Sunday, 7 March 2010

Valerie on the Stairs - Masters of Horror Episode Review

Valerie on the Stairs is Mick Garris's effort for season 2 of Masters of Horror. Chocolate; the episode he directed in season 1 was easily the worst of that series so I did not have high hopes. Based on a story written by Clive Barker I hoped it couldn't possibly as bad as the last one.

A unpublished writer Rob recieves an invitation to a kind of hostel for failed writers. The aim of the hostel is for the writers there to get peace and quiet to write. The stipulation is that if their work gets published they must leave. Rob learns straight away the previous tenant of the room he's in committed suicide. Soon after moving in he is plagued by noises coming from the walls, and of a knocking on his door, yet there is never anyone there. Finally he sees a distraught woman on the stairwell. A monster appears and drags her off. Rob chases only to find a wall where the monster had taken her to. Investigating the hostel he starts to become suspicious of the other guests who seem to be hiding knowledge of just who the woman on the stairs is.

The plot is clever in that what starts off as a ghost story soon turns into more of a fantasy tale, with elements of beauty and the beast thrown in. Valerie (the lady on the stairs) and the monster both seem to be characters co-created by several of the hostels writers, they had poured so much anger and hate into thier joint novel that it had led to the characters breaking out into reality.

At times I had hoped the hostel would turn into a Haunted situation (a Chuck Palahniuk novel). The retreat is certainly a character onto its own feeling like a seperate place to the rest of the world. The weird characters help this feeling, Christopher Lloyd in particular is fantastic.

My problem with this is the utterly ridiculous, dreadful, and cringeworthy ending. It was funny to see in the extras Mick Garris and Clive Barker saying how well done the ending was, but it just looked awful, and laugh out loud bad! It ruined what was otherwise quite a cool episode. There isn't much violence, but what there is, is quite cool (for instance someone described as spineless gets their entire spine ripped out their body via the mouth!). Much better than Chocolate, and the direction for thios episode while obvious was well done.

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