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 House, a dilapidated and very unusual collective retreat for unpublished writers. Remaining unpublished is the only condition the writers must meet while staying there, rent-free.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.
The performances are all fine, some better than others. The photography is fantastic, each frame very well constructed- Garris really is at his best when he is at his most minimalistic (ie- the scenes with Valerie on the stairs, the main character listening to the sounds in the walls- wandering the halls; with the dutch angles and all).
This has Barker all over it and has the feeling and atmosphere of much of that you can find in his Books of Blood, even though this was a story written directly for the screen. The premise is great ( I wont give it away)- but also its greatest deterant... It is a short story premise and it shows. It is the type of thing you can get away with on paper, but when put on film it immediately seems like farce and rushed farce at that. But that having been said, you kind of go along with it. You know its pure self-referential fluff, but its Clive Barker fluff; kind of like some of his short stories (tonally; this one reminded me of The Age of Desire, The Maddonna, and In the Flesh- which were all in their own way, as equally contrived).
Some have said that it does not make sense. I really don't agree on this one. I think that many of the people who say it does not make sense are those (perhaps) who are most unlikely to see Barker as anyone other than the "future of horror fiction" as Stephen King slated him as in the late 80's. This film (and it does look like a film more so than many of the other episodes; ironic because Garris primarily works in television) although it bears all the trademarks of horror shlock (grisly murders, blood splatters etc), it has a strong faubist element, an identifiable streak of fantasy; which grants a freedom of storytelling that is more metaphorical, or dare I say it metaphysical than much of Barkers straight horror stuff. This is a story for those who preffered Weaverworld, or Everville and especially Coldheart canyon, than those who loved Hellraiser. The ending is pure evidence of this- I LOVED THE ENDING. I think those who dismiss it as silly are missing the point, and unfortunately - for them- missing great horror fantasy.
And just like Garris' prior Masters effort- this one is not straight horror- you have to get that clear. That episode was erotic/telepathic romance- with horror elements (a very nice, and delicate blend), and this one is a dark fantasy (which totally allows for what some have called the elements of the non-sensical)- with even stronger horror grissliness and context.
For this reason many have said that Garris is not worthy of his masters of horror title. I think he has. He just uses horror in a manner that is not so derivative and not so obvious; he blends his drinks, rather than pours them straight. For this, I think he should wear his hat well.
The effects are generally good. Two major criticisms: the lead is good, but not entirley interesting- which is kind of the point- he ******SPOILER******** is literally a blank sheet of paper onto which the darkness and inevitability of others fiction/perceptions are printed upon. And secondly the dispatch of Todds villain is a little too easy, but again- he burns as easy as paper- which is again the point.
Valerie herself. She is sexuality, but not really sexy. This is what makes the scenes of erotica either deservedly awkward or somewhat disturbing- it really got to me. Eerie. Like Tarantino has said "Nobody gets under your skin like clive barker." I loved Todd's villain and the apparent cheesiness of his look. He really had the 50's style element to him- which is clearly a part of the narative.
I really liked this episode. there is far more going on than what others have said. This is one entry, like Chocolate that tastes better and better the deeper you go.
The story is about a writer who goes to a writing retreat / hotel for unpublished authors. As he begins to write, he starts to encounter the presence of a young lady named "Valerie" reaching out to him. He begins to explore what's happening and the story progresses from there.
Sound familiar? The average horror fan will have seen this setup countless times before. Admittedly, there are some clever ideas behind "what's going on", but it's not enough. The main idea (I won't spoil it) seems too far fetched. Worst, it's just not interesting to watch.
It seems evident that the main actors do a pretty good job at what they were asked to do, but their characters seem to lack depth. Along with the story - they don't get any more interesting as time goes on.
If you're a big Clive Barker fan, you will probably want to see this to see what his thinking is like these days. For everyone else, pass on this one.
Clive Barker is a well-known horror writer, so we expect a lot from him (though, in all honesty, I can't for the life of me tell you much good he's produced). And we have director Mick Garris -- the man who directed "Chocolate" from season one, which many people (not including myself) consider to be the worst episode of that season. Garris is second-rate, I won't even try to defend him. He has made nothing that will leave a lasting dent on the horror community in generations to come.
