Masters of Horror: Valerie On The Stairs
She's a fire hazard
It's been a little while since I've reviewed a Masters of Horror movie. I decided to go with one that was a little out of my wheelhouse in terms of horror. While I prefer zombies and action-centric horror, Valerie On The Stairs seemed pretty far removed from what I usually enjoy. Sometimes it is good to go against your preferences and try new things. You never know when you might find a new band or artist that you'll love. Or you'll find something that reminds you of why you avoid similar things.
Masters of Horror: Valerie On The Stairs is taken from an original screenstory by Cliver Barker (Hellraiser, The Midnight Meat Train), but was officially written by Mick Garris (Hocus Pocus, The Fly II). Rob Hanisey (Tyron Leitso, House Of The Dead, Bloodrayne II), is an unpublished writer down on his luck. He has long overdue bills and is recovering from a nasty breakup. He moves in to the Highberger House, a boarding house for unpublished writers. It's inhabited by a strange cast of characters such as Everett Neely (Christopher Lloyd, Back To The Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), Patricia Dunbar (Suki Kaiser, The Virgin Suicides) and Bruce Sweetland (Jonathon Watton, Breach, Mutant X). Rob begins to see a beautiful young woman on the stairs in the house, begging him for help and warning him that someone is coming. Everyone thinks Rob is crazy except Bruce, who strikes up a friendship with him. Valerie continues to appear to Rob as well as the Beast (Tony Todd, Candyman) a large demon that is holding her prisoner. Rob speaks with Bruce about Valerie and sees that Bruce has a written a story called “Valerie On The Stairs”. Bruce is infuriated and kicks Rob out. Later, Bruce is visited by Valerie and The Beast literally rips out Bruce's spine. Rob discovers that the story was a collaborative effort between Bruce, Patricia, and Everett and their story has someone come to life. The Beast returns and kills Patricia in bloody fashion. Everett explains that writing the story became an addiction for them as it became darker and more violent. He explains that Rob needs to finish the story and put an end to the murders. Will Rob be able to stop The Beast, save Valerie, and finish the story?
I usually have a good grasp what movies are trying to go for in terms of underlying messages and themes. I can safely say that I have no idea what they were going for with Valerie On The Stairs. The story itself is fine with some good moments of bloody violence, interesting twists, and good pacing. I will say, though, that it was probably far scarier in the written word than on the screen. The story, though not entirely original, isn't the problem. The problem is with the underlying themes of love, and writing, and some other stuff that I couldn't figure out. The movie left me with way more questions than answers, and not in the good way. I mean, is this supposed to be a love story or some sort of depressing descent into madness or just writer's block? It doesn't help that the ending was bizarre, convoluted, and annoying. I'm still not sure if any of these events actually occurred or this was some sort of “story within a story” type deal. Either way, it wasn't good and was the puke cherry on this shit sundae.
The acting is pretty good throughout with Christopher Lloyd putting on an over-the-top-in-a-fun-way performance that only he could do. I wish he was in more movies because he is really fun to watch. Tyron Leitso does well in his role and Tony Todd is wonderful as always. It's a shame that their performances were used for a mediocre story. There isn't much action, but for the scenes that have it, they are pretty gorey. The direction is fine, though the flashbacks with Rob and his girlfriend feel slapped together. As I mentioned before, the ending is really weak and infuriating, bringing the rest of the movie down. There is a large-than-normal amount of nudity and sex for a Masters of Horror episode, so this one should probably be kept away from younger viewers. It's not quite Late Night Cinemax action, but it's not far off.
This never would have happened to Marty
Valerie On The Stairs does a lot of things right, but is overshadowed by a mediocre storing and a confused mess of themes and underlying messages. I am still not exactly sure what happens at the end and it puts into question everything else that happens in the movie. The acting is well done and the action is entertaining. It's just unfortunate that they could be put into a better story. I'm not saying you shouldn't watch Valerie On The Stairs, I just think it could have been a lot better. Who knows, maybe someone else “get's it” and will enjoy the story. If you do, please explain it to me.