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Masters of Horror: Stuart Gordon - Dreams in the [DVD] [2006] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

Karen Austin , J. Winston Carroll , Stuart Gordon    DVD

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Masters Of Horror-Dreams In The Witch House ~ Masters Of Horror-Dreams In The Witch House

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  32 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great especially for Lovecraft fans 3 April 2006
By M. Dalton - Published on
Verified Purchase
This is an unusually good little horror flick, with those elements of utter wierdness that only Lovecraft adaptations seem to deliver on these days. This one is unusal for Lovecraft in that it somewhat ties into traditional Christian mythology.

I agree the library scene was almost incongrous and some backstory would have been welcome, especially something from the original story. But it was fairly faithful in spirit and though fairly slow in the beginning, has a truly horrific bang-up ending. I rate this one roughly between re-animator and the recent Dagon which I also liked a lot.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Master of Horror's Masterpiece of Horror! 9 May 2006
By Michael R Gates - Published on
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It is often whispered amongst horror aficionados that, in spite of H. P. Lovecraft's unquestionable influence on the genre, the works of the venerable horror author are difficult to translate to either the small or large screen. Nonetheless, director Stuart Gordon (with more than a little help from his screenwriting partner Dennis Paoli) has built his cinematic reputation around his celluloid interpretations of Lovecraft's work. And though most of Gordon's Lovecraftian films are well made, commercially successful, and popular with genre fans, few (if any) of them are clear reflections of the Lovecraft pieces that inspired them. At best, Gordon's films use satire to evoke the nihilistic subtext of the author's original work (e.g., Stuart Gordon's 1985 audience favorite RE-ANIMATOR) or pay simple homage via mood, setting, or character monikers (such as Gordon's 1995 direct-to-video CASTLE FREAK or his 2001 opus DAGON).

However, with "Dreams in the Witch House" (a.k.a., "H. P. Lovecraft's Dreams In The Witch House"), Gordon's 2005 entry in Showtime's cable-TV series MASTERS OF HORROR, Gordon comes closer than ever to actually translating a Lovecraft story to film. True, the director and his writing partner Paoli have still done a bit of creative redacting--most noticeably, the story is moved forward from the 1930's to the present day, and there is the addition of a few high-profile characters--but most of the changes serve only to overcome the characterization shortcomings of Lovecraft's original work. (Many literary scholars agree that, while it is an engaging piece thematically, "Dreams in the Witch House" is not Lovecraft's best literary work in terms of character and style.) In truth, this film short is, overall, quite faithful to the plot, mood, and theme of the original short story.

Ezra Godden--who genre fans will recognize from his turn as the lead in the aforementioned DAGON--portrays Walter Gilman, a graduate student at Miskatonic University who seeks a quiet, low-rent flat in Arkham, Massachusetts, where he can work on his physics thesis. In a rather sinister, miasmic house built sometime during the early 17th century, Gilman finds a room that suits his needs and, after dickering a bit with the churlish landlord, he hastily moves in.

Not long after settling into his new digs, Walter notices that the odd angles that make up one particular corner of his room bear a startling resemblance to the inter-dimensional gateway that he is working on in his thesis. However, by the time Walter finally accepts that his suspicions are correct and that the corner of his room is, indeed, a doorway to another universe, he fears that he may be too late to stop the witch-like creature that has been surreptitiously slipping through the doorway and terrorizing his neighbor (Chelah Horsdal) and her infant child.

In spite of its short run time (55 mins), small budget, and an excruciatingly short production schedule, "Dreams in the Witch House" does not come across as a run-of-the-mill made-for-cable film. Gordon's direction is tight and skillful, drawing upon his experience in both theater and film to create a perfect mood that, while intricate to the narrative, never upstages the actors or the action. The acting is top-notch, especially that of leads Godden and Horsdal. Godden is delightful as a nerdy, contemporary Woody-Allen-esque hero, and Horsdal, in spite of her stunning beauty, is able to believably portray a woman who is strong yet still approachable and vulnerable. Jon Joffin's often breathtaking cinematography also helps belie the film's meager budget, providing provocative visuals, unusual camera angles, and some in-the-camera trickery that are often only seen in studio blockbusters.

Gordon has stated that he avoided the use of CGI in this film because he feels that Hollywood's ubiquitous use of sterile computer FX is beginning to bore audiences. Instead, "Dreams in the Witch House" features old-school puppetry, trained animals, in-the-camera tricks, and real-time lighting effects. Combined with Gordon's signature use of copious gore--not to mention a short nude scene featuring the gorgeous Ms. Horsdal--the film takes on the delightful and refreshing aura of an '80s horror flick, hearkening back to Gordon's earlier films like RE-ANIMATOR while still exuding the his cinematic maturity as a writer/director.

The DVD from the cool folks at Anchor Bay offers a pristine transfer of "Dreams in the Witch House" in anamorphic widescreen (1.77:1 aspect ratio). In addition, the disc offers loads of cool extras, including a feature commentary with director Gordon and actor Godden; interviews with the director and actors; a featurette on Gordon's career as a director of horror films; DVD-ROM goodies; and more! Well worth's reasonable asking price.

