Wednesday, April 26, 2006

MASTERS OF HORROR: DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE

The big news of 2005 for fright film fans was the announcement of a new Showtime anthology series, MASTERS OF HORROR. The premise was simple: take a dozen of the most acclaimed directors of horror films and have them each direct a one-hour mini-feature, with no restrictions or censorship. While the resulting series was – as is probably inevitable with anthologies – a mixed bag, quality-wise. Some fans have called the entire series a disappointment, while others have been thrilled. Me, I don't have Showtime, so I'll be judging them individually, as I watch them on the DVDs from Anchor Bay.

The acclaimed director of RE-ANIMATOR and DAGON returns to the writer who inspired both of those previous films, H.P. Lovecraft, in MASTERS OF HORROR: STUART GORDON – DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE (2005).

A budget-conscious physics student (Ezra Godden, DAGON) moves into a run-down boarding house where he meets several eccentric residents and dreams of a seductive succubus and a rat with a human face. He soon theorizes that a gateway to another dimension exists within the houses' oddly-angled walls and a malevolent witch uses that gateway to satisfy here depraved desires.

With a tight teleplay crafted in collaboration with frequent writing partner Dennis Paoli, Gordon once again manages to successfully translate the word of Lovecraft to the screen. And while the film lacks some of the visceral punch of RE-ANIMATOR or FROM BEYOND, it's a solidly creepy effort, only slightly undermined by the series' TV budget. Godden gives a very good performance and is well supported by pretty Chelah Horsdal (HOLLOW MAN 2) and creepy Jay Brazeau.

Anchor Bay has delivered an excellent disc, with a flawless anamorphic, widescreen (1.77:1) transfer and Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. In addition, they've absolutely loaded down the disc with bonus features, including a commentary track by Gordon and Godden, several behind-the-scenes featurettes, and video interviews with the director and actress Chelah Horsdal. But that's not all. There are trailers for all of the MASTERS OF HORROR episodes, a still gallery, a storyboard gallery and several DVD-ROM features, including a screensaver, the screenplay, and the original Lovecraft short story.

A short but solid horror flick given the royal treatment by Anchor Bay. Highly recommended.

BUY: Masters of Horror - Stuart Gordon - Dreams in the Witch House