|Masters of Horror - Stuart Gordon - Dreams in the Witch House|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 28 March 2006|
A group of friends, mostly horror writers and directors, have occasionally met for dinner here and there in Los Angeles. Somewhat in the spirit of “Hey, Judy’s got the costumes, my uncle’s got a barn, we can do the show right here!”, Mick Garris, one of the group, proposed a series of made-for-TV hour-long horror dramas, each to be made by a name horror director.
The resulting series, “Masters of Horror,” aired on Showtime and was popular enough that a second “Masters of Horror” season is now in production, and a “Masters of Sci-Fi” series is also in the works.
Anchor Bay is releasing the first series two episodes at a time. Each episode comes in its own cardboard sleeve, with the DVDs almost incredibly jammed with extras. Someone knew that horror movie buffs are among the most avid DVD collectors, and that they simply can’t be told too much about their favorite movies. This extras-laden treatment is rare in general, and incredibly rare for individual episodes of a TV series. Watching all the extras takes considerably more time than the individual episodes; this may be too much of a good thing.
“Dreams in the Witch House”
Stuart Gordon is primarily known for his free adaptations of stories by H.P. Lovecraft, who’s famous to those who know his work, a mystery to others. Gordon first made his mark with the vivid, gory “Re-Animator,” from a Lovecraft story. He’s occasionally returned to the writer again and again—and does so once more for his first “Masters of Horror” entry.
“Dreams in the Witch House” tells of Walter Gilman, a graduate student at Miskatonic University. Like most grad students, he has little money and rents a room in a seedy rooming house that’s more than 300 years old. He befriends fellow roomer Frankie (Chelah Horsdal), a single mom with a baby son.
Walter is surprised to find that the walls of his room form a pattern very similar to those he’s created on his desktop while working on an interpretation of string theory. He tells Frankie of “membranes” of existence, and that it might be possible to use geometry to find where they intersect, allowing travel between dimensions.
He begins having horrible dreams in the old house, dreams involving a frightening rat with a human face and an old witch who clearly wants something from him.
Gordon keeps things moving at a good clip, building suspense efficiently and smoothly, though he doesn’t shy away from gallons of blood, when that’s what the story requires.
However, there’s something slight to this entry. It’s very well made, and remarkably true to Lovecraft (his famous book, the Necronomicon, appears) though it is set in the present day. Performances are on the mark, especially the increasingly rattled Ezra Godden, who also appeared in Gordon’s movie “Dagon.”
Like all episodes of “Masters of Horror,” “Dreams in the Witch House” was shot in just over a week.
The DVD has plentiful extras. Not only is there the fancy slip cover, but inside you’ll find a Stuart Gordon Masters of Horror trading card. There are trailers for other episodes, a still gallery, a storyboard gallery, a remarkably thorough Stuart Gordon filmography, some DVD-ROM features, plus an overflowing handful of featurettes. There’s “Dreams, Darkness and Damnation: An Interview with Stuart Gordon” that shows him to be a genial, intelligent who’s clearly thought about all this. “Working with a Master: Stuart Gordon” consists of interviews with a variety of actors who’ve worked with Gordon, including Jeffery Combs and Barbara Crampton. “On Set: An Interview with Chelah Horsdal,” is relatively trivial, as is the making-of for “Dreams in the Witch House.” It has no narration—and sorely needs it. Oscar winning makeup effects artist Howard Gordon talks about the creation of “Brown Jenkin,” the rat with the human face.
See the review of John Carpenter's "Cigarette Burns" here