In short, "Dreams in the Witch House" is a highly entertaining and notable entry in the horror genre, and it is arguably the best entry hitherto in Showtime's MASTERS OF HORROR series. Indeed, in spite of its made-for-cable origins, the film rivals many full-length horror films released in theaters these days, and all serious genre fans should consider adding the film to their growing collections.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gordon's best effort in a long time 9 Oct 2006
By N. Durham - Published on
Stuart Gordon, best known for the low-budget shocker classic Re-Animator, not to mention many adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft horror yarns, brings another one to life for Showtime's Masters of Horror. Dreams in the Witch House re-unites Gordon and his Dagon star Ezra Godden as Godden plays a physics student renting a dingy room in an old house that also has a single mother and a seemingly crazy religious old man as tenants as well. Soon enough, he's having dreams of a human faced talking rat and an evil witch that wants the baby's blood, and plans on using him as a method to make it happen. For most of it's running time, Dreams in the Witch House is a compelling and inventive horror yarn that makes the most of it's source material, and the shocker ending sets it apart from other episodes in the series. Once again, the gore and makeup effects are superbly done by KNB, which just makes the package all the sweeter. All in all, Dreams in the Witch House is one of the best episodes in Showtime's horror anthology series, and for Lovecraft fans this should prove enjoyable as well.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bad dreams may result from the scary "Dreams in the Witch House" 29 April 2006
By Joseph P. Menta, Jr. - Published on
I thought Amazon shoppers might appreciate a quick review from someone who was aware of Stuart Gordon and his works, but who hasn't actually gotten around to seeing any of them yet. This Gordon newbie found "Dreams in the Witch House" to be genuinely unsettling and scary, and- just as importantly- well crafted across the board. I particularly liked how Gordon- while making sure the story doesn't slow to a crawl- gave us a little time in the beginning to get to know and like the main character, as well as get a sense of some of his neighbors in the world's creepiest boarding house. By getting to know everyone a bit, when the scares come, they have that much more impact.

Like the DVD for "Cigarette Burns" (another title in the "Masters of Horror" series), this DVD also gives you a ton of stuff in addition to the fifty-some minute main feature. I particularly enjoyed the interview with Stuart Gordon, which includes many clips from his movies, including "Re-Animator", "From Beyond", and "Dagon". Knowing of his reputation for over-the-top gore effects, it was fun to see that Gordon is friendly and soft spoken, comes from a community theatre background, and didn't by any means have a particular ambition to do horror films. But once a set of circumstances fell into place that lead to him making his first film, the still notorious "Re-Animator", he said he found his true calling.

Criticisms of this short film? Not any of consequence. Maybe a small one: though I'm usually the first person to complain when a film is too ambiguous in the name of being "artistic", perhaps "Dreams in the Witch House" might have been a tad more creepy if it was ultimately left up to us whether there genuinely was a witch coming and going through the walls of the creepy boarding house or if it was just the college kid imagining it all due to the stresses of his college workload. It's fine that the film definitely tells you what the truth of the matter is by the end, but I can't help wondering if things would have been better if we didn't know.

But that's a quibble, and one I may even take back upon a second viewing. But regardless of how I ultimately feel on that one point, I'm sure I'd still have no reservations in recommending the creepy happenings, genuine scares, and shocking gore effects of "Dreams in the Witch House". And I for one am now going to catch up on all those other Stuart Gordon films I've put off for too long.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love That Lovecraft, Baby! 22 Jun 2006
By Stanley Runk - Published on
Since Amazon decided not to post my review of the recent Beyond The Wall Of Sleep(which was rotten by the way), I figured the next best thing would be to review another recent Lovecraft adaptation. The Masters Of Horror series is really a wonderful thing. No Hollywood b.s., just let the director loose. Naturally, involving Stuart Gordon was a no-brainer coz he's definitely earned the "Master Of Horror" title. As we all know, Gordon's got a passion for Lovecraft and tends to do above average B movie versions of his stories. Like any other director who's tackled Lovecraft, Gordon doesn't get it 100% accurate(I doubt any director ever will, but the recent Call Of Cthulhu film by the Lovecraft Preservation Society shows enormous promise). Gordon tends to update the stories to modern times, adding to and taking away elements from the original story. In most horror fans' eyes, this is okay coz the movies are good enough to stand on their own even though they may not be accurate. Dreams In The Witch House may never surpass Re-Animator or From Beyond, but it's what you'd expect from Gordon. It's solid, well acted, gory, and the fx are pretty good considering the budget, which looks to be on a direct-to-video level. Ezra Godden, who was also the lead in Gordon's Dagon is really starting to grown on me. I kind of had mixed feelings on him when I saw Dagon, but I'm actually starting to like the guy. The story maintains the basic plot of the Lovecraft story. Godden's character's motives are different from the character in the story's(the guy in the story is actually looking for the witch as opposed to just stumbling upon her) and the woman next door to Godden is an entirely new character. Lovecraft's stories rarely have dialogue and character development, so it's up to Gordon to give personalities to the landlord and downstairs neighbor. Whether he does a good job with this is totally up to the viewer, but I'll say this is a pretty good adaptation. It's a helluva lot better than Beyond The Wall Of Sleep, I'll tell you that!!
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