Masters of Horror: “Haeckel’s Tale” – 8

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Director: John McNaughton

Cast – Derek Cecil, Leela Savasta, Tom McBeath, Steve Bacic, Gerard Plunkett, Micki Maunsell, John Polito, Pablo Coffey

Release Year – 2006

Reviewed by John of the Dead

He made his mark on the horror scene with his very first feature film, the infamous and utterly disturbing Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.  While he only attempted one other horror film in his career, titled The Borrower in 1991, his impact alone is one that warrants his inclusion into this “Masters of Horror” series.  Even cooler is the fact that this great director took on a Clive Barker storyline that is not only original, but horrific as well.

Haeckle’s Tale stars Derek Cecil as Ernst Haeckle, a bright young medical student who despite the divine foundations of medicine believes that the dead can rise after death.  When he receives word that his father has taken ill, Ernst embarks on a solo journey across the countryside to be with his father.  Along the way he comes across an old man who offers him a warm bed as well as food and drink.  Ernst accepts, and then meets the overly seductive young wife of the old man.  As Ernst pries more and more into the business between the odd couple, he learns of a terrible secret he was never meant to learn, and for his own good.

This flick has one of the cooler plots I’ve seen in the “Masters of Horror” series.  Anything involving bringing the dead back to life will have me hooked, and this film employed that element perfectly.  Right from the get-go my attention was grasped and was never relented until the horrific climax kicked in.  Derek Cecil did a fantastic job in the lead role and it left me wondering to myself “Why haven’t I heard of this guy?”.  He has talent, and I hope to see him in future horror efforts.

Many neat aspects and scenes were included in this plot which helped greatly with it’s pacing and keeping me addicted to what was going on before me.  The re-animation aspect was done properly and we get a fair amount of gore as well.  Each of the film’s developments was right on time and added to the mystery element regarding the couple Ernst stayed with.  When the third act kicks in all hell breaks loose with awesome elements of horror, eroticism, and of course….the living dead. :big smile:

John McNaughton’s direction in this film is expertly done, and shows this guy still has what it takes to put out a great horror film and I hope he ventures back into the genre again someday.  The dark and gloomy settings were great in setting up the mood and atmosphere.  Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he did not stray away from the gore, LIVE-ACTION gore!  From what I’ve read, George A. Romero was first asked to direct this piece but was unavailable at the time, as well as the runner-up Roger Corman.  Gladly, John McNaughton did a fantastic job that I am sure turned out just as good as the effort of Romero or Corman would have been.

Overall, this is an awesome entry into the “Masters of Horror” series that gives a great plot, awesome acting, and great direction.  Give this one a watch, and welcome John McNaughton back to the genre.

Rating: 8/10

– I ranked this film #5 of the 26 entries in my Ranking the “Masters of Horror” Entries post.

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