Walter Gilman (Ezra Godden) is a physics student looking for cheap accommodation, and he finds it at a rundown boarding house owned by an unfriendly landlord (Jay Brazeau). He moves into his room, and apart from irritations such as a broken drawer or the sound of chanting emanating from the room of an elderly resident (Campbell Lane), he seems to fit in. But then he hears a scream from his next door neighbour and rushes through to see the woman, Frances (Chelah Horsdal), and her baby being attacked by a rat. He scares the animal back to the hole in the skirting that it crawled out of, and immediately goes to complain. And he'll be having more complaints before the week is over...
Perhaps "I Wake Up Screaming" would be a better title of this episode of Mick Garris' Masters of Horror, but what it's really called is H.P. Lovecraft's Dreams in the Witch House, brought to you by Lovecraft buff Stuart Gordon (and co-writer Dennis Paoli). Blurring the lines between reality and unreality, the episode sets up its small cast of characters quickly, and likewise wastes no time in making apparent what the nature of the menace is when Walter awakes from a dream of being menaced by the rat, now with a human (and talking) face, wondering at the vividness of the experience. However, that's nothing as to what will happen next, which takes in devilish geometry stemming from the course he is working on and conveniently (or inconveniently) a corner of his new room.
Walter finds himself waking in shock from increasingly alarming dreams, including one after he was supposed to be babysitting for Frances' son and imagined being seduced by her, only for the young woman to turn into a demonic witch and rake his bare back with her fingernails. He may wake from this, but the marks on his back are certainly there. He gradually realises that the witch wants not only to possess him but have him sacrifice the baby as well, and there's a pleasingly horrible inevitabillty about Walter's final encounter with the evil apparition that involves no cop out. However, Dreams in the Witch House is shot with grey, washed out, rather flat tones that sap its energy, and despite the amount of mayhem it's probably too short to be involved with the hero's predicament other than tut-tutting when the worst comes to the worst. That the ambitious effects are TV quality rather than movie quality doesn't help. Music by Richard Band.
[Anchor Bay's DVD has a wealth of extras, including a commentary, documentaries, interviews and more.]
American director of horror and sci-fi, who made his debut in 1985 with Re-Animator, following 15 years working in theatre in Chicago. This HP Lovecraft adaptation was a spectacular mix of chills, black comedy and inventive splatter, but while it still remains his best film, the likes of From Beyond, Dolls, The Pit and the Pendulum, Space Truckers and Dagon do have their moments. He followed these with the David Mamet adaptation Edmond and true crime-inspired Stuck. Gordon also wrote the story for the box office smash Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.