“HP Lovecraft’s Dreams in the Witch House”
Season 1, Episode 2
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Written by Denis Paoli and Stuart Gordon
Based on a short story by H.P Lovecraft
Masters of Horror is an anthology TV series created by Mick Garris which first aired on the Showtime network in 2005. Each episode is a stand alone one hour film, directed by a master horror director. Masters of Horror ran for two seasons, and is available on DVD. In Fear and Loathing, Vivid Scribe takes a look at each episode in this series.
Any film that has come from the mind of HP Lovecraft is likely to be a good one. Add to that direction from Stuart Gordon (who has already proven his ability to work with Lovecraft tales in Re-Animator and Dagon) and you should be able to expect a real treat. There isn’t anything specifically wrong with “Dreams in the Witch House” but with this pedigree I was expecting it to deliver more than it did.
Physics grad student, Walter Gilman (Ezra Godden) moves into a run down old boarding house. Straight away there’s a not-right feeling about the house – there’s a gross old landlord (Jay Brazeau); Masurewicz (Campbell Lane), the weird old man downstairs and then a run in with a nasty rat. Gilman rescues his neighbour, Frances (Chelah Horsdal), and her son, Danny from the rat and when Masurewicz asks him if the rat had a man’s face, he puts it down to just another oddity. Until the dreams start and the rat with the man’s face comes to Walter at night with a grave warning of a witch. Walter dismisses it was a dream.
Later, when Walter is babysitting Danny, he falls asleep and dreams of having sex with Frances, who then turns out to be the witch. He wakes and starts to wonder if the dreams are some kind of twisted reality. On and on it goes, the boundaries between his dreams and his realities are increasingly blurred and his sanity more and more tenuous. Walter learns that the witch and her rat man familiar need him to sacrifice a baby, Danny and is then lead to discover the remains of dozens of other dead children buried in his walls from previous sacrifices. We learn a dark and terrible truth about Masurewicz, and a demonic struggle ensues, but can Walter save Danny from his own hands?
“Dreams in the Witch House” isn’t exactly creepy but if you’re into the demonic style horror with alternate dimensions and Satanic weirdness then it should please enough. The premise itself if a good one – the episode has altered the original Lovecraft story considerably and perhaps that’s its downfall – but I wasn’t really that impressed. Godden has an appeal and worked well as Walter, particularly playing the part of a man losing his mind quite well. The ending was suitably gross and satisfying – I won’t reveal anything here, as it is the strongest part of the episode. The film works well with a sense of insanity and confusion but I didn’t really get the overall feeling of dread and madness that I expected from this story. I think this lacking is due in most to it only being an hour long. This is a complex story, set in a complex universe and it is only given a surface tension here. 60 minutes is more than enough time to work with a good horror tale so perhaps some further revision of the original story, at the risk of upsetting the Lovecraft cult, might have improved this episode. Overall, it’s good but not great but it is good to see the Masters of Horror series working with a number of different sub-genres within the horror family.