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Haeckel’s Tale (2006)

The Masters of Horror series has continued to deliver high quality features with “Haeckel’s Tale”. The story was written by Mick Garris, although the DVD case credits it as “Clive Barker’s Haeckel’s Tale”, this episode was originally to be directed by George Romero, but when he pulled out John McNaughton (“Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer”) was brought in to fill the void.

The story is intriguing, a young widower goes to the remote cabin of a woman reported to be a Necromancer. He hopes that she can return his recently deceased wife to him. She agrees to do so
but only after he has her the story of Ernst Haeckel. The woman tells him about a brilliant, but arrogant young medical student who is obsessed with bringing the dead back to life. Ernst tries unsuccessfully to re-create the work of one of his contemporaries, Dr. Victor Frankenstein (a nod to Mary Shelley from the writer) but to no avail.

Ernst is summoned to visit his dying father but ends up staying the night with Wolfram, an old farmer
who is married to a beautiful, but eccentric young woman. Ernst is taken with the girl, Elise (Leela Savasta), but he is also confused by her. Why such a beautiful young woman would be married to
an old man who admits he cannot fulfill her needs and, perhaps more importantly, what exactly those needs are?

I will not detail what happens from here, I don’t want to give away too much after all. The plot does take a number of unexpected
twists and turns both into the worlds of the macabre and the erotic. I can see why this episode was originally intended for Romero, the theme of death and reviving the dead is prevalent through out, although the results are more surprising than one might expect.

“Haeckel’s Tale” is definitely a worthy addition to the Master’s of Horror series (which has yet to disappoint me). Leela Savasta does an especially good job blending alluring sexuality with insane obsession to bring the story’s truly pivotal character, Elise, to life. Also watch for Jon Polito (“The Crow”) as Professor Montesquino, the Necromancer. I don’t know how the production would
have been under the master of undead horror George Romero, but John McNaughton has crafted a horrific vision that combines love and sex with obsession and horror into a neat little 60 minute package. Check out “Haeckel’s Tale” for yourself, its unique blend of sex and horror is worth a look.


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