Masters of Horror: Mick Garris – Valerie on the Stairs – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Directed by
Mick Garris

Cast:
Tyron Leitso … Rob Hanisey
Nicola Lipman … Nancy Bloom
Jonathan Watton … Bruce Sweetland
Christopher Lloyd … Everett Neely
Christine Barrie … Anna
Clare Grant … Valerie
Suki Kaiser … Patricia Dunbar
Tony Todd … The Beast


The Episode:

In whatever art form it is depicted, I would think that few temporary afflictions, save love, have ever been elevated to the mythic level of stature that writer’s block has. From Adaptation to The Shining, writer’s block is often depicted as a horrifying crossroads in an artist’s life, unable to find inspiration when that is all they love to do. Writers are sometimes depicted as having to go to their darkest places to find motivation, which is a premise that was recently used in the Master’s of Horror episode “The Black Cat”, and ended up being one of the best installments of the entire series. Unfortunately, this was not the case when it came to Series Creator Mick Garris’ second entry for the anthology, “Valerie on the Stairs”, which actually takes a compelling idea about writer’s block but ruins it by utilizing all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

Rob Hanisey (Tyron Leitso) is a man looking not only for a muse, but desperately trying to escape his previous one. Love has scorned him, and he is anxious to get away and find company only with his work. In order to do so, he enrolls in a commune where he can write in peace, but peace turns out to be the last thing he finds. Soon after moving in, Hanisey discovers a young girl that keeps calling for him and then disappearing, and often not of her own will. To get to the bottom of the mystery, Hanisey has to look at the other tenants of the commune for answers, but doesn’t like what he finds.

Taken at a conceptual level, there’s a lot to be admired about “Valerie on the Stars”. The idea was actually a notion by Horror creator Clive Barker, and if he had directed this piece, its arguable this could have been one of the most inventive and inspired episodes of the series. Perhaps even given another half hour to really flesh out this story, this could have still been something special, but with only an hour to work with Director Mick Garris has to throw this narrative into overdrive, and the entire experience ends up underdeveloped.

Leitso does what he can, but his character isn’t given any room to breathe. Garris goes through the entire situation in such a quick pace, that there’s no time for Hanisey to stop and question what’s happening to him, which throws suspense and our suspension of disbelief out the window. Individual scenes end up well constructed, but taken as a whole the episode is just too rushed to stop and scare us. Instead, “Valerie” focuses on gore to get the job done, which ends up impressive looking, but comes up short in the fright department.

Seemingly having the most fun here is Christopher Lloyd as Everett Neely, a washed writer who ends up playing a key part in this tale. Lloyd’s no stranger to playing it over the top and that’s where he ends up here, and also ends up stealing the entire episode, which is funny considering that Tony Todd (Candyman) eventually shows as a gigantic demon. Still, both are too little, too late for this half baked installment.

While its concepts keep it watchable, “Valerie Under the Stairs” ends up one of the worst episodes of the series I’ve seen so far. There’s potential here, but with only an hour to work with, Mick Garris simply ends up not having the directing chops to really bring this home. This one works on the page, but on screen it should have just stayed unpublished.


The DVD:

The Video
Just like the rest of the series, “Valerie on the Stairs” looks great on its DVD, with a pretty nice transfer that never goes too dark. The picture is pristine throughout. The Episode is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

The Audio
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is also quite good. Soundtrack and effects never overpower dialogue, and the sound design is crisp.


SPECIAL FEATURES:

Audio Commentary by Director Mick Garris – This is actually a pretty good commentary by Garris, who talks a lot about the little things he was trying to do here that ended up pretty effective in the installment. Things like keeping the camera moving so the house seems alive and keeping the rest of the cast separate from Tyron Leitso so that he never seems assimilated are things that help the episode along, but its not enough to make this episode a good one.

Spine Tingler: The Making of Valerie on the Stairs – This goes about 15 minutes and is a pretty decent Featurette. There are interviews with the cast and crew and everyone is very complimentary of Garris. It’s unfortunate it didn’t translate in the finished product.

Jump Scare: Editing Valerie – This is a five minute Featurette on the editing of the episode. Garris talks on this Featurette how Stuart Gordon always says that it is in the editing stage where the audience gets fulfilled and Garris adds that he likes to use it to not fulfill the audience. Truer words were never spoken.

Trailers – You get a trailer for Hatchet, as well as trailers for all previous DVD releases for Masters of Horror seasons 1 and 2.

Biography of Mick Garris

photo gallery

Original Script for “Valerie on the Stairs”

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Masters of Horror: Valerie on the Stairs
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

4
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

4
REPLAY VALUE

4
OVERALL
4
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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