Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dreams in the Witch House

(2005) *

Money is in short supply for Miskatonic University student Walter and he reluctantly rents a room in a decrepit house from an obvious slumlord. How do we know that he’s a slumlord? He wears a dingy wife beater, silly! Walter’s grimy room is an oddity. Not only is it falling apart, but the floor, ceiling, and walls meet at odd angles creating a disorienting effect. Luckily Walter is a physics major and the design of this strange room resembles his thesis on the configuration of parallel universes, what a coincidence!
During his first night in this disgusting dwelling he is awoken by a blood-curdling scream. Racing into the neighboring apartment Walter finds a pretty woman with an infant battling a giant rat. Walter helps, of course, and immediately strikes up a friendship with the down-on-her-luck, Frances. Complaints to the slumlord fail to garner much results save being handed a hammer. On route back to his room Walter runs into a crazy old man (aren’t they all?) in the hallway who inquires, “Mister, you seen a rat...with a human face?” Wisely avoiding any conversation with the old fart Walter returns to bed where he is plagued by nightmares about a (very stupid looking) human-faced rat.

As the story unfolds Walter’s dreams become increasingly disturbing. Rat-face shows up a few more times and a naked woman turns into a witch with 3 nipples. Walter’s perception of reality begins to unravel and he begins to believe that the odd angles of his room are a gateway to a parallel universe. Adding little to the story is the titular witch, who advocates witchcraft and child sacrifice, of course. I won’t give any more away for those who aren’t familiar with the story (e.g., me), but suffice it to say that it’s all very anti-climactic.

I’ve never read H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Dreams in the Witch House” but I’m certain that it is better than this terrible Stuart Gordon adaptation. Even these book covers look more intriguing.

This is surprising given Gordon’s adaptations of Lovecraft’s Re-animator, From Beyond, and Dagon. One of the problems with the Masters of Horror television series is that all of the episodes I’ve seen have appeared to be filmed on a shoestring budget, and Dreams in the Witch House is no different. The sets are cheap and, as you can see in the rat-face picture, the fx are laughable. The Masters of Horror series was conceptualized to showcase the “Masters”, yet I fear that this series is having the opposite effect.


Summerisle said...

Whew, I can finally check the blog without having to look at Tara Reid pretending to be smart. Of course, Rat Face isn't much better.

The more I think about it, the more I liked Argento's Masters of Horrors submission - Jenifer. The effects were very convincing. And at the time, I think I completely missed the point that Jenifer represents the monster created by the stupid horny man. I think I'm gonna bump my rating up a half star. Yeah, that's exactly what I'm gonna do.

Octopunk said...

"The Masters of Horror series was conceptualized to showcase the 'Masters', yet I fear that this series is having the opposite effect."

That's really too bad, especially when "made for cable" no longer translates into "crap."

It's also too bad that Lovecraft on film is such a dicey prospect. Something he was always able to achieve as a writer was invoke feelings of otherworldliness that were all his own, even when the usual trappings of churchy/Satany stuff might be present. On film, however, it often winds up seeming like just another devil worshipping scenario.

The Reanimator movies are great, but for me Dagon really stands out as the most faithful to the Lovecraft vibe.