Dreams In The Witch-House (2005)

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Overall Rating 62%
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A graduate student questions his sanity after he rents a room in an old boarding house which was the residence of a 17th Century witch, and he figures out that the evil forces still roam within the walls. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: November 27, 2008
Stuart Gordon and the work of H.P. Lovecraft go together like peanut butter and jelly - one only needs to take a look at Gordon's career as a filmmaker for proof of that. So, when the boys behind the Masters of Horror series offered Gordon a spot in the first season's lineup, it seemed only natural that he would tackle another story from Lovecraft, and as it turns out, this is a story that Gordon had been wanting to do for years. Sometimes, the cards really do fall in your favor, and now that I've finally gotten around to checking out this offering, I can safely say that the cards fell in our favor as well.

Although a few of the details have been changed, the storyline for Dreams in the Witch-House follows the same general path of Lovecraft's original story of the same name. The story centers on Walter Gilman (Ezra Godden), a college student who is studying physics and string theory and who is also in need of a nice, quiet apartment to call home while making his way through graduate school. After finding a cheap room at a rundown old house, Walter soon meets his new neighbor: a single mom named Frances (Chelah Horsdal), a lady who may be on welfare and who happens to be behind on the rent, but damn it, she has a heart of gold. She also seems to have the hots for our leading man, a trait that isn't exactly a one-way street between the two. Yes, all is good in the world of our hero, until he decides to settle in for a night of intense studying.

You see, he accidentally falls asleep while cracking the books, and he awakens to find a rat sitting on his chest and staring into his face. That's sort of unnerving on its own, granted, but this particular rat has a human face and can speak. The rat tells Walter that "she is coming for him" before scampering off into a hole in the wall, at which point, Walter jumps out of bed and finds himself wondering if it was all a dream. Surely it had to be, right? Not in the world of Lovecraft, my dear reader, and this is by far the last of Walter's nightly visitors. Is the stress of cramming for finals getting to our hero and causing him to slip deeper and deeper into psychosis, or is there really something supernatural going on in this house?

As mentioned, there were a few changes made to the source material for its adaptation to the small screen, but the changes were minor in the grand scheme of the storyline. One particular character was removed and the way that key moments of the film came about were slightly altered, but the general idea - as well as the final outcome - was basically kept intact. It's not a line-by-line adaptation and hardcore Lovecraft fans may be disappointed to a certain extent, but even those fans should find plenty to love in Gordon's contribution to the Masters of Horror series.

Now, for those of you not familiar with the source material and who just want to know if this entry is any good... well, yes, it's actually one of the better offerings from the first season, and to go one step further, it's pretty damned good as a standalone film. Working in its favor is the fact that, much like Gordon's other Lovecraft adaptations, the movie mixes together trace elements of humor with a sizable helping of the bizarre and is capped off with plenty of good, old-fashioned horror. You may not have to sleep with the lights on after sitting through this one, but horror fans will certainly enjoy the hour that it runs for.

As is standard for the Masters of Horror series, gorehounds will be in for a treat thanks to the work of one Gregory Nicotero. There's more than one scene which was positively dripping with the red stuff, and then there's the grand finale... oh, how I enjoyed that finale. I won't spoil it, but those of you who read the story will know how it ends, and let me tell you: this ending translated nicely to the screen. There are also some great makeup effects on display, especially those used to transform the lovely Susanna Uchatius into a creepy witch. The effects used to create the rat with a human face were a little goofy, but in its defense, this did add a little comedy value to the proceedings (and it's readily apparent that this was not completely unintentional).

It's not the best film from the first season of Masters of Horror, but it's certainly a highlight. Everything that one could possibly ask for from a good horror flick is present; we've got a solid storyline, great suspense, surprises, buckets of gore, and a ending that will send the audience home happy. Again I ask: can you really ask for any more than that? 9/10.
Ginose #1: Ginose - added December 7, 2008 at 8:19pm
Second best of the first season (and probably overall)... damn, I've been missing Gordon's Lovecraft films. 8.8/10
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