glorious, people. I am pretty certain there are no legitimate scares in this film, and there are plot-holes-aplenty, but that’s part of what makes this such a joy to watch. Everyone hams it up here, but Dean Stockwell is just the best! There is no subtlety to his grand gestures and bulging eyes, but with a mustache like that, who would have expected subtlety? When he’s calling the Old Ones to Earth, he holds his hands up to his cheeks exposing his wonderful pinky rings for the whole world to see. It is just fantastic.

Dean Stockwell will be upset if you don't watch The Dunwich Horror!

Dean Stockwell will be upset if you don’t watch The Dunwich Horror!

But maybe even better than Stockwell’s performance are the psychedelic scenes, where we get a vague sense of monstrous beings and writhing primitive human bodies, but never a full picture of what this “horror” actually is. It is unfortunately difficult to capture this in a still; it works best in motion. These scenes definitely make the movie unique and are the most fun to watch: flashes of light interspersed with action seemingly from another dimension; hell yes! What better way to make up for a low budget than just confusing the hell out of your audience with shit like this? I love it.

I don't even know. I don't even care. Is that Zardoz?

I don’t even know. I don’t even care. Is that Zardoz?

The bottom line is, if you are the type of person who prefers a coherent plot and legitimate scares in your horror movies, you aren’t going to like The Dunwich Horror. Instead, what Dunwich offers is ham, style and psychedelia, which I will take over substance any day of the week. If you go in knowing what to expect, this movie will offer you the perfect thrill a horror flick should.

12
May
13

The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1992)

Randolph Carter. Seriously, this is a college kid?

Randolph Carter. Seriously, this is a college kid?

There’s something fun about watching horror sequels without seeing the original. There’s less investment; zero expectation. I’m not sure that over-investment is a danger with The Unnamable series, though. This movie is… kind of… ridiculous.

Based on a short story by H. P. Lovecraft, The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter centers around a scary old house with an even older demon inside. The film opens with a bunch of Carter’s friends getting hacked to pieces by the thing. Well, like any normal, curious college kid, Carter decides the only thing to

John Rhys-Davies as the professor of folklore!

John Rhys-Davies as the professor of folklore!

do is go back to the old house, with his university’s folklore professor (who is also proficient in chemistry, biology and mathematics, of course) to prove that the old legends about this particular demon are true.

The problem is, this isn’t just a demon. It’s a demon who’s taken over a young woman’s body. How to separate the two? Well, insulin, of course – thankfully, our good professor brought some along so he can separate woman from beast! The result: a naked lady with long hair clings to “Car… ter?” for the remainder of the film, while the demon is set loose to wreak havoc all over the small town of Arkham, MA.

DEMON!

DEMON!

Oh man, there is so much wrong with this movie. First of all, the actor that plays Carter, Mark Kinsey Stephenson, looks like he’s about forty-years-old. I’m supposed to buy that he’s a college kid? Worse still, I’m supposed to believe that cute naked chick is going to fall in love with him within five minutes of meeting him? Beyond that, everyone’s acting is really, really shitty. Aside from a cameo by David Warner and a small part played by John Rhys-Davies (also known as “that guy from Raiders of the Lost Ark), no one you’ve ever heard of is in this. Which is fine. But they’re all terrible! Then there are the plot holes. Again, I’ve never read the original story, but really I’m supposed to believe the

Oh, Alyda. So innocent, so naked, so bereft of demon.

Oh, Alyda. So innocent, so naked, so bereft of demon.

folklore professor just carries insulin around with him? And that insulin will release a demon spirit from a human’s body? Sheesh!

All that being said, I really did enjoy this movie; its goofiness is its savior. My jaw kept dropping with each ridiculous turn. While I’m not exactly sure I could say I recommend this, I could definitely see myself popping it in amongst friends for some late-night viewing pleasure. It’s a three-star movie, but in a different way than Snow White: A Tale of Terror is. Let’s put it this way: I forgot I even watched that Snow White movie, but The Unnamable II was definitely memorable!

10
Oct
12

The Resurrected (1992)

In keeping with a certain private detective/Lovecraft theme, we chose The Resurrected as a follow-up movie (and the fourth in October’s 31 days of horror – yes, I know, I’m a little behind) to Cast a Deadly Spell. It is based on the Lovecraft story The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (which I’ve never read, because I’ve never read any Lovecraft, but as October moves along I’m starting to think I’m going to have to change that).

As so many detective stories start out, a tall, attractive blonde walks into an office (here played by Jane Sibbett, who it dawned on me

What is he building in there?

halfway through the movie is indeed the chick from Herman’s Head — how the hell I pulled that one out of my ass I’ll never know) clutching tissues and whining about some problem or other. Claire Ward’s problem is the cops are after her husband after he’d received some strange shipments to their home. Her husband, Charles (Chris Sarandon, who I am now convinced is always awesome) has disappeared. Mrs. Ward wants to know: where is he? What’s he into? What’s in those large, coffin-shaped boxes?

Eventually it comes out that Charles had recently inherited some strange articles from a long-lost relative, including a portrait of someone that looks a hell of a lot like him. Ever since, he’d been acting strange. Now hot on the trail, private dick John March, along with his assistant Lonnie Peck (Robert Romanus a.k.a. Mike Damone from Fast Times at Ridgemont High!) and Mrs. Ward and  are sucked into a supernatural sideshow with lots of secrets that I’m not about to reveal here.

I am not sure if it’s fair to say this is another fun Lovecraft interpretation, considering (as mentioned above) that I’ve never actually read any Lovecraft, but it is true. I really enjoy most of the film adaptations of his stuff, and even though this doesn’t involve Stuart Gordon, it still reminded me of a Stuart Gordon movie. That’s not to say it’s really goofy, because it’s not – though it has its moments. Perhaps the similar elements are in Lovecraft and I just don’t know it yet. I intend to find out. Regardless, this movie is well-paced, fun and scary with great special effects. And don’t forget Chris Sarandon!

09
Oct
12

Cast a Deadly Spell (1991)

For our third selection in October’s 31 Days of Horror, we chose the HBO movie Cast a Deadly Spell. The setting is 1940’s Hollywood, but it’s not the 1940’s Hollywood you and I know. This is a fantastical Hollywood where everyone uses magic to get ahead. Everyone, that is, except private dick Harry Philip Lovecraft (his friends call him Phil, which I’m told is a reference to Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe).

Lovecraft has been hired by the eccentric Amos Hackshaw (David Warner) to recover an ancient book (the Necronomicon, no less) which has been stolen from him. The trail leads him to some nasty organized criminals, a sexy singer (Julianne Moore) with whom he used to be involved, and a unicorn. Of course, Hackshaw’s virginal daughter Olivia also comes along for the ride.

This flick has a decent mystery plot, funny characters and silly surprises. It is goofy, delightful and enjoyable. If you’re looking for something light with supernatural horror and mystery/noir elements, ’tis a winner!




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