Masters of Horror: Haeckel's Tale
I prefer Duck Tales
The Masters of Horror series sure does love them some Clive Barker. I think this is the second or third episode I've seen from the series with Barker's involvement. I understand why they use his work, since he is such a popular name, but there are so many horror writers out there that would have benefited from being included. This must be such a great story that they just had to include it. Right?
Masters of Horror: Haeckel's Tale, based on the short story by Clive Barker, stars Derek Cecil (Recount, Men In Black II) as Ernst Haeckel a young scientist following in the footsteps of Victor von Frankenstein. He believes that it is capable to reanimate the dead, despite multiple attempts that have failed. He visits a man named Montesquino, a necromancer, who demonstrates his power by reviving a dead dog. The dog comes back to life, but as a demonic abomination. Haeckel learns that his father is ill and travels by foot through the woods to reach him. He meets and older gentleman named Walter Wolfram, who takes him in for the night. Walter shares his cabin with his beautiful young wife Elise and their baby. Terrible shrieks are heard outside and Elise goes to them. Haeckel is strongly attracted to Elise and is shocked that Walter would let her go. Walter reveals that he is not, in fact, the babies father as it's true father has died not long ago. He admits that he cannot satisfy Elise and has paid Montequino to raise her husband from the dead to make her happy. Elise's shrieks can also be heard so Haeckel and Walter go to her. What they see is a most disturbing sight: Elise, surrounded by zombies, having sex with her dead husband. Walter tries to take her home, but is killed by the zombies. Haeckel tries to get Montesquino to end the ritual, but he cannot. Haeckel shoots him in a rage, but is knocked unconscious. What will happen to him and Elise?
"Who wants S'mores?"
This doesn't happen often when I watch movies, but I literally rolled my eyes and slapped my forehead when the necrophilia scene was revealed. It's just so incredibly stupid to actually see that on the screen and shocking that Showtime actually allowed it to happen. As a short story, I can see where this may have it's place and not come off as ridiculous, but actually seeing it happen was unsettling (which is the point) and laughable (definitely not the point). The story itself, though, goes off in too many directions. First we see Haeckel's attempt to reanimate the dead, then he meets Montesquino, then Walter and Elise, and finally the big shocking scene. It doesn't flow well and not enough time if given to Haeckel's love interest in Elise. It just kind of happens and makes me wonder why he even cares that she's banging a corpse. Beyond the final 15 minutes or so, there is nothing of interest in the story with very little action to speak of. There is some good, bloody violence at the end, but not enough to justify very little happening for the previous 45 minutes.
Originally, George Romero was supposed to direct the episode, but has to drop out because of timing issues. I am SO glad he was not involved. Why his past few efforts in the world have zombies have had their ups and downs, I would have hated for him to be involved in such a boring story. John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) handles the directorial duties well with some good up-close shots of the carnage at the end. The acting is fine with no real complaints. The make do with a weak story and some stunted dialogue, managing to scrape together plausible performances.
"He's delicious, but he'll go straight to my thighs"
The way the story was described and the time in which it was set, I was expecting a Lovecraftian-style story. Boy, was I wrong. Why was Haeckel's Tale made for Masters of Horror? Couldn't an episode have gone to another author? Was the necrophilia scene just so amazing that they had to film it? There must have been another reason, but I cannot figure it out. The story is extremely boring with very little action until the end. What little action occurs is good with some nice gore and blood. Beyond that, and a morbid curiosity to see a necrophilia scene that aired on cable television, Haeckel's Tale has nothing to offer.