THE COMPARE AND CONTRAST OF TWO MYTHOS MOVIES
DARKNESS (2002) AND THE DUNWICH HORROR (1970)
Darkness directed by Jaume Balaguero
Cast: Anna Paquin - Regina
Lena Olin - Maria
Plot: Regina and her family move into a old countryside home only to discover that the house has a dark past that is trying to reappear. That past is something ancient and dark.
The Dunwich Horror directed by Daniel Haller
Cast: Dean Stockwell - Wilbur Whateley
Ed Bagley - Dr. Henry Armitage
Plot: Wilbur Whateley wants to help the Old Ones break through by consulting the Necronomicon, and Armitage must stop him.
I was talking to someone I work with about running out of time to get as many reviews out as possible I can this month and my realization I wasn't going to be able to review all the movies I wanted to due to certain reasons including that I have to work and that I keep finding other movies that I would love to review. Then he mentioned that maybe I should do more of an article review where I do a comparison and contrast of two movies, one from the 70's and one more recent. I thought about it and decided that that was actually a good idea so where I can actually get two reviews out at one time.
As Mythos movies can range widely about what the actual plot can be about, I think it is best explained that the most common and recurring theme is the human insignificance to the universe and the degradation of mental capacity when faced with the otherworldly concepts or cosmic outsideness. This can interpreted in any number of ways by the filmmakers. From the ripping of reality to bringing about a Elder God, the final days of the world as things and people go crazy by the effects of cosmic research or intrusion, or the search for control of a otherworldly deity which they know not what the true price will be. There can be many different plots and concepts that can be categorized as Mythos. The most common theme or plot is that of the main characters finding a cosmic or unnatural presence and them trying to find someway to stop it. Or in some cases trying to come to terms with what is happening around them while trying to stay alive.
One thing that is usually overlooked in Mythos movies is that the said supernatural or otherworldly force in Lovecraft's works don't see mankind as much of anything. They can be described as beyond human understanding, as to understand them is to go insane. While some movies just basically come right out say they are Mythos, some are more subtle in the way events transgress and the flow of disaster that happens due to 'Cosmic' disturbances. Which is why I picked the two movies I did for this piece. One right out broadcasts it is a Mythos movie while the other is just because of the subtleness of what transpires I see as being influenced by the Mythos and has the heart of the Mythos at it's core.
The thing that both movies have in common is the completion of a ritual to bring something over. In The Dunwich Horror it is to bring over the Older God Yog-Sothoth achieved by way of the Necronomicon. With the Darkness, the ritual itself is almost complete except for the blood of one person to bring about the return of an older age with Older Gods. Of course with both movies at about halfway through each one the main characters, Regina in Darkness and Dr. Armitage go through a period of discovery of the past in which they both find out that one of the family members is the cause all the deaths and unexplained happenings that are occurring. These points on the movies are all that are really the same, with of course the eclipse that is about to happen during each ritual.
Now the things that are different are numerous between the two on the story front as well. With Dunwich Horror, almost everything is spelled out from the start as you know Whateley is trying to perform a ritual and he needs the Necronomicon to actually complete it. For Darkness though, you find out throughout the movie that there needs to be a completion of a ritual that was started 40 years ago. While with Dunwich the story basically follows Whateley around as he tries to have sex with Sandra Dee's character and it shows a lot of dancing naked cult members, it just seems that they are there to just fill out time. With Darkness though, Regina knows something isn't right and decides to investigate the house she just moved into while outside forces are moving to help complete the ritual that it wants finished. Over at Dunwich the Whateley's monstrous brother is aching to get out and is never really seen that much except for when it eats a girl in flashes. In Darkness the forces let themselves be seen only when surrounded by darkness which takes on a much more subtle terror.
While The Dunwich Horror is based directly off of a Lovecraft story, Darkness is based around the mythos. The biggest difference in the two is the way both films play out. Dunwich Horror just drags along and nothing is really suspenseful in anything that it does. On the other hand Darkness has a pace that is set on purpose to create at first suspense then a feeling of dread. Darkness has the feeling in it I got after actually reading Lovecraft's stories which most movies based directly on his work do not have, yet this one does. Another difference in the movies is, to be blunt, The Dunwich Horror is just boring and feels like it is going nowhere, while Darkness has the power to keep you interested even though it moves at a deliberate pace. The last main difference in the two is that Darkness just has a sense of actually darkness and evil to it that is missing completely from The Dunwich Horror.
So if you are giving a choice of these two movies to watch one night and nothing else, pass on The Dunwich Horror even though it is based on a story, but instead uses poor acting and a sex obsessed story to ruin a established story. The Darkness though uses Lovecraft's themes of fate, inherited guilt, as well the influence of 'Outside' forces are all in effect, coupled with this is a much stronger story and great acting to make a criminally overlooked Mythos film.
The Dunwich Horror:
Wilbur's shocking ritualistic fail.
Closeup of a throat being slit that represents Mark's death.
The Dunwich Horror:
Yes, why not? Look around. You'll see what's there. Fear. And frightened people who kill what they can't understand.
I don't like the dark here, it keeps eating my pencils.
The Dunwich Horror:
Peter Fonda turned down the role of Wilbur Whateley.
Miramax/Dimension had paid $4 million for the rights to distribute the movie in North America and some other territories, but then shelved it for more than two years. The company gave the film a US theatrical release at Christmas 2004 after heavy editing to secure a PG-13 rating. The version I used for this article is the unrated edition of the film.