The best thing about this short film is the acting. The main character is alright and another housemate (Bruce) is even better. Valerie... not so much. Tony Todd ("Candyman") shows up, but sadly is given a role that doesn't really have him doing anything besides be menacing. Christopher Lloyd is yet another housemate and does a fine job with it, though there was nothing about he role that demanded the presence of Christopher Lloyd.
As I've been saying, the film makes no sense, and that's the biggest drawback. We have some decent gore, scary sound effects and plenty of nudity. But I didn't follow why any of it was going on. The biggest mysteries are explained about halfway through, but others are left untouched and the ending is complete and utter nonsense. In fact, the ending being changed just slightly would have made my rating of this film go up at least a little bit.
We are now through eight films of the thirteen episode season, and I continue to be unimpressed. With the exception of Landis and Argento, "Masters of Horror" has been more like "Masters of Bore". Mick Garris a great man for creating this show, but perhaps he needs to stay out of the director's chair. If his season three contribution turns out to be no better than "Chocolate" or "Valerie on the Stairs", he really should refrain from directing altogether. This episode can be missed without little loss on the viewer's part.
This film is good. The acting is great for horror, good for any other genre. The technical aspects are not so cheesy that it alienates the viewers, and the plot is wonderful. The characters and the story make for a great time watching this film. Compared to the rest of the series, this film stands out as one of the best. It's an even more enjoyable watch because the characters are self-aware of their situation, and if you're a writer yourself or just enjoy the process of the creation of art, then you'll chuckle at a lot of the quick exchanges between the characters.
I think that everything in this film is really well done. The violence, the makeup, the characters, the sex, all of it is appropriate and poignant. If you're into horror, this is a definite must see. If you're not into horror, then this is a film that is a good hour of entertainment. Either way, this film is good and certainly does not deserve any slams that it has been given.
AAAAHHHH. This just made me angry. I have nothing more to say about it i'm so mad. I should've stopped with "The Black Cat" and left a good taste in my mouth.
As the sign says in the front of the hotel (and, of course, at the gates of Hell... duh), "Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here." You said it, Mr. Garris. I wish I had taken your advice from the start.
Utterly predictable and boring entry in the "Masters of Horror" series. I knew what was going to happen every step of the way. It all leads up to a real silly ending.
There is some nice production design (the hotel looks suitably creepy) and there is some good acting by Leitso, Grant, Jonathan Witton and Christopher Lloyd (chewing the scenery). Also nice to see Tony Todd again. Still, an atmospheric setting, a few nice gory murders and some good acting can't help a story that is so predictable. Another negative point is throwing in totally unnecessary nude scenes for Grant. They could have been done with her clothed. Very poor entry. Not recommended.
My verdict? I'd love to see a full-length adaptation of this story, but this one was rather middle-of-the road and a bit disappointing. I just feel as if so much more could have been done with such a thrilling plot, and most of it fell short.
This Canadian American co-production was episode 8 from season 2 of Masters of Horror, written & directed by Mick Garris who is also the shows permanent executive producer I quite liked Valerie on the Stairs although it's not the best episode I've seen. The script was apparently based on a short story by Clive Barker (why hasn't he made a Masters of Horror episode yet & while I'm thinking about it where's David Cronenberg's entry?) & starts out as a fairly effective ghost story but turns into something else completely by the end, in typical Barker style it turns into a story about twisted imagination, demons & torture. I have to mention the strange ending which literally comes from nowhere, I have to say I really liked it although I have to admit I didn't really understand it or what it represented but what the hell it just looked cool & felt right somehow. At less than an hour it moves along at a great pace so becoming bored shouldn't be a problem & it manages to sustain it's stories change in direction pretty well. On the negative said the ending felt rushed & the demon guy dies too easily.
Director Garris does a good job & there's a nice bleak atmosphere running through Valerie on the Stairs, there's not much colour to it & Garris like to place his camera at the foot of narrow stairs looking up or at the end of a long cramped corridor which gives a nice claustrophobic feel. As a a whole this episode of Masters of Horror reminds of the film I, Madman (1989) which has a similar theme & basic idea. There's some nice gore as usual, someone has their spine ripped out through their mouth, someone has their breasts slashed open with a fountain of spurting blood the result & someone has a chunk bitten out of their neck. The special effects are top notch as always & the demon guy looks impressive.
