English Review: BEYOND THE DUNWICH HORROR (Richard Griffin – 2008)


beyond-the-dunwich-horrorBEYOND THE DUNWICH HORROR

Original title: Beyond The Dunwich Horror
2008 – U.S.A.
Genre: Dunwich, years later
Director: Richard Griffin
Music: Tony Milano
Screenplay: Richard Griffin based on H.P. Lovecraft
With Jason McCormick, Sarah Nicklin, Michael Reed, Lynn Lowry, Ruth Sullivan and Jeff Dylan Graham

Story: Kenny Crawford arrives in Dunwich after hearing that his brother Andrew has been admitted to a psychiatric ward, and is suspected in a string of disappearances in the town. With the help of local reporter Marsha Calloway and the eccentric Upton Armitage he probes the last few weeks of his brother’s life. As they do so, they uncover evidence of a plot in the works revolving around Andrew, his girlfriend Nikki Hartwell and her twisted friend Otto Bellinger.

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By making a movie based on Lovecraft’s work, and especially his short novel The Dunwich’s abomination, Richard Griffin thrilled me, and at the same time, he scared me. Because yes, I am a huge fan of Lovecraft since quite a while now, I even know by heart some of his shorts stories (oh and I definitely have to buy again some of the books because they look like crap now), and yes, sometimes I like some adaptations, even if it’s not often truthful. Yes, I like Re-Animator, Frombeyond and some others, but ultimately, it’s far from the heart of the work of Lovecraft. In the end, the most faithful works are The Dunwich Horror, the film from the 70s with Dean Stockwell, and Dagon despite some horrible CGI. Beyond the Dunwich Horror had to try hard to please me. Shot in the real city where Lovecraft lived for $25K in 2008, Richard Griffin took again (or started to use) the same cast and crew, and wrote the script himself. And finally, Beyond the Dunwich Horror is not a literal adaptation of the short story, but more a continuity, since it occurs nowadays. A kinda sequel. We can find here and there allusions to Lovecraft’s work, a few known names, of course the Necronomicon, the descendants of the Whateley, a few rituals, the return to the ocean… And strangely, besides that, various other influences, including Lucio Fulci (with the same gravestone we’ll see again in the Disco Exorcist, but also a musical score reminiscent of Fabio Frizzi), and, let’s be crazy, to David Cronenberg.

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What the fuck Cronenberg is doing here you’ll ask me? I’ll come back to that later. So here, we are following two stories. Kenny (Michael Reed) arrives at Dunwich, searching for his interned brother, and will conduct his investigation about the events of the area with the help of Marsha (Ruth Sullivan). And next to that, we have the story of Andrew (Jason McCormick), his brother, interned after the appearance of some strange events in his life when he starts dating Nikki (Sarah Nicklin), the woman of his dreams. The first striking thing about Beyond the Dunwich Horror is clearly its 70s look, from the frame, but also the cinematography, some sets and clothes. So when Richard Griffin uses some weird filters during ritual’s scenes, you immediately think of The Dunwich Horror, the film with Dean Stockwell. And the typical Lovecraft’s atmosphere is rather well transcribed on screen, retaining some of its themes, but also delivering some weird but never ridiculous scenes (the meal scene, with the octopus), and never shows too much since Lovecraft loved to talk about “indescribable monsters”.

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Of course, the plot sometimes goes into pure horror, especially towards the end, but without real tentacle creatures. But as I said earlier, the influences of the director, including Fulci, are indeed here, especially in its blood times, with the use of a drill (City of the Living Dead), music strongly recalling the work of Fabio Frizzi, and a scene with an eye… (yes, Fulci loved the eyes… and he loved to hurt them very badly). And it makes sense, as the work of Fulci, especially his three most famous films (City of the Living Dead, The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery) were already influenced by Lovecraft. Earlier, I was talking about Cronenberg, and maybe I’m totally wrong about that, but sometimes, the film goes into a heavy atmosphere, including sex scenes, filmed yes without complacency, but with a strong thing coming from them, clearly remembering me the best work of Cronenberg (Rabid, Videodrome), and even films I don’t really liked (Crash). Well, after saying all that, I must admit, everything’s not perfect, like in any film. If the cast is strong (even really strong), so as the directing and special effects, we can say there are some CGI (but I’m at war against CGI haha) and maybe a gratuitous scene (the end of the graveyard scene). But nothing bad really, since the fan of Lovecraft that I am (and horror fan in general) was highly satisfied by the film. But above everything else, if Beyond the Dunwich Horror was shot fast, if its budget wasn’t big, it was made with love, and even more important : we can feel the sincerity of the director all the time, and that’s priceless! A sincere film!

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150

The best:

The world and feeling of Lovecraft

Some scenes with an awesome atmosphere

A new story nicely told

Meeeh:

Some CGI

 

ESo: Following the short novel, Beyond the Dunwich Horror pleased the fan. The atmosphere is successful and true to Lovecraft, and that what I was asking!

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