STUART GORDON'S DREAMS IN THE WITCH...
Reviewed by: Rees Savidis
What's it about
Dreams of right angles, string-theory, human-faced rats, parallel dimensions and the odd baby sacrifice haunt Miskatonic University student Walter Gilman (Ezra Godden of Dagon fame) after he moves into the titular Witch House.
Is it good movie?
A couple of months back, my girlfriend and I were given the opportunity to check out the first season of Showtime’s Masters of Horror, in its entirety, up on the big-screen at the Vancouver International Film Center as part of a very special one-day-only marathon. That’s twelve hours, folks…straight. What card carrying horror-geek wouldn’t slit their throat to get into that theater? – was my first thought. Somewhere around hour six or seven things started to go south. Big. F**king. Mistake – was now running on a loop inside my head. This shit should have been like mother’s milk to me, but instead of basking in the glow of the old-guard, the true masters that defined the genre, there I was busy mapping out my exit strategy and taking a mental head count of how many people I’d have to kill to make it to the nearest set of doors. Oh, how the mind wanders.
When the night finally came to a close and my girl and I spilled out of the theatre into a refreshingly brisk Vancouver evening, we both agreed on one thing: Masters of Horror may have sucked ass but Stuart Gordon’s Dreams in the Witch House was definitely riding the high water mark.
Having had the opportunity to check out Dreams in the Witch House for a second go-round – this time on DVD, without the burden of hour’s worth of shit behind me and many more to go – the prognosis remains the same; Gordon truly is a master of his craft. Once again working from a short story by literary wizard H.P. Lovecraft (The Shadow Over Innsmouth), Gordon and usual scribe Dennis Paoli (Re-Animator, From Beyond) really stepped up to the plate with Dreams in the Witch House, delivering in spades on their trademark brand of twisted, sexually depraved chills. What sets this episode apart from the rest is Gordon’s acute understanding of how short films work. While the other films in the series felt like short ideas stretched way to thin to emulate the feeling of a feature, Gordon is quite comfortable working within the shows hour-long mandate. Consequently, Dreams in the Witch House succeeds at feeling less like a failed feature-length film and more like a truly wicked episode of Tales from the Crypt. Another win for Gordon’s camp would have to be actor Ezra Godden who manages to play off of the equal measures of outrageous lunacy and genuine under-your-skin creeps in this film with ease and conviction; he’s a genuinely likable actor who, at times, reminded me of a somewhat re-imagined version of Dan Cain from Re-Animator.
Video / Audio
VIDEO: A very nice 1.77:1 anamorphic transfer.
AUDIO: Available in Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2 channel stereo, both sound fine with the obvious edge going to the 5.1 mix.
I didn’t know you could fit so much stuff on a single little 5” disc. You learn something new everyday. Here’s the list:
Dreams, Darkness and Damnation – An Interview with Stuart Gordon: This is an incredibly enjoyable and informative interview with Director Stuart Gordon that takes the viewer all-the-way back to his early days. Gordon discusses his love of the theatre (where he got his start with the formation of The Organic Theatre Company) as well as his early-age obsession with all things horrific and / or H.P. Lovecraft.
Working with the Master – Stuart Gordon: The whole gang’s here! Gordon’s wife Carolyn, producer and friend Brian Yuzna and a collection of familiar faces including Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree, Jeffery Combs and Ezra Godden reminisce about what it’s like to work with such a gifted, genuine and sweet man.
On Set – an Interview with Chelah Horsdal: Dreams in the Witch House leading lady discusses working with Stuart Gordon, kids and rats.
Behind the scenes – The making of Dreams in the Witch House: A light and far-too- breezy set trip spotlighting how Gordon’s entry in the series was made. 7 minutes seems a tad bit half-assed when it comes to showcasing the making of a movie, no?
SPX – Meet Brown Jenkin: See how Howard Berger (the ‘B’ in KNB) brought the human-faced rat that plagues Ezra Godden’s character in Dreams in the Witch House to furry, toothy life.
Still Gallery: Dry-up the batteries on your DVD remote by clicking through a pound-and-a-half of production stills. If you’ve seen the film, these are mostly pointless. If you haven’t…they’re mostly spoilers.
Storyboard Gallery: See how the action plays out sketched on paper. I generally feel that “extra features” like Stills and Storyboards are packed onto DVD’s as a thank you to the artists who created them seeing how the work will generally go un-noticed otherwise.
Stuart Gordon Bio: This is sort of like a transcript of the interview with Stuart Gordon. In that case, my vote goes to the interview; there’s little-to-no reading required.
Commentary with Stuart Gordon, Ezra Godden and DVD producer Perry Martin: A nice, informative and laid-back discussion. It’s weird to hear that Ezra sounds like Mick Dundee in real life.
DVD-ROM: Included here is Denis Paoli’s screenplay as well as the original H.P. Lovecraft short story for Dreams in the Witch House. This is awesome-sauce.
The rest of the DVD is rounded out by an ass-load of trailers even Optimus Prime would have trouble haulin’ around! Man, I say the dumbest shit sometimes.
They include: A promo trailer announcing the actual Masters of Horror series, as well as trailers for individual episodes Chocolate, Cigarette Burns, Dreams in the Witch House, Homecoming, Deer Woman, Jennifer, Incident On and Off a Mountain Road and Dance of the Dead and, so as not to overdo the whole trailer thing, there are spots for Room 6, Demon Hunter and Halloween tossed in for the hell of it.
With Dreams in the Witch House, Stuart Gordon has done what so many of the other filmmakers involved in the Masters of Horror series have not; he’s proven once again why he deserves to hold the title of master of horror.