Friday, October 03, 2008

Dreams in the Witch House

2005 **

The full title here would be Masters of Horror: H.P. Lovecraft's Dreams in the Witch House. I'm so annoyed with this movie I didn't even bother finding my own screenshot. Some spoilers ahead, but believe me, you don't care.

Some pertinent quotes from JPX from when he reviewed this turkey:

"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."

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

Hear, hear. The master in question is Stuart Gordon, the director of the un-arguably best Lovecraft movies ever made (Re-Animator, Dagon). Yet this time the Gordon/Lovecraft combo sucks donkey balls. The short story, while not one of Lovecraft's best, does spring from an interesting premise: Walter Gilman, a young, broke student of theoretical physics takes a cheap room in a dilapidated boarding house. The room's shape is strangely angled by an outcropping of ceiling, and (long story short) there's a centuries-old witch who draws the room's lodgers into other dimensions by way of the concealed space above. Makes 'em do things.

The movie version follows this to a point, Walter Gilman (the actor Ezra Godden from Dagon) checks in, has a funky wall, etc. To make the story more workable, a young milf with a baby lives in the apartment next door. I've often pointed out that Lovecraft stories need such augmentation, since few of his characters really ever have a dimension beyond a fascination with arcane forces that eventually overwhelm them. This is a time when they should've kept more from the source material.

In the story, Walter Gilman seeks out the strange room because he's heard about its odd properties, instead of being a student of other dimensional theories and coincidentally finding an other-dimensional room. Story Gilman's journey into the unknown involves waking dreams of vast, colored abysses and meetings with strange creatures on distant planets. Movie Gilman has a wall that glows purple sometimes. Story Gilman is well aware of the extensive folklore surrounding the witch, and his seduction by the forces from beyond is based on his obsession for more knowledge. Movie Gilman doesn't know anything, and is suddenly thrust into the witch's thrall for the flimsiest of reasons. Tempted for about ten seconds by the witch disguised as the milf, he gets a pentacle scratched into his back and it's all done. The plot careens towards the baby being in mortal danger when any of the characters could simply opt not to play.

What really honked me off was that the baby is killed in the end. At first Gilman kills the witch and saves the little guy, but then he somehow fails when the witch's familiar, a rat with a human face, starts biting the kid on the neck. (Anyone who's ever seen a James Bond movie would no better than to drop their guard when the henchman's still alive.) I was watching this with Julie, and of course our fresh parenthood greatly colored our views of the events (there's also a lot of baby skeletons). And while you can say that's the point of horror, or mention relationships between heat and getting out of kitchens, the truth is this movie just doesn't earn the chops to go that heavy. Much like the Takashi Miike MoH entry, it packs in shock to try to compensate for the lack of story.

With only an hour's run time and whatever flimsy budget was available, I suspect Dreams in the Witch House seemed like the right small Lovecraft story to shoot. Nope!


50PageMcGee said...

heh, "donkey balls"

Catfreeek said...

I haven't really been impressed by this series either. Nice review though.

AC said...

octo, kudos for crafting such a thoughtful, well written, and informative review of this apparently unworthy film. i tend to write short reviews, but when i watch a stinker i'm reluctant to spend more than a sentence or two on the damn thing. well done, sir.

miko564 said...

Two things, Octo.

1)Damn dissapointing to see the guy who made some of my favorites (yes, even this relative horror virgin loved the re-animators) fail this miserably.

2)Welcome to my world on the baby thing! I can't tell you how many movies I would have liked were ruined by babies/kids in danger scenes. It shifts as they get older too, your distaste matches the current age of your child.

AC said...

argh, actually reading the blog is significantly cutting into my viewing time this year! but i am lovin' it, so donkey balls to anyone who gives me grief about my low numbers.

Whirlygirl said...

I often find that I like a movie less if it involves harming or killing animals.

DCD said...

As we have discussed before, I am right there with you on the harm to children/baby thing.