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No Life In This Dead Dog: Masters of Horror: Haeckel’s Tale

November 14, 2008

MASTERS OF HORROR: HAECKEL’S TALE (2006)
d. John McNaughton 

This short is another Masters of Horror episode that starts strong and ends weakly, and I blame the 1-hour limit. It’s fairly typical for all of the episodes in this Showtime series to follow this trend where the ending is not entirely surprising and feels rushed.

Haeckel’s Tale, based on a Clive Barker short story, tells about a young man visiting a necromancer with the petition to raise his just-died beloved from the grave. The necromancer warns him against this, initially refusing his request; however, he is persistent. Relenting, she agrees to do his bidding if he listens to her cautionary tale, and if he still desires his loved one, then she will perform the resurrection.

In the tale she tells, Haeckel is a physician who is skeptical of religion and the mystic arts and boasts that he can reanimate dead flesh. When he attempts to recreate Frankenstein’s experiment and fails, he stumbles across a peasant’s vouching of a Dr. Montesquino (Jon Polito, always fun to watch) and his ability to resurrect the dead. Intrigued but still doubtful, Haeckel watches the Dr. reanimate a dead dog, but still doesn’t believe it. He tries to learn the method, but cannot persuade the doctor to give up his secrets. Haeckel then receives word that his father’s health has turned for the worse and must return home.

On his way home, he is given shelter by a kindly middle-aged man and his gorgeous young wife, Elise. Unable to keep his eyes of Elise, Haeckel notices her weird behavior — always glancing out the window longingly, and feeling herself up. While trying to catch some sleep, he sees the husband pay Dr. Montesquino and Elise leaves the hovel for the nearby necropolis for an illicit rendezvous with her 1st husband who is a decaying zombie where they engage in some naughty love-making whilst other zombies watch.

Needless to say, this reveal is hardly surprising, as it is telegraphed early. And while the writing is fairly strong and compelling in the first act, it steadily falls off and ends with a final twist that is unsuccessful. The only thing to look for is the lead actress’s topless zombie love-making scenes, and the husband being fed upon and torn apart by zombies.

I have been disappointed with most of the Masters of Horror episodes, feeling that it is more hype than substance despite some good actors in roles and some good premises. Anyway, ** stars.

Next up, either another Masters of Horror episode, Joe Dante’s Homecoming, or Aeon Flux.

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