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Masters of Horror - Stuart Gordon - Dreams in the Witch House
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WHEN STRESSED-OUT STUDENT WALTER GILMAN RENTS A ROOM IN A DECREPIT OLD HOUSE, HIS GRADUATE THESIS STUDIES BEGIN TO TAKE SOME VERY STRANGE TWISTS. HE SUFFERS NIGHTMARES AND SUSPECTS THAT A GATEWAY TO ANOTHER DIMENSION MAY EXIST BEHIND ONE OF THE WALLS IN HIS ROOM.
Director Stuart Gordon picked an H.P. Lovecraft story for his installment of Showtime's Masters of Horror series. So what did you expect? This filmmaker gained his horror-movie spurs with his wild and wonderful Lovecraft flicks Re-Animator and From Beyond (following up years later with another H.P. tale, the fishy Dagon), so nothing could be more super-natural. For his hour-long episode, Gordon chose Dreams in the Witch House, which follows a student (Ezra Godden) at Miskatonic University (that's Lovecraft's frequently-mentioned fictional school) as he moves into a suspiciously cheap boarding house. When he has intense nightmares about a rat with a human face, it should be a warning sign, but the student is mightily attracted to a single mom at the house, played by the mighty attractive Chelah Horsdal. Some acceptable mood-setting comes courtesy of Godden's elderly downstairs neighbor, and the half-dozen shocks are just fine. Somehow the straight-line story disappoints, as the ultimate outcome of it all seems fairly obvious from the opening scenes, and there's nothing much to complicate the slide into evil. Still, this episode merits a passing grade by the strict standards of Miskatonic U. --Robert Horton
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A physics graduate student of the Miskatonic University, Walter (Ezra Godden; Dagon) is torn between questioning his sanity and suspicions that he’s been sleepwalking after renting a room in an old house previously the residence of a 17th century witch. Walter is haunted by a series of disturbing dreams, he wakes up in strange places, and he comes to fear for the lives of his neighbor and her infant.
The special effects are serviceable but nothing to brag about. When Walter has dreams of a rat with a human face, it seems like something from a PG-13 horror for kids; very Goosebumps-ish. Then he is seduced by a sultry naked witch (Chelah Horsdal; Altitude, AVP: Requiem) in a disturbing sex scene and there is a satisfyingly gushy eye-gouging scene. But for me, the most entertaining bits were the final scene with the human-faced rat (during the gory finale) and the simple inclusion of the flesh-bound Necronomicon as we’ve seen in so many horror films before (e.g., Jason Goes to Hell, Evil Dead, The Babysitter, The Unnamable).
Based on the story (of the same name) by H. P. Lovecraft, this is probably the weakest work by director Stuart Gordon (Dagon, The Pit and the Pendulum, Re-Animator, From Beyond). The writing is a bit dry and, outside of the star (Godden), the performances seem unrefined—as if trained actors walked in and did one take without feeling out the characters. If it were a bit shorter—clipping exposition but keeping all the effects scenes—it would make a fine segment for a lower budget anthology film. And, being part of the Masters of Horror series, I essentially view it as part of a huge anthology.