Haeckel's Tale (2006)

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A grieving widower seeking the help of a necromancer is told the terrible tale of Ernst Haekel, a man obsessed with reanimation. --IMDb
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Review by Tristan
Added: October 4, 2007
As I've said before, the Masters of Horror series is really hit or miss. The last one I saw, Chocolate, fit snugly in the middle of the two. This one on the other hand, was great. Had it not been for a scheduling conflict, George Romero himself would have been sitting in the director's seat. As a replacement, we got the guy who did Wild Things. If you look further back into his career, you will see he's the man responsible for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. But lets face it folks, that was 20 years ago. You can't ride one great movie your whole life.

Our story takes place sometime in the 1800s where John Ralston (Steve Bacic) has recently lost his wife. He travels to a local necromancer named Miz Carnation (Micki Maunsell). He pleads with her to bring his wife back from the dead, which she scoffs at, saying he does not know what it is he is asking for. She takes pity on him however, and says if he listens to her story, and still wishes to have his wife resurrected, she will oblige. Miss Carnation's story - called Haeckel's Tale - focuses on a young man named, are you ready, Ernst Haeckel (Derek Cecil). Haeckel is a bright young medical student, obsessed with learning the secrets of reviving the dead. Herbert West, anyone?

It would seem that Haeckel is quite a fan of Victor Frankenstein, and believes his work to be a breakthrough in the world of science. He sets up the same rigmarole as Frankenstein's notes show, in an attempt to bring a young woman back to life. After Haeckel's attempts fail, he approaches a necromancer by the name of Montesquino (Jon Polito) who claims he has the ability to raise the dead. Being a man of science, Ernst obviously doubts Montesquino's claims until he sees a dog resurrected before his very eyes. Only problem is, the dog - once a cute Golden Retriever - turns into a hideous beast, much like one of the Hounds of Dracula. Naturally, Ernst believes it to be nothing more than a clever stage show, with puppetry and ventriloquism.

After his father's illness takes a turn for the worst, Haeckel decides to travel home to see him before he passes. Along the way, he is caught in a terrible storm, and seeks refuge along the road side. He is approached by the kindly old farmer Wolfram (Tom McBeath), who offers him shelter and a warm meal. He quickly accepts, but when he gets to the farmer's humble abode, he realizes that he's a former customer of Montesquino, and that there is a horrible price to pay for the resurrection of a loved one.

I'm not sure why all the things I heard about this episode were negative. It took awhile to get going, and it felt like quite a mix of Re-Animator, Frankenstein and even Cemetery Man, but damn if it still wasn't entertaining. In an hour McNaughton managed to hook me in, make me care about the characters, and not stop watching until it was over. I usually have a rough time sitting through a longer film, and get up and do random tasks then come back to a movie. Not this one. I watched it from start to finish, it was that good. The acting, for all involved was fantastic. Period films usually create a challenge with the different language and ways of speaking, but everyone nailed it in this one. I especially liked Montesquino as the drunken, cruel necromancer who, as he so lovingly put it, "wasn't a fucking charity."

Considering this was based on a Clive Barker story, you automatically know it's going to be creepy, twisted, and downright fucked up. This episode is no exception, as there's sex with the dead, zombies, gore, violence, and a very strong science vs. religion theme running throughout it. It's both thought provoking and scary, which are very nice, and rare, elements to produce these days. I highly recommend this one, and it seems as though Jack McNaughton wasn't just a one trick pony.

Chad #1: Chad - added August 16, 2008 at 9:51pm
Good story, but the script could have used some tweaking. Not sure if that's a fault of the source material or the filmmakers, but there you go. 9/10.
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