Masters of Horror: Haeckel's Tale

So we have the season finale, finally. Excuse the inadvertent pun. With a season of highs and lows, good and bad, and hits and misses, “Masters of Horror” season one comes to an end. With a period piece concerning death and the living dead. Sure, to some it may seem like yet another retread, and in many respects it was, but as a standalone, I really liked this episode, and because it involves zombies, and has the great Gregory Nicotero, you know you’re about to see some wicked zombie make-up effects. Haeckel is a young doctor who seeks to discover the mysteries of the necromancers, their necromancing, and the voodoo that they do so he can use it for his current scientific project of re-animating dead corpses, but he finds he’s gone too deep when he is taken in by a couple one night and discovers the wife holds a mystery.

I was very weary about the episode from the beginning. This was at times slow, but then it all was basically gaining momentum, and mounting tension until the giant plot twist that really did seal the deal in the climax. “Haeckel’s Tale” is a twisted and utterly morbid examination of death and lack thereof (*rimshot*) and what measures people are willing to go to to achieve affection, love and loved ones thick and thin. But John McNaughton’s direction is aesthetically pleasing featuring some great set pieces and genuinely spooky nuance and atmosphere that sets on us an unease as to what is about to, and or what may occur any minute now.

And, for once, the series takes the recycled concept and injects occasional originality including Haeckel’s fate, and the utterly sick grotesque climax that I didn’t really see coming. There are some very good performances, but the true glory is in the gory. Nicotero is able to flex much of the make up effects that helped make many a horror film so damn good and we get to see at least one or two gruesome death scenes at the hands of the living dead. Nicotero really is in his game for this episode, and it’s a fun final installment. As the season progressed, it became apparent the special effects were whittling down. Though we saw sporadic instances where there were eye catching effects (Fair Haired Child), we also saw a rapid decline (Sick Girl), and “Haeckel’s Tale” is no real difference.

The effects here are less than stellar and often times when we can find a good effect it’s mostly due to Nicotero and company. Meanwhile, the episode is consistently cheesy with some pretty bad acting, and a climax I saw coming from miles away. Though, it was a twisted way to end it, the way it’s delivered was in many ways less then exhilarating, especially since the deliver of the surprise was just more campy that creepy. In spite of its faults with more bad special effects, less than memorable performances, and a “surprise” twist I saw from miles away, this is a worthy and entertaining finale for the first season of “Masters of Horror”.