Judge Roman Martel wonders why we all can't just get beyond the Dunwich Horror.
It's time for another low budget horror double feature, this time invoking the name of H.P. Lovecraft himself. Sadly this is usually a bad sign.
Ah, Mr. Lovecraft, your fiction is so inspiring to filmmakers. Countless adaptations of your work continue to pour out into the world like the corrupted spawn of an elder god. But many of these flicks are so bogged down in the Lovecraftian mythos that they forget to have fun, or are just too ineptly made to even have a Lovecraft connection in the first place.
Beyond the Dunwich Horror proceeds after the events from the Lovecraft story The Dunwich Horror. Set in modern times, it follows the adventures of two brothers who find themselves tied up in a heinous plot to bring back the spawn of the otherworldly being Yog Sothoth. Kenneth (Michael Reed, The Disco Exorcist) discovers that his brother Andrew (Jason McCormick Nun of That) is in a sanitarium. Andrew was found off the coast of Rhode Island babbling like a looney. A perky reporter, Marsha (Ruth Sullivan, Writer's Block) needs to get a scoop so she helps Kenneth find out more about his brother's activities. This starts a series of flashbacks which show us Andrew lusting after local hottie, Nikki (Sarah Nicklin, Atomic Brain Invasion). Soon they hook up, but Nikki is keeping some deadly secrets. It all leads to eyeballs being ingested, the Necronomicon being invoked and human sacrifice.
Writer director Richard Griffin (Splatter Disco) has a lot of love for Lovecraft. He's obviously knows the horror writer's stories and jumps into the plot with glee. At first I was wondering just how this story of dysfunctional brothers was going to tie to anything in the original tale, but Beyond the Dunwich Horror is just that, the next generation in the story, or maybe a few generations. The point is that all the characters from the original story, including Dr. Armitage and the disturbing Wilbur Whateley, are included in the film in some form or another. Lovecraft fans should find enough to enjoy here, as long as they don't take things too seriously.
At its heart, this movie is still a fun low budget horror romp. It's got blood and guts. It's got boobs. It's got bad acting. There's a bit of a 1970s drive-in feel to the movie, and that gives it some charm. The gore effects are creative and revolve around eyeballs. There are also a few transformations in the film and those are mostly practical. In fact, while CG does pop up a few times, most of the effects in Beyond the Dunwich Horror are done practically.
While I can look past budget and acting limitations, there are a few things that did keep me from completely enjoying the film. The movie switches up tone a few times. Sometimes it's playing it very straight, especially in the flashback scenes with Andrew and Nikki. Other times there's a lot of humor and banter going on. Some of the characters are played for over the top laughs. Others seem like they are in a serious horror flick. The end result is a bit of dysfunction, especially with the finale. I'm also not sure if the weaving of flashbacks with the current storyline was as effective as it could have been. I know why Griffin decided to go that route, but it always risks slowing the movie down as we switch from story to story.
The final result is that Beyond the Dunwich Horror was entertaining fun for the Lovecraft fan in me, but I ended up wishing it could have been a bit more cohesive in places. A few plot elements seem to go missing, and others have a weak payoff. Still, for a bit of weekend entertainment, you can't go wrong here.
When it comes to the second feature on this disc, we get the vampire comedy Pretty Dead Things. The plot revolves around a group of porn actors lead by Rex Van Horn (Ross Kelly, Army of the Dead) who become vampires back in the '70s. At first everything is disco fun and slaughter, but with the passing of a few decades Jennifer (Danielle Lozeau, Demon of Castlebury) starts losing her taste for blood and wants to have a more normal life.
A couple of things make this difficult. Fist there's Shane (Jason Witter, Romeo & Juliet vs. The Living Dead) the bloodthirstiest member of the group. He thinks Jennifer's attitude is going to get them all killed, and it cramps his style. The other is the demented pizza boy (Patrick Pitu, Divine Intervention) who gets turned into a vampire for a laugh, and comes back really pissed off about it. It's only a matter of time before the pizza boy or the authorities catch up to our sexy vamps and put an end to their reign of terror.
I get the feeling that Pretty Dead Things sounded really funny on paper. Individually the elements seem to be hilarious, but the whole thing just never gets going. Part of the problem is the story dealing with Jennifer wanting a different life. Those scenes seem to come from another movie altogether. It's handled pretty seriously and could have made for an interesting movie on its own. I especially liked the sequence when she runs into her old boyfriend, who is now a middle aged loser. But these scenes are in sharp contrast to the over the top silliness of the mayor's subplot, the scenery chewing insanity of the pizza boy and his minions, the club scenes that turn into vampire feeding frenzies and the porno jokes.
The jokes never quite hit the mark, trying a little too hard most of the time. And with all the subplots swirling around competing for time with the jokes, it ends up being a bit of a slog.
Still, if you're looking for some fun gore effects, topless babes getting ravaged by vampires and over the top acting; there's a lot to enjoy. The movie has its heart in the right place, and even though it ends up staking itself, it could have been a lot worse. Richard Griffin directed this film a few years before Beyond the Dunwich Horror and you can certainly see he's gotten more experienced between the two films.
Camp Motion Pictures proves a solid release. Each film is featured on it's own disc. The prints on both look pretty good for low budget films. The sound is well balanced. For extras you get a commentary track by the director on both movies as well as a smattering of trailers.
If you enjoy the independent horror flick scene, you'll probably find something entertaining in both of these movies. They have their faults, but there's a spirit of fun that permeates both of them. Lovecraft fans might get a little more entertainment out of Beyond the Dunwich Horror but only if they know this is more of a romp than an all out eldritch nightmare of cyclopean proportions.
Guilty of a lot of things, but still a good time.
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