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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Dunwich Horror can be found here.
While returning the legendary Necronomicon at closing time to the Miskatonic University library in Arkham, Massachusetts for her professor Dr Henry Armitage (Ed Begley), grad student Nancy Wagner (Sandra Dee) meets young Wilbur Whateley (Dean Stockwell), who begs her to let him look at the book for just five minutes. Giving in to his hypnotic eyes, Nancy agrees and later even offers him a ride to Dunwich when he misses his bus. While at the house, Wilbur drugs her and makes her stay to be a part in an ancient rite to open a portal between the earth and the dimension where the "Old Ones" dwell.
The Dunwich Horror is based on a short story of the same name written in 1928 by American fantasy/horror writer H.P. Lovecraft [1890-1937]. It was first published in Weird Tales, April 1929. It was adapted for the screen by director Curtis Hanson with screenwriters Henry Rosenbaum and Ronald Silkosky. A made-for-TV remake, The Dunwich Horror, was released in 2009.
No. Lovecraft's town of Dunwich is a fictional town that he set somewhere in Massachusetts, a tank of gas away from Arkham, Massachusetts, another of his fictional towns. The movie, however, was filmed in California.
Yog-Sothoth is a fictional monster dreamed up by Lovecraft and introduced in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. He is the Outer God who, in this movie, impregnates Lavina Whateley (Joanne Moore Jordan) so as for her to give birth to Wilbur (Dean Stockwell) and his monstrous twin brother. There have been many artists' renditions of Yog-Sothoth (examples can be seen here and here), who is said to look like a conglomeration of bubbles.
It's hard to say. Wilbur was drugging her tea. After every cup, Nancy seemed to become tired and find it difficult to walk. Let's just say that she didn't appear to be resisting him. She was obviously attracted to Wilbur and did tell him that she felt at peace with him. Whether because she was drugged or a willing participant is unknown.
They were psychopomps, spirits that guide newly-deceased souls to the afterlife. Many religious belief systems tell of psychopomps, e.g., the Egyptian Anubis, The Valkyries of Norse mythology, Charon from the Greek myths, the angels of Judeo-Christianity. Sometimes the psychopomps were animals, such as dogs, horses, or even dolphins. Birds that are said to function as psychopomps include eagles, owls, ravens, cranes, crows, and sparrows. In Lovecraft's story, they were whippoorwills:
Then, too, the natives are mortally afraid of the numerous whippoorwills which grow vocal on warm nights. It is vowed that the birds are psychopomps lying in wait for the souls of the dying, and that they time their eerie cries in unison with the sufferer's struggling breath. If they can catch the fleeing soul when it leaves the body, they instantly flutter away chittering in daemoniac laughter; but if they fail, they subside gradually into a disappointed silence.
Wilbur steals the Necronomicon from the library. He then drugs Nancy and takes her to the Devil's Hop Yard where he lays her on an altar and begins to recite the rituals that will open the gates for the Old Ones. He also summons his twin brother to join them. His brother sets the Whateley house on fire and then proceeds to walk to the Hop Yard, leaving four people dead in his wake while the village residents attempt to track him down. Doctors Armitage (Ed Begley) and Cory (Lloyd Bochner) arrive at the Hop Yard just as Wilbur is calling Yog-Sothoth's name. Armitage rebuts, using a chant from the Necronomicon in an attempt to abort the ritual. Wilbur bursts into flames and falls off the hillside just as Yog-Sothoth appears for a few moments before vanishing. Nancy awakens, apparently sorry that Wilbur is dead. Armitage and Cory help her down from the altar, commenting that the last of the Whateleys is dead. The camera zooms in on Nancy's belly, revealing the fetus that has started to grow inside of her.
Those who have both seen the movie and read the short story say that the movie is disappointing in that it adapted Lovecraft's original ten-chaptered short story far too loosely to be considered anywhere near faithful to the story. Other viewers point out, however, that even if the movie doesn't tell the story as Lovecraft wrote it, it is moody and atmospheric and there are some pretty decent creepy moments to be found. One plus is that the movie doesn't rely on hokey rubber monster suits to portray the creatures that are "not of this earth."
Here's a few: In the novel, (1) Wilbur Whateley dies in mid-story while attempting to steal the Necronomicon from the library at Miskatonic University in Arkham; a guard dog exposes his alien innards and allows the head librarian, Dr Henry Armitage, to see that Wilbur isn't totally of this earth; (2) Armitage's two sidekicks, Professor Warren Rice and Doctor Francis Morgan, are transformed into the two female roles of Nancy Wagner (Sandra Dee) and Elizabeth Hamilton (Donna Baccala) for the movie; (3) Wilbur loved Old Whateley, his grandfather, and wasn't the cause of his death; (4) the Old Ones were not depicted as naked witches running amuck in a field chasing Nancy in a dream; (5) the Dunwich monster rampaged across the hillsides destroying farmhouses, eating cattle, trampling vegetation, but he didn't kill four people and then just disappear into thin air or whatever was supposed to have happened to him at the end of the movie; (6) the horror took place in 1928, not in the late 1960s; (7) Lavinia disappeared on a Halloween night long before Wilbur visited Arkham; she wasn't committed to an insane asylum; (8) the Whateley farmhouse was unkempt and dirty, not a gothic mansion; Lovecraft described Wilbur and his grandfather hammering out the two top floors and attic so that the growing monster inside had room to trample about. When Old Whateley and Lavinia died, Wilbur built outhouses for himself, destroying the second floor and leaving the farmhouse as a prison for the growing, protoplasmic monster within; and (9) Cory's character in the story was not a doctor; he just owned a house close to the Bishop family.
Yes. Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror is in the public domain and can be read here.
You can't, because there is no such book. Lovecraft made up the Necronomicon as a fictional book of the occult, containing rituals that would open the door to the Old Ones, a race of beings from another dimension that once inhabited the earth. It was supposedly written by the "Mad Arab" Abdul Alhazred and was first mentioned in Lovecraft's 1924 short story The Hound. The Necronomicon has been cited in various fantasy/horror stories so many times since Lovecraft fashioned it that many fans believe it to be a real book.
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