Main cast: Steve Bacic (Edward Ralston), Derek Cecil (Ernst Haeckel), Tom McBeath (Walter Wolfram), Leela Savasta (Elise Wolfram), Jon Polito (Montesquino), and Micki Maunsell (Miz Carnation)
Director: John McNaughton
Warning: this review has a major spoiler. There is no point putting it in a spoiler bar, because the review won’t make sense without the spoiler. Ready? You have been warned.
So, John McNaughton is now considered a horror movie director? His stuff revolves more around crimes and serial killers, no? He’s not even that good at it – his movies are remembered more for certain scenes, such as the gory murders in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer or the threesome sex scene as well as Denise Richards’s breasts and Kevin Bacon’s penis in Wild Things, rather than for the story. His contribution in the director’s seat for Masters of Horror, Haeckel’s Tale, is another example of a show where you’d remember a scene rather than the story itself.
And Leela Savasta really should talk to her agent, because from what her IMDB page tells me, this is one of her few opportunities to play one of the major characters, only to end up topless and having sex with an orgy of zombies. It’s not even good zombie porn – it’s just a ridiculous scene in which hilariously bad make-up and Ms Savasta’s overwrought moaning collide to unintentionally make me laugh out loud.
Oh yes, the story. This is basically the story of our protagonist Ernst Haeckel, a ridiculously arrogant young man who is convinced that he is the next Victor Frankenstein. Let’s not confuse him with the real life bloke with the same name. Despite an initial failure in reanimating a corpse that sees him being ridiculed by his professor and his fellow students, Haeckel is convinced that only he knows the secret of bringing the dead back to life. There is no god; it is up to man to play god, if you listen to what he says. At any rate, he clashes with Montesquino, a self-proclaimed necromancer who apparently really can reanimate the dead, and this rivalry comes to a head when he spends the night at the home of the wealthy Walter Wolfram while on his way home. He falls in lust with Wolfram’s much younger wife Elise, only to learn that Elise is a necrophiliac who can only be satisfied by the amorous attention of the dead. And once a year, Wolfram pays Montesquino to revive the dead men in the nearby cemetery for Elise to have a happy orgy for an entire night. And lucky Haeckel, he accepts the hospitality of the Wolframs at that very time of the year…
This one is just plain boring and absurd. Let’s not even start with how zombies can apparently muster erections and even impregnate a woman. Maybe it’s magic? Even if I accept that as an excuse, the episode is still a plodding bore. It is based very loosely on Clive Barker’s story, only with extra absurdity added to make it as long as it is, and the padding really shows here. Almost half the episode is gone before Haeckel meets Wolfram and Elise, and all that time is spent on showing me what a knob Haeckel is. Given how badly written that character is – thank you, scriptwriter Mick Garris – the whole thing is like watching paint dry.
Mr Barker’s story works better because it is dark, disturbing, and creepy-erotic. But it is not a story that translates well into a visual medium, at least, not with this shoddily-padded script brought to half-life via campy overacting, bad visual effects, and an epilogue that is more cringe-inducing than anything else. In an uneven series, this one is a resounding dud, and sadly, ironically, it just has to be a bad adaptation of the work of someone who is a master in the horror genre. Ah well.