Techncially it's well made with good production values & to it's credit it doesn't look like a cheap TV show. The acting is pretty good, the 'name' actor in this episode is Christopher Lloyd who puts in a good shift, Tony Todd also makes a appearance under layers of latex so you may not recognise him straight away.
Valerie on the Stairs is a decent Masters of Horror episode, it's not the best one I've seen but it's far from the worst. I reckon it's worth a watch but I think most self respecting horror fans will anyway regardless of what anyone says.
7.5 out of 10
I think Mick Garris successfully transmitted the magic atmosphere of Barker's text to small screens and this is one of the few episodes that hypnotized me. Photography and lighting are great, and the performance is convincing. Clare Grant will make you associate ghosts with falling in love instead of rattling chains in the attic, Christopher Lloyd was born for this kind of roles, and a pleasant surprise is Tony Todd, known to Barker's fans for leading role in "Candyman". Nearing the end, episode becomes a little silly and naive, but it's saved by excellent metaphorical ending, with a twist that, although quite predictable, fits the story perfectly. To me, this is the best episode so far.
Rob Hanisey (Tyron Leitso) moves to a boarding house full of struggling writers waiting for their script to be published. While Rob is trying a new script he hear noises in the house and is suddenly confronted with a girl called Valerie (Clare Grant). She pleads to Rob to save her from evil. Slowly the house shows his secrets.
Let me first start to say that the performance of Tony Todd as The Beast was excellent. The others weren't that bad at all and the camera did some nice shots but it's so typical Barker that you must be a fan to watch this. For a Barker story this surely isn't The Midnight Meat Train (2008) but more a Book Of Blood (2009) script. A lot of blah blah going on and here and there we do have some nasty killings. You really have to sit through the whole story and maybe even then the ending will satisfy some.
There's a lot of nudity from Valerie, she even goes full frontal and there are as I said a few killings to watch (espescially the one with the backbone). Christopher Loydd is here to to see as one of the writers in the house but isn't that much in it and if he does he does what he does best, looking weird with his eyes.
An entry in the series with a lot of controversy. here I go again, only for Barker geeks.
Gore 1/5 Nudity 2/5 Effects 3/5 Story 3/5 Comedy 0/5
A house full of the creative energy of failed writers seeks a way to release that energy. It inspires three writers to creature a monster (Tony Todd), which is viewed by our hero, despite their protestations that it doesn't exist.
Masterful performance by Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future).
We are left with the ultimate question: what is real and what is imagined?
"Valerie on the Stairs" is an interesting story, somewhat creepy with a killer twist in the end. Garris performs well in the director's chair, elicits fine performances from his cast and ensured a fantastic look that's both atmospheric and moody. The setting here is brilliant and fits incredibly well to a horror film.
Garris also doesn't shy away from some gory set pieces as well and they're very well done. "Valerie on the Stairs" is a solid entry in the relatively uneven second season of this very ambitious project that is "Masters of Horror". Congrats to Mick.
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Mick Garris directed this film from the Masters of Horror series. An unpublished writer moves into a building for unpublished writers where he begins to see the spirit of a girl named Valerie. The writer starts to investigate these sightings and then realizes that a demon (Tony Todd) is also in the building. This ghost story had an interesting secret that gets revealed half way through the film and I think the movie would have worked a lot better had the film started with the secret and then moved forward. The first half of the movie really doesn't offer any shocks and the comedy bits about writers really doesn't come off too funny. Christopher Lloyd co-stars. Adapted by a Clive Barker story.
Even if there were only two noted performers the ever-reliable (and quirky) Christopher Lloyd and the Candyman himself, Tony Todd (once again, playing a figure of mystery and menace, a rather effectively made-up demon) the rest of the cast does well enough by their roles as well, especially the hero and heroine (the entrancing Clare Grant) and the two older women in the boarding-house.
As was the case with the two previous "Masters Of Horror" episodes I've watched both, incidentally, helmed by Dario Argento this too confirms that TV has finally achieved maturity (with its graphic display of sexuality and violence, and the tackling of subjects previously considered taboo, in this case, a dash of lesbianism). In fact, not being into modern TV series at all, I'd only previously encountered such explicitness where, however, it was mostly gratuitous and even off-putting in ROME (2005)...