Main cast: Tyron Leitso (Rob Hanisey), Nicola Lipman (Nancy Bloom), Jonathan Watton (Bruce Sweetland), Christopher Lloyd (Everett Neely), Christine Barrie (Anna), Clare Grant (Valerie), Suki Kaiser (Patricia Dunbar), and Tony Todd (The Beast)
Director: Mick Garris
Valerie on the Stairs is the closest to a spiritual successor to the hilariously bad H. P. Lovecraft’s Dreams in the Witch-House, in the sense that it is once again an episode about losers in a big scary house, with some unknown malevolent forces in play in the shadows. It is based on a story by Clive Barker, rather than HP Lovecraft, however, although it is Mick Garris wrote the teleplay. Okay, Mick Garris aside, this one has Tony Todd and Christopher Lloyd, ooh. Okay, Mr Todd is once again playing the Scary Black Beast thing the poor man is always typecasted as, but still, ooh, two genre legends in one episode. What can go wrong?
Well, let’s blame Mick Garris, since he wrote the teleplay, but this one ends up more absurd than erotic or scary like it wanted to be.
The Highberger House is a place where unpublished authors are offered a free room to stay until they land a deal for their book. Space is limited, however, as there are only so many rooms and even more unpublished dweebs. Rob Hanisey is offered residency when a previous tenant committed suicide (the rejection letter from a vanity press must be the straw that broke the camel’s back). Obviously not a genre savvy person, our hero accepts the invitation, rooms up and gets all cozy, only to be haunted by what seems like an apparition of a beautiful woman, Valerie, who is terrorized by a monstrous villain simply called the Beast. But are Valerie and the Beast real, or just a figment of his increasingly fractured imagination? Poor Rob is going to find out, whether he likes it or not.
This episode is going okay for the first sixteen minutes or so. We have a cast of failed, bitter writer wannabes all acting hilariously caustic or neurotic, some pretty interesting atmosphere, and some spooky tension building up. And then… the first jump scare and woosh, a bathroom full of bloody gore done in a way that is hilariously over the top, and everything rolls downhill from that point. Bruce, the failed writer who is constantly jittery and high, tells Rob that he won’t try to get Rob high and then jump that man’s ass, as he is a “fucking monk” since he believes that squirting into anything more than a Kleenex means a “wasted book”. That probably sounds better on paper… I think. I just find the whole thing – almost everything there, actually – done in an overwrought, try hard manner. Most of the cast are just hamming it up, and the end result is something more akin to failed camp.
So, not much horror. As for the erotic part, well, Clare Grant spends a better part of her scenes in this episode naked, which I suppose counts as that. That and some badly filmed staged sex scene where the poor dear squeals like a gutted pig.
And right down to the truly unintentionally comical “twist” at the very end, this episode is remarkable in how misguidedly sober it is. Doesn’t anyone notice? I suppose not, heh. At any rate, it’s a shame. The cast here is easily the prettiest of the episodes, but all that pretty is wasted on an episode that tries way too hard to be sexy and dark, only to fail at practically every other step.