Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dreams in the Witch House

**1/2 (out of 4 stars)

Mick Garris apparently had a dinner one night and summoned a bunch of his fellow film making friends because of an idea he had mustered. The idea (on paper) would seemed to be great to any horror fan in the world. Mick's plan was to invite directors from the horror genre to collaborate with one hour episodes featuring grisly tales of the macabre, masterfully titled, Masters of Horror. With the likes of legend film makers, John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, Tobe Hooper, Don Cosarelli and others this inception would be the greatest thing to hit television for the avid horror fan. For these masters of horror could show off their talents and thus improve the current status of the horror genre.

I'll be the first to admit that I haven't seen many of these films. The reason is simple. Of the handful I've seen, I've been less than impressed. Episodes like Jenifer, We All Scream for Ice Cream and Pick Me Up were disappointing and left me wondering how we define a master of horror. However, I've reluctantly kept an open mind and eye for the rest of the series. I still have yet to see any of Hooper's or Carpenter's episodes, although I've heard negative things about both. But when I was browsing over on Netflix I wanted something quick to watch. I wanted something to feed my need for horror. So, with that open mind I gave Stuart Gordon's episode a shot. Dreams in the Witch House was surprisingly good and now I'm willing to watch other episodes again.

Stuart Gordon is known for his many adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft. Dreams in the Witch House is another one to chalk up on his list of THE GENTLEMAN FROM PROVIDENCE'S adaptations.

The film starts out showing an old dilapidated house. Miskatonic University student, Walter (Ezra Godden) is looking for a cheap, quiet place to study and complete a thesis project. We are quickly introduced to a few characters living inside the house: The overweight, ignorant landlord (Jay Brazeau), a creepy, mysterious old man, Mazurowitz (Cambell Lane)and a beautiful woman, Francis (Chelah Hordal) and her infant son, Danny.

Walter is given the cheapest room of the house. He starts hearing weird noises and upon investigating finds the uncanny Mazurowitz praying loudly in his room. (One inkling that this guy is off his rocker was watching him pray while slamming his head off of a table). The man offers a cross and warns of a rat with a human face that scurries around the house. Walter dismisses the man for a complete psycho and goes about his business.

Walter is attracted to the lovely Francis who comes to him in a dream one evening. She disrobes in front of him and they make love. Little does the horny Walter know, but the person pretending to be Francis in the dream is actually a witch. She leaves a ghastly mark on his back. Later, while Francis is working, Walter keeps an eye on the young child. The witch returns! We eventually learn that the witch wants Danny as a sacrifice for an ancient old ritual.

I won't go into any spoiler territory here because I think you should check out this film. Stuart Gordon does an adequate job in setting up a modern atmosphere to a story that was written in the 30's. Many people have tried to adapt the Lovecraft story and failed, but Gordon like he did with many others, prevails.

The acting is pretty good and convincing. Ezra Godden plays a great sympathetic role as a man who everyone believes is going insane. But as an audience member we see the downward spiral he descends and feel some pity for him. (This proves to be the case in many of Lovecraft's characters). Rats with human faces, weird neighbors and asshole landlords are enough to drive anyone crazy, right? Well, add that with one bitch of a witch and I'm sold!

The house in itself is a startling character in the film. The creaky noises and forbidding events that unfold are enough to make you want to pay extra the next time you need an affordable, quiet place to live.

This film clocks in at less than 60 minutes. It's a quick way to burn some time and a good film to boot. I must say that so far, this is the best of the Masters of Horror episodes that I've seen. Unfortunately, sifting through the rest of the series may be a struggle. We'll see, I guess.

Directed by: Stuart Gordon

Written by: Dennis Paoli

Starring: Ezra Godden, Chelah Hordal

Episode two of the first season of Masters of Horror


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