New Review: William Malone’s ‘Fair Haired Child’

Today we added a review for William Malone’s episode of Masters of Horror Anthology (reviews) entitled Fair Haired Child, which was written by Matt Greenburg. This Showtime episode follows Tara, a lonely 13-year-old outcast, who is kidnapped by a strange couple and locked in the basement with their 13-year-old son, Johnny. Despite the fact that he is kind and sensitive, Johnny keeps a terrible secret. These two children form a special bond to find a way to battle a curse and survive the night. Read on for the review…
Masters of Horror: Episode 1.9
The Fair Haired Child
Reviewed by: Tex Massacre
3 Skulls or 6/10

There are two issues that demand addressing before the dissection of this latest episode in Showtime’s now ubiquitous serial anthology. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have serious reservations about Mick Garris’ objectivity when selecting his buddies for plum jobs on this series. He did it before when he let Steven Weber write Argento’s episode and he does it again tonight hiring old T.V. pal William Malone to direct. Calling William Malone whose only two feature films were the execrable House on Haunted Hill remake and FearDotCom a Master of Horror is an insult to the dozens of more established and more talented filmmakers working in the genre today.

So, what might you ask could possibly top my distain for the cinematic oeuvre of Mr. Malone? Well, that brings us right to point number two. Calling the Masters of Horror episodes original movies is starting to strain credibility. For the most part, the episodes have been adaptations of short stories and comics or riffs on established legends but tonight’s episode, credited to writer Matt Greenberg (Halloween H20) is the first one to blatantly sponge off another film. I suspect the vast majority of hooked in horror fans have seen the work of experimental filmmaker/illustrator/FX artist Chris Cunningham. Even if the name is unfamiliar to you, no doubt you will recognize and perhaps cringe at the sight of his most infamous creation, precious little mutant shape shifter Rubber Johnny, star of one of the creepiest and most disturbing short films to ever flood the cyberworld. Well friends, it looks as though little Johnny has made the leap from the LCD to the CRT. So, if I lost you for a minute there, lets take a moment to tackle the plot of this week’s show.

A great disaster befell musicians Anton and Judith Ruric (William Samples and Lori Petty). Their only son Johnny (Jesse Haddock) drowned on the afternoon of his 15th birthday. While his distraught parent’s futile attempts to save him fell tragically short, they are given a second opportunity to breath life back into the limp body of their lost child. This gift is not without sacrifice, as Anton and Judith must offer up the lives of 12 children to the mysterious force that promises resurrection for their dear Johnny. So far their plan has proceeded without incident, that is, until the last of the sacrifices is procured. Kidnapped and forced into the basement, Tara (Lindsey Pulsipher), a young high school girl, soon befriends our fair-haired Johnny causing a severe complication just as time draws nigh for the rituals’ conclusion.

Even if you discount the fact that the child of the cellar is named Johnny, it would be impossible to ignore the fact that the demon monster bound inside of his body is anything other than a direct replication of Cunningham’s crude creation. Whether or not the filmmakers were aware of this fact, and it would seem very nearly impossible that they would not be, it still does not justify the appropriation of the character without offering some type of credit. Now, I feel as though I’ve said my peace regarding usurpation of Rubber Johnny and the anemic career of Malone. So, lets at least try to look at the film in an objective manner.

While the cards stacked against it would seem insurmountable, as great humor would have it, The Fair Haired Child is actually a solid entry in the anthology. The performances from Petty, Sample and Haddock are textured and often emotionally resonant which more than makes up for the often histrionic characterization by Pulsipher. The storyline suits itself perfectly for the tight reins of television, and that has been, in the past, one of the great shortcomings of the Master of Horror series. Additionally, this is the first episode of the series that I felt really paid some tribute to the great genre programs of the past. The film had the appropriate amounts of blood and gore for our modern sensibilities but the struggles and the sentiments expressed in the episode along with the wickedly appropriate ending and the Lovecraftian flash back sequences, harkened back to the Night Gallery/Tales from the Darkside/Crypt episodes that blazed the trails of the great horror anthologies.

So it would seem that even with his past sins and his questionable current intentions, director William Malone has managed to pull of something off a rarity with his entry into the Masters of Horror compendium, a wholly entertaining episode, albeit one that owes a massive amount of gratitude and respect to Chris Cunningham.

 
Source: All Masters of Horror Reviews