Masters of Horror: Season 2, Episode 8

Valerie on the Stairs (29 Dec. 2006)

TV Episode  -   -  Horror | Thriller
5.7
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Ratings: 5.7/10 from 1,421 users  
Reviews: 22 user | 21 critic

Taken from a Clive Barker original screen story, tells the tale of a novelist who discovers there are fates worse than literary anonymity in this sexually-charged tale of terror.

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Cast

Episode complete credited cast:
...
Rob Hanisey
Nicola Lipman ...
Nancy Bloom
...
Bruce Sweetland
...
Everett Neely
...
Anna
...
Valerie
...
Patricia Dunbar
...
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Storyline

Rob Hanisey is an aspiring author who moves into a large boarding house called Highberger House, a place where struggling writers live until their works become published. While trying to write his first book, a horror thriller, Rob has repeated encounters with a mysterious young woman named Valerie who pleads wit him to save her from a unseen force. But Rob's neighbors, including the elderly and eccentric writer Everett seem to know more than what they are letting on about who (or what) Valerie really is. Written by matt-282

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Horror | Thriller

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29 December 2006 (USA)  »

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Trivia

The number on the door of Rob's room in Highberger House is 217. This is also the number of the notoriously haunted hotel room in Stephen King's novel The Shining. See more »

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(pre-credits title card) "Culture uses art to dream the deaths of beautiful women." - Elisabeth Bronfen See more »

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References Twilight Zone (1959) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Barker Knows Best...
4 December 2008 | by (Arlington, VA.) – See all my reviews

There are probably not a whole lot of horror fans who would disagree with me on this, but I think it's been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the only filmmaker who is a master of adapting Clive Barker for the big or small screen IS Clive Barker. HELLRAISER. LORD OF ILLUSIONS. Even the sketchy but still fine movie version of NIGHTBREED. Case closed.

Well, not quite. I find myself in the minority (no pun intended) when I express my total disappointment at the grand mess that is the MOH episode, "Haeckel's Tale." John McNaughton is a really good director, but that episode pointed out all the reasons why Clive should've been asked to join the series to lend it some real chops in the directorial department, (unless he was asked and politely refused.)

VALERIE ON THE STAIRS comes a little bit closer to the essence of Barker's style, but I think it would've kicked major ass with an assist from its original author. As is, it's entertaining at the very least, and lands squarely in that gray area most of the MOH episodes occupy...It doesn't exactly rock, but it doesn't suck major ass, either.

For most horror fans, VALERIE is not going to make a whole lot of sense, but we writers out here will "get it" almost immediately. It explores Barker's favorite topics - sex and death, love and loss, and blurring the lines between Heaven and Hell, fantasy and reality.

Struggling writer Rob Hanisey (Tyron Leitso) moves into Heidelberg (sp?) House, a dilapidated and very unusual collective retreat for unpublished writers. Remaining unpublished is the only condition the writers must meet while staying there, rent-free. Once your "great American novel" sees the light of day, your ass is out on the street. (Talk about a reversal of fortune!)

Of course, Rob's not even unpacked yet when he starts to hear the strange noises and experiencing all the weird things essential to old buildings in horror movies. Then comes a new twist...the sounds of a young woman's moaning and sobbing in the hallway outside his room...even though there's nobody there. That is, until he finally meets her - a sad and scared, beautiful damsel-in-distress named Valerie (Clare Grant), being stalked through the building by a mysterious Beast (Tony Todd) who always yanks her away into Somewhere Else, just as Rob is getting to know her...and become obsessed with her.

It doesn't sit well with Rob that in a strange house of looney writers that include veteran failure Everett Neely (Christopher Lloyd), angry, cynical lesbian Patricia Dunbar (Suki Kaiser) and hopped-up headcase Bruce Sweetland (Jonathan Watton), he's quickly being considered as King Nutjob. But he's pretty sure that there's more to Heidelberg House

  • and to Valerie - than his new neighbors are willing to tell him, and


as it turns out (doesn't it always?) he's right.

There's a lot of elements of Barker's other, better work mixed up in this story, but it really helps that the cast pulls it off believably. Lloyd, known mostly for playing extremely manic characters, dials it back a bit here, which is a welcome change. Todd, who I love to see in anything, is just about unrecognizable here as the demon, and though he's not given nearly enough to do, he does what he's best at...being menacing and ripping people apart. The other performers range from good to adequate, which is enough, I guess, to get this episode by.

I get the feeling that Mick Garris didn't really bring his A-game to this one, because it showed off his "AMAZING STORIES" roots a lot more than usual. In fact, it could've been an episode of that very uneven series as well...if you took out the nudity, sex and gore, of course.

VALERIE'S greatest sin is not just in the execution, though, but in the material itself. Only a certain niche of the audience will ever understand what the episode is really about (especially the very abstract, metaphorical ending), and you can never be successful adapting a story that only a third of your audience will get into. Hence the impression that Garris didn't seem all that invested in it when he was writing the script or directing it.

Overall, I liked VALERIE where I know a lot of other people are going to despise it. The better judgment call with this one, would've been to have Clive step in and do it, or to just leave it the hell alone entirely.

Still not the worst episode this season, but far from being the best. THAT is what I'm still waiting for.


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