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Masters of Horror - John Mcnaughton - Haeckel's Tale

3.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Showtime has amassed some of the greatest horror film writers and directors to bring to you the anthology series, "Masters of Horror." For the first time the foremost names in the horror film genre have joined forces for the series consisting of 13 one-hour films each season.


You get three Masters of Horror for the price of one in this episode of the popular cable anthology series: director John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Wild Things), writer Clive Barker, on whose short story the script is based, and the legendary George A. Romero, who had to bow out of the production but whose contribution is noted with an "in association with" credit. Romero's history and influence also weighs heavily on this Gothic period chiller, which concerns a brash young medical student (Derek Cecil), whose desire to re-animate the dead is called into question by a young woman (sexy Leela Savasta) whose passion for her husband has not quelled, despite his recent passing.

In an interview featured on the disc, McNaughton mentions the lush visuals and melodramatic tone of Hammer Films and American International Pictures as major influences on his approach to Haeckel's Tale, and both are evident in the hothouse sexuality and wonderfully overripe performances (particularly by character actor Jon Polito as a traveling magician). Of course, the gore also flows quite freely here, and the zombie makeup by Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger is typically top-notch. An above-average entry from the hit-and-miss Masters series, Haeckel's Tale delivers shivers and sensuality with a wry smile and a tip of the cranium to its '60s horror forebears. The DVD includes interview featurettes with McNaughton (which covers his career to date), Cecil, Polito, and Savasta; McNaughton also provides commentary for the episode, and is discussed at length by his Haeckel's cast as well as Michael Rooker and Tom Towles from Henry. A behind-the-scenes glimpse, storyboard gallery, and the original screenplay (accessible with DVD-ROM) round out the three hours of extras. -- Paul Gaita

Special Features

  • Commentary by director John McNaughton
  • "Breaking Taboos: An Interview with John McNaughton" featurette
  • "Working With A Master: John McNaughton" featurette
  • "Behind The Scenes: The Making of Haeckel's Tale" featurette
  • On Set: An Interview with Leela Savasta
  • On Set: An Interview with Jon Polito
  • On Set: An Interview with Derek Cecil
  • Script To Screen: Haeckel’s Tale
  • Trailers
  • Still Gallery
  • John McNaughton Bio
  • Screenplay (DVD-ROM)
  • Screensaver (DVD-ROM)

Product Details

  • Actors: Steve Bacic, Micki Maunsell, Gerard Plunkett, Derek Cecil, Pablo Coffey
  • Directors: John McNaughton
  • Writers: Clive Barker, Mick Garris
  • Producers: Adam Goldworm, Andrew Deane, Ben Browning, Bo Altherr, Grant Rosenberg
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: November 14, 2006
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000FS2W3K
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,488 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Masters of Horror - John Mcnaughton - Haeckel's Tale" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

So in loving all the rest of the Masters of horror movies, and being a HUGE fan of clive barkers... this was a pretty easy decision to pick this up. I had no idea what to expect, not seeing a trailer for it anywhere and only going off of the artwork and premise from the dvd. But this adaption of a Clive Barker story tells the tale of a man who visits an old woman who is told to be able to bring the dead to life. She convinces the man that if he still wants his wife back at the end of her story, she will do just that. Then the story begins...

It concerns a man named Ernst Haeckel who (very similiar to Frankenstein) beleives that God has no part in death and that he can make the dead rise. In failing numerous times, he hears of a man who can make the dead rise through black magic.. a necromancer. He visits this man and still not convinced, visits him again to confront him of his power. This does not go over well, and he is left to his own devices.

After receiving news of his fathers illness, Heackel leaves to see him.. on his way he is brought in by an old man and his young wife. The wife is very beautiful and the man is in his 60's. Soemthing does not seem right and then the wife in the middle of the night leaves towards the "necropolis" to meet up with the necromancer whom her husband paid to have her dead husband brought back to her.

Without spoiling too much of it, I'll just say this... you wont know what hit you in the end and if you enjoy a good zombie movie, then this one might be up your alley. George A. Romero also was involved in the making of this film if that tells you anything.

