MOH Review: EP 2.8: Mick Garris’ ‘Valerie on the Stairs’

Inside we’ve posted our latest review from this year’s Masters of Horror: Season 2 (all reviews), which airs every Friday on Showtime. Inside you’ll find Tex Massacre’s review of “Valerie on the Stairs”, which was directed by Mick Garris. From a Clive Barker original screen story, the film tells the tale of a novelist who discovers there are fates worse than literary anonymity in this sexually-charged tale of terror.

Valerie on the Stairs (MoH 2.8)
Reviewed By: Tex Massacre
4/10 or 2 Skulls

Rob Hanisee (Tyron Leitso) is an unpublished author who has lucked his way into a writer’s commune. With all the peace, quiet and free rent that he can handle, Rob is set to bring his personal romantic novel to life. What he finds instead is far from peaceful and quiet as Rob soon discovers the hidden secret behind the walls of the old home. Visited by an apparition of a beautiful and tormented girl named Valerie (Clare Grant), Rob will soon discover that the power of imagination can be a terrible thing.

In the latest installment of Showtime’s original series, Creator Mick Garris and Novelist Clive Barker give us what feels like a flash recap of Season One. It pulls the sexual energy from Argento’s JENIFER, the setting from Gordon’s DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE, returns Garris (CHOCOLATE) to the director’s chair with a short story based on work by Barker (HAECKEL’S TALE) if they had only cast Erin Brown (SICK GIRL) as Valerie, they could have covered nearly half of last season’s territory with one shot. But none of that would matter a single bit if the film Garris provided was any good. Unfortunately, the incredibly tepid pacing is liable to put you to sleep before the madness really gets going.

In a brief moment within the confines of the tale, a fellow writer, Bruce Sweetland (Jonathan Watton) paraphrases Rod Serling’s famous introduction to THE TWILIGHT ZONE. In some sense this is foreshadowing, as the ultimate conclusion would have made the episode feel right at home aside that classic series. The problem with VALERIE ON THE STAIRS is getting to that conclusion–a conclusion that I might add is offered as speculation from yet another of the tenants (this time portrayed by Christopher Lloyd). In a lot of ways Lloyd’s deduction is as necessary to clarify the climax as it is frustrating, in that it gives away a fairly innovative turn of events. But by the time the viewer gets to the final moments–train running full steam–the dénouement is inevitable anyway–we know it can’t end well, and it doesn’t.

Lloyd hits all his wild-eyed marks as the decrepit has been who– along with an assorted cast of peculiar characters — populate this “house of failure”. Plenty of the denizens are annoying–as they are meant to be–but Leitso seems to be the most ineffectual one of them all. Something that turns out to be a real problem as the arc of the story rests on his determinations. Clare Grant as the title character and her nemesis/lover (played by CANDYMAN–Tony Todd) are slightly more interesting–if only for her fleeting resemblance to Sissy Spacek and his make-up–which too closely resembled something from the BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER universe.

This week’s chapter in the MASTERS OF HORROR realm does little to enhance the stature of Mick Garris as a feature filmmaker. Unlike last season’s CHOCOLATE, Garris has reverted back into his “exposition” position–culled from far too many years adapting 1000 page Stephen King novels into 12-hour miniseries. When the film finally starts to shut up is when the case begins to shine. Too bad it’s too little too late this time.

Source: Showtime