In the spirit of the holiday, I decided to write a review of the Dunwich Horror, based on a dramatic reading I listened to online.
It was a very interesting and fun story but for me it didn't work as horror. Let me explain. The natural fear this story seems to play on is that those weird people who keep to themselves might just be up to something truly evil. Unfortunately, it's been drilled into our heads, since the dawn of television, that this fear is not only unreasonable but turns the people who give in to it into monsters far worse than whatever they think they're neighbors might be. Furthermore sitcoms have repeatedly assured us that even if your neighbors really are aliens, witches, undead, or keeping a ginnie in a bottle they're still just regular people and we shouldn't think anything of it.
Next the monstrous characters are shown in far too sympathetic a light. Wizard Whateley is a crazy old man who's falsely accused of molesting his daughter, (OK what he did is worse but he didn't father her child) he pays his bills and shares a weird folk belief about the whip-poor-wills. Livonia is a pitiful creature and if you don't feel sympathy for her you ARE a monster. Wilbur is a misunderstood genius, rejected and scorned by uneducated people, that's the kind of person our culture loves, and his physical deformities make him even more sympathetic. He's 9 foot tall but still needs to carry a gun to protect himself and in the end it wasn't enough, he's killed by guard dogs, and dies with his dreams unfulfilled. Finally there's the invisible member of the family, We lives his entire life in isolation, until everyone he's ever known is dead. With nothing to eat and no life skills of any kind, he destroys his home then wanders off in search of food.
It's like if the final episode of The Musters had the family killed by one of grandpa's experiments then Spot burned down the house and went off looking for food, it wouldn't be horror it would be a tragedy and when Spot was gunned down by the police, the audience would cry.
Now also remember that the regular folks are not portrayed in a sympathetic way. These people gawk at the Whateleys and gossip about them while shunning them, but they still want their money, and when they suspect that something terrible has happened they do nothing. They believe Wizard Whateley has molested his daughter and do nothing. They see horrific wounds on his cattle and not only do they do nothing, they don't even ask Wizard, "what the hell happened to your cows ?" Finally they suspect Wilbur of murdering his mother, and no one even calls the police. The local sheriff never even goes to the farm to check on her. What the hell?
Even the heroic investigators who save people are not portrayed in a sympathetic light. They aren't portrayed negatively mind you, but they simply don't play enough of a role in the story to be interesting characters at all.
Of course, as I said, I enjoyed the story, because it was really interesting. I just wouldn't consider it horror.
I did however have one complaint about it. The stuff about the whip-poor-wills added nothing to the story and just wasted my time. I wish he'd just left that part out.