All in all, I enjoy period pieces and Frankenstein is one of my all time favorite classic movies. I would recommend this to anyone who has enjoyed both Clives stories and the MOH series. The only thing that I found not to my liking was the end was a little creepy-sappy, but once you see it... you'll know what I mean.

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Haeckle's Tale has an impressive pedigree behind it. Clive Barker is one of the horror gods, a twisted mind that has brought us a 1000 dark horrors including Hellraiser and Nightbreed. He also wrote the Books of Blood, check those out for a scary read. However, John McNaughton is responsible for `gems' like Wild Things (yuck!). Unfortunately, it is his influence that is felt more than Barker's.

What you're left with is Haeckle's Tale about a young doctor, overly influenced by Frankenstein, who wants to bring the dead back to life. Frustrated by attempts using science that fail, he instead finds himself trapped in the realm of necromancy. The movie could have been good had it perused this path, but instead it took a left turn at Albuquerque, as Bugs Bunny would say.

From there, it jumps to soft core zombie porn, almost as if this movie was made with the premise of "Let's through together a little quick plot and then have a really hot actress have sex with a zombie or two". The framing sequence makes no sense, especially one at the end.

I love Masters of Horror, but this is one of the most disappointing. Instead of wasting your money on this, get Fair Haired Child instead, which is the best of the series. Buy Haeckle's Tale only if you're completing your set, but don't expect to be scared or overly entertained.

Recommended for completists only.
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WARNING: Rent Before Buying - Take my Word for it
The Whole Does Not Equal the Sum of its Parts

Adapted from a Clive Barker tale.
Scripted by (Director of Sleepwalkers, MOH Creator)Mick Garris.
Produced by George (King of the Living Dead) Romero.
& Directed by John (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer)McNaughton.

By looking at those names alone,
you'd think this baby has horror classic written all over it.
And to be honest, you'll wind up purchasing it (regardless of what I say)based on those names alone.
Which is a shame because, it has some great scenes in it too,
but suprisingly, not enough to keep your interest peaked.

Are there zombies?
Oh yes, there are zombies of all shapes and sizes.
But not the vicious kind, we're used to.
Instead we're treated to the kind that patiently waits on line at an undead orgy.
And that doesn't even occur until the last 5 minutes of the movie.
In fact, it takes forever just to get there.
And by that time, you're already tired of the movie, and browsing through your collection for something else to watch.
Don't get me wrong the last 10 minutes are great, but the preceding 50 are pure cinematic torture.

If you're looking for a traditional zombie flick,
You could do alot better.
If instead you're just looking for a unique, long-winded, take on the subject of undead lore.
My suggestion is to rent it first,
because chances are,
this one will never find it's way into your DVD player for a second viewing.

Even after death, You still have to wait on line.
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A young cocky med student, Ernst Haeckel (Derek Cecil), is obsessed in finding a way of resurrecting the dead and is convinced he is the only one who will find the secret to this enigma. When a necromancer named Montesquino (Jon Polito) arrives proclaiming to have found a way of re-animating the deceased, Heackel is unconvinced even when presented with a live demonstration. One day while on his way to visit his sick father, Haeckel receives an invitation from an old man named Wolfram (Tom McBeath) to spend the night at his house and is introduced to his young and beautiful wife, Elise (Leela Savasta). During this visit, Montesquino visits Wolfram and their exchange is caught by the curious med student who then decides to investigate only to be greeted by a sight that can only be described as zombie erotica.

This enjoyable tale of the undead is beautifully filmed with some gorgeous location shots and period costumes. The scares are few and far between which is somewhat disappointing. As expected from a "Masters of Horror" episode, you get the usual gore, a beautiful co-star who strips down to nothing and also following the norm of other episodes this film is devoid of actual terror. There is a sense of dread during earlier scenes. For instance, when our protagonist takes shelter in a cemetery from a storm on his way to see his sick father. But when the film finally exposes the wretched undead, the horror is gone. The final quarter of this film has an unexpected twist and it involves the lovely Elise, her dead husband and several curious undead on lookers but if you are expecting to be spooked in the old school horror kind of way (The Exorcist, Night of the Living Dead) you will be disappointed.
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