Masters of Horror: Fair-Haired Child, The (Television)

Episode 9

Starring Lori Petty, Lindsay Pulsipher, Jesse Hadock, William Samples

Directed by William Malone

Airdate: January 6th, 2006

Okay, perhaps it’s a bit of a stretch to call director William Malone a “Master” of horror. The last thing he experimented with in our genre, the more or less universally despised Feardotcom, left a bad taste in most fans’ mouths. His previous effort, a remake of the Vincent Price classic House on Haunted Hill for Dark Castle, is still considered one of the best in the canon of DC films, however, and it showed a director with an amazing eye for interesting and creepy cinematography. With that in mind, I went into The Fair-Haired Child with an open mind. Besides, I didn’t hate Feardotcom nearly as much as most.

Luckily for me, I was more than pleasantly surprised with the result. Having seen all the Masters episodes to date other than Cigarette Burns and Deer Woman, I’d have to say that The Fair-Haired Child is probably one of my favorites. To tell you why in any real detail would be to spoil most of where my enjoyment of the entry came from, so I will tread forward carefully as I tell you just what the episode is about.

Our main character is 13-year-old Tara (Pulsipher), who is more comfortable in the fantasy world she has made up than the real world, where all her fellow students happily refer to her as “freak” and push her around without end. While riding her bike home from school one day, she’s hit by a van (in one of the most jaw-dropping effects of any episode so far) and seemingly kidnapped… but it’s worse than even she imagines.

She awakens in what at first appears to be a hospital, where a nurse (Petty, looking far older than she should) assures her she’s going to be okay. The first problem, however, is that she’s miles from her home, Connecticut, in a hospital in Vermont where the nurse claims she was found. Tara is able to make a call to her mother, which only further illustrates why she spends so much time in her fantasy world as her mother seems less than concerned that her daughter just woke up in another state. After the “nurse” asks a series of increasingly more intrusive questions, the façade is dropped and Tara discovers that she’s actually trapped in a mansion in the middle of nowhere. She’s not there by chance, however, as she has been carefully selected by a couple who have some seriously nasty plans for her.

Once she discovers her true location, she’s thrown into the basement of the house where she meets another teenager by the name of Johnny, who appears to be a captive as well. As they try and devise a way out of the basement, they discover cryptic warnings written on the walls, things like “Get out before it wakes up” and “Beware the fair-haired child”. Needless to say both are disturbed by the messages, but as the truth is slowly revealed as to who or what the fair-haired child is, the two form a bond that may help them survive the night.

To go any further into the tale would be to damage the surprises that are layered throughout, one of which we’ve unfortunately already let loose when we showed you the first images from the episode a few weeks back. Do yourself a favor and don’t try to find it; go into The Fair-Haired Child with as little foreknowledge as possible. What I can say is that the end result, as my ever-intuitive wife described it, is a perfect dark fairy tale and Malone does a fantastic job telling it.

Working from a script by Matt Greenberg (the writer responsible for better-than-average genre fare like Halloween: H20 and Reign of Fire and who is attached to the upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s fantastic short story “1408”), Malone continues to showcase an eye for creative shots and superb lighting effects that he demonstrated in his earlier films. Say what you will about Feardotcom, it’s a film filled with great camera work, and The Fair-Haired Child benefits from both the intelligence of the script and the skill that Malone has of how to make almost every shot in his movie noteworthy. The cinematography of Brian (Urban Legends 2, Devour) Pearson deserves high marks as well, but given Malone’s history with great looking films, I believe he was responsible for making sure it looked as first-rate as possible.

Solid performances all around, an interesting score (which alternates from subtly creepy to out-and-out terrifying), and near perfect pacing all pooled with the above make this one of the most solid and impressive Masters episodes to date. The only thing that may detract from your enjoyment, as it almost did mine the first time through, is the actual cause of the events going on in this strange house. If, however, you view it as first and foremost a dark fairy tale, chances are those factors will actually help you enjoy it more.

4 ½ out of 5

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Johnny Butane

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