Monday, October 17, 2011

The Dunwich Horror, by H.P. Lovecraft

This is my favorite of the images Google presented me with.
A word about H.P. Lovecraft before I go review-crazy-

I personally feel there is a difference between the way most people interpret horror and the way a Lovecraft fan interprets horror. Horror these days is generally associated with any wide array of 'scary' movies, most of which are associated with a fairly sparce and typical assumptions of ghosts, vampires, werewolves, demons, psychopaths or aliens. There are attempts to be ground-breaking and unique in inspiring fear in others, but generally it boils down to the same basic plotlines and antagonists. Writers, directors, etc. are on a constant quest for shock value. They devise and come up with stories to tell that they hope will scare people and/or create a sensation. They are very much in-your-face.

H.P. Lovecraft does not need to think and devise plans with which to shock and scare people. This a man that simply eats, breathes and dreams the grotesque, unnatural and weird, in the truest sense of the word. His stories are scary in that they're generally written in journal or auto-biographical form by the subject or a relative thereof. Typically the person begins as a skeptic and is confronted with undeniable evidence of something obscene and troubling, and gets in over his head in a situation that is evil and otherworldly, more often than not, ending with his death. A lot of the times, there are not any monsters actually present in the stories, just hints or one. Sometimes you are entirely left to your imagination. When you're not? Maybe it's even worse. Monsters in Lovecrafts stories are strikingly unusual and entirely unattractive in nature- no sparkly vampires here- sometimes falling to the other side of the line between plainly disturbing and perverse. They are their own entities, and fans of Lovecraft can doubtlessly point out their influence in other media. These are not stories for everyone, not because they're "too scary" for most, but because they're written with a passion for the obscene that might be off-putting for those that aren't equally passionate about their content.

I decided to celebrate October and the approaching Halloween holiday- my favorite- by listening to as much of the Lovecraft collection as I can on audiobook. My drive to work in the morning is done before sunrise, and on wooded, isolated roads, so I thought it was the perfect atmosphere for such things, and I was right. NOTE: SINCE THESE H.P. LOVECRAFT STORIES I'LL BE REVIEWING ARE SHORT STORIES, THERE'S NOT MUCH LEFT OUT IN MY DESCRIPTION. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN READING OR HEARING THEM AND WANT TO BE SURPRISED, JUST DO IT, AND QUIT READING THIS.

The Dunwich Horror was the first story I listened to. All of the stories I obtained are read by Wayne June, who has a deep, gravelly voice that lends perfectly to the serious and creepy atmosphere of the writing without going overboard or making it campy in any way. The Dunwich Horror takes place in Massachusetts, in the fictional town of Dunwich. Lovecraft goes through a great bit of detail about the area of Dunwich, setting a very ominous tone right from the get-go. The tale goes on to describe the Whateley farm, where an albino woman lives with her father. She gives birth to a son, father unknown, and names him Wilbur. The boy grows very rapidly, being the size of a full grown man by five years old. The townsfolk aren't sure what to think of him, and generally keep their distance. Wilbur and his grandpa are constantly adding to their house, and strange noises are heard from the upper floor when visitors call. Cattle are constantly disappearing, and the townsfolk notice a ramp has been added leading from the ground to the upper story of the house. Grandpa Whateley dies, and the albino mother eventually follows of unknown means.

Wilbur begins seeking a copy of the book Necronomicon at a nearby university and is denied. Finally, with urgency, he attempts to break in and steal it and is attacked and killed by the guard dog. With Wilbur dead, what's revealed to be an invisable creature growing inside the farmhouse is unchecked and breaks free to bring horror and death upon the town of Dunwich.

I can't very well debate the mastery of any of Lovecraft's stories because he's practically his own genre of writing. When I offer "critiques" it's to explain why I favor or do not favor the particularly story, and nothing more. I am still humbled by him and his expansive creativity and ability. Having said that- The Dunwich Horror isn't one of my favorite, I will admit. I feel that there are parts of the story where the action lulls a bit. Wilbur dying and the monster breaking free of its captivity is a huge and fearsome chain of events but I don't feel it was highlighted enough to make a serious impact. The end of the story is, in my opinion, somewhat anti-climactic. This one doesn't inspire chills in me the way some of the others do. Concept, however, is fantastic. The idea of Wilbur and his grandfather perpetually adding on to the house to contain the beast is chilling in and of itself. That the monster is invisible is PREFERABLE to me. I was almost let down when a glimpse of it is allowed and the description that followed- the unknown struck me as more frightening in this case. Still a fantastic and entertaining listen, especially in the dark in the woods!

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