Masters of Horror: Black Cat, The (TV) - Dread Central
Connect with us

Reviews

Masters of Horror: Black Cat, The (TV)

Published

on

Click here to see it bigger!Starring Jeffrey Combs, Elyse Levesque

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Airdate: January 19th, 2007


So far in the almost two seasons since Masters of Horror debuted, my relationship with the series has been a lot like a love affair with a really attractive schizophrenic drug addict with bipolar disorder … From week to week, and minute to minute, I’m never sure what to expect. There are a few plateaus where things are decent, a lot of lows that are really low, and make me reconsider the whole relationship; but the highs, when they’re there, make me think again. And you know they really love you, despite all the fucked up shit they do. So how can you leave? I think a lot of viewers have had a similar experience.

This week’s installment, “The Black Cat”, is directed by Stuart Gordon based on a teleplay he wrote with Dennis Paoli. Gordon is responsible for one of those first season lows (in my book) “Dreams in the Witch House”, but he’s also got quite a bit of genre cred under his belt. “The Black Cat” is based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name about a man tormented by the titular pet.

Gordon and Paoli chose, wisely I think, not to do a direct adaptation of the short story. We all know how adaptations usually turn out. Here, they took the story and decided instead to integrate it into the life of the great writer, turning the straight up tale of fright into an exploration of the man, and his inspirations. Poe is played expertly by Jeffrey Combs, who not only looks eerily like the character but manages to make him so relatable that despite the dress and surroundings of his times, he could be someone you know. The depth of the character and all his facets – drunk, loving husband, frustrated writer and madman – is endearing and refreshing, even when he’s in the grip of his darkest fancies.

MOH: The Black Cat reviewAs Poe struggles to write, his wife Virginia (Levesque) provides both a safe haven of love and an added burden. Virginia is consumptive and has a nasty habit of coughing up blood all over their quaint house at inopportune times. Despite the obvious age difference between the two (in real life, Poe was only 13 years Virginia’s senior while Combs is 31 years older than Levesque) both actors managed to portray a genuine affection and even passion for each other. These two strong leads carry the episode effortlessly, but the secondary and even tertiary characters – like that of the barman at the tavern Poe frequents – all turn in good performances as well.

Poe’s labors to make money selling poems to a literary world more interested in his “fantastic tales”, and his frustration and anger at his inability to write anything new, are depicted incredibly well. In one scene, Poe sits staring with knotted brow at a blank sheet of white paper for a tense moment before whispering “the white plague”. The mood of the moment was conveyed so well I don’t believe you’d have to be a writer to understand the dread he was feeling at that moment – but if you ARE, it’s that much more powerful.

As Virginia becomes sicker, and he still can’t write to earn the money to pay for her doctor, he drowns himself in drink and spirals deeper into despair. And all the time, their cat Pluto does cat-like things like trying to eat their pet goldfish, or twining around Edgar’s legs when he’s drunk. But as he becomes more and more deranged, Poe begins to see the cat’s acts as sinister and dreads its very presence in the house.

MOH: The Black Cat reviewThat feeling of dread permeates the whole episode from the opening scene of terrifying illustrations. Gordon and director of photography Jon Joffin have concocted a soft, gothic tone and use both lighting and a few interesting camera angles to great effect. Normally, this is not something I would notice, but in this case the look of the piece was lovely and helped to instill a feeling of unease in the viewer at the same time. Another thing I hardly ever notice is sound design but again, this episode used it incredibly well to intensify the anxiety and heighten the mood. Just the look and sound of the episode is enough to set your nerves jumping, proving horror doesn’t have to be a gorefest to get a reaction.

Not that there’s not some gore. Though the blood is limited to only a few scenes, the guys at KNB have once again outdone themselves. I don’t want to give anything away in case you haven’t seen it, because it’s a great scene – but there’s one part involving an axe that is both shocking and creepy at the same time. It was also nice to see our evil cat, who was missing an eye, didn’t get the same terrible CGI treatment the poor feline in Nightmare’s and Dreamscapes‘ “Crouch End” had.

Last week in his review of “We All Scream for Ice Cream”, Scott Johnson said that is seems at times like the masters aren’t really trying. I have to admit that was the case more often than not. Luckily for us, Gordon doesn’t seem to have fallen into that bunch this time around. With deft writing, a great look, and well thought out sound design he loaded the bases and the talented actors helped him knock this one straight out of the park. I dare say this is my favorite episode of either season so far. This week’s installment was a grisly but gorgeous gothic tale of terror. This is one you’re definitely going to want to see.

5 out of 5

See more Masters of Horror News and Discuss “The Black Cat” in our forums!

Get this site 100% Ad Free Support Us on Patreon!
Continue Reading
Comments

Reviews

AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

Published

on

Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

Sending
User Rating 4.43 (7 votes)
Get this site 100% Ad Free Support Us on Patreon!
Continue Reading

News

The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

Published

on

By

Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

Sending
User Rating 4.14 (14 votes)
Get this site 100% Ad Free Support Us on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Reviews

The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!

Published

on

Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

Directed by Alan Lougher


The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Ultimately chilling in nature!

Sending
User Rating 3.41 (17 votes)
Get this site 100% Ad Free Support Us on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Go Ad Free!

Support Dread Central on Patreon!

Join the Box of Dread Mailing List

* indicates required

From Around the Web

Trending