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Masters of Horror - Mick Garris - Chocolate
Mick Garris is not only the man behind a few made for TV Stephen King adaptations (The Stand and The Shining but he's also the series creator and executive producer of Masters Of Horror. How disappointing then that the entry he wrote and directed should turn out to be one of the lesser forays into the macabre that the series has given us thus far in its short history.
Jamie (Henry Thomas, best known as Elliott from E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial and who also played the childhood version of Norman Bates in Psycho IV!) works during the day at a food laboratory where he specializes in creating artificial flavors to be used in snacks and spices and seasonings and such. While his job is alright, his personal life is a bit of a mess as his separation from his wife recently became a finalized divorce and he doesn't get to spend as much time with his son as he'd like to. That night, he wakes up with the very vivid taste of chocolate in his mind, which seems odd, but doesn't really seem to phase him much. To cheer him up a bit, his co-worker, Wally (Matt Frewer of Garris' Riding The Bullet), invites him out to a bar to see his band play one night. Jamie meets a girl but in the middle of their conversation his mind flashes somewhere else, and he can't hear her. Later that night when Jamie is driving Wally home, he again flashes to somewhere else, causing Wally to have to grab the wheel just narrowly avoiding a head on collision with a transport truck.
The next day, Jamie meets a pretty girl named Elaine (Leah Graham) and before you know it, he's charmed her back to his place where they have some wine and some dinner together. It's not long before the two of them are in bed together, but after the romance is over with, the next morning, Jamie flips out and goes into convulsions, his mind flashing to a room where he's a woman who has been mounted by an exotic looking man who is currently pounding away at her. As Jamie's body lies there, thrashing around in the bed, Elaine is left to deal with the arrival of his son and his ex-wife (Stacy Grant), the later of whom calls him a 'sonuvabitch' and walks out the door, kid in tow. Needless to say, Elaine doesn't come back for a repeat performance.
As the flashes become more intense, Jamie starts to get some clues as to who this woman is and through some fairly basic detective work, he figures out that her name is Catherine (pretty Quebecois actress Lucie Laurier) and that she lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. He also sees her kill the same man who was mounting her the other day, after his proposed three way with some cute little girl doesn't go as he had hoped and he winds up slapping her. Jamie becomes obsessed with Catherine, convincing himself that he knows her so well that he must be in love with her, but when he shows up at her door, Catherine isn't exactly stoked to make his acquaintance…
The biggest problem with Chocolate is that we know from the opening scene how it all ends. Jamie is there being interrogated by the police who are accusing him of murdering Catherine, her blood dripping down his neck. With that in mind, from the first minute of the movie we know of its conclusion and therefore the rest of the feature is pretty much devoid of suspense. We don't necessarily know how Jamie got there right off the bat but it doesn't take us too long to figure it all out – the clues become pretty obvious as the story progresses. As such, the whole ending is rendered rather pointless and none of it is even remotely scary (this is Masters Of Horror after all, so shouldn't it be scary?). There's some mild suspense at the end during the murder scene that we all know is coming as well as a little bit of gore here and there (though it's mild compared to the other entries in that regard) but Chocolate is more of a suspense story than a flat out horror story, even if at times the line gets blurred.
From a technical level Chocolate is well made. It plays out nicely in that it is shot with some style and Garris uses flashbacks and cutting rather than crappy CGI inserts to make us know when Jamie is taking his little mind trips, which was refreshing to see. There's also some really good set design on display in the movie that ensures that even when the story isn't all it's cracked up to be, at least the movie looks good. It's a shame that Garris wasn't able to create more tension with the film, as the premise is interesting but this is one case where the events probably played out better on paper than they did on film.The DVD
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer presents the movie in its original aspect ratio and for the most part, the image looks very good. There is some edge enhancement present in a few scenes as well as some shimmering and aliasing in spots but there's very little to complain about otherwise. Black levels are strong and deep, there are no issues at all with print damage, dirt or debris on the picture and there's a very pleasing level of both foreground and background detail present throughout the picture. It should be noted that this episode isn't nearly as dark, visually at least, as the other three that have hit DVD so far, so it's nice to see the color reproduction looks as strong as it does on this disc. The ending that takes place in a colorful apartment looks really fantastic with really nice green and red hues throughout. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and the reds are well defined without bleeding through.Sound:
Anchor Bay presents Chocolate in your choice of a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track or a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track. Both mixes sound very good with plenty of lower end bass response and some very nice instances of channel separation throughout. Dialogue is clean and clear and free of any hiss or distortion. There were a few spots on the 5.1 mix that could have been a little more aggressive but otherwise things sound really good here especially during the last few minutes of the production. There are no alternate language tracks or subtitle options available.Extras:
First up in terms of supplements is an audio commentary by writer/director Garris and DVD producer Perry Martin. This is a pretty lively discussion and the two men have obviously enjoyed putting this package together. One thing that becomes clear s the commentary plays out is that Garris loves working in the genre and that sense of honesty and enthusiasm is really nice to see in a director whose star seems to be on the rise (he's directing another King adaptation, Desperation - which appears in this movie briefly – next). At any rate, Garris covers some of the casting choices and the location shooting and talks about the story writing process and some of the difficulties in creating a feature within the hour long format as well as some of the joys that also go hand in hand with The Masters Of Horror. It's a fun track, more interesting than the movie itself, truth be told.
Working With a Master: Mick Garris is a tribute interview featurette that, like the other Working With A Master documentaries that have been appearing throughout the series' DVD releases, is composed of interviews conducted with those who know and have worked with the director. Everyone seems to have enjoyed the projects where they've encountered Garris on and it all pretty much comes up roses here for him – he gets the thumbs up for being a nice, talented, smart guy with some serious potential.
The Sweet Taste of Fear: An Interview with Mick Garris is the most interesting of the documentaries on this disc in that it gives Garris a chance to tell his side of the story and to explain to us just why he wants to work in the horror genre and dedicate his talents specifically to it rather than branch out and do, say, comedy or action. Again, he comes off as a sharp guy, and his thoughts on why horror movies are so cool certainly ring true. At roughly half an hour in length we get a good overview of his career from the early days right up to this more recent project and it's obvious that his enthusiasm for what he's doing hasn't waned one iota.
Behind the Scenes: The Making of Chocolate is a collection of random behind the scenes clips that show us what life was like on the set while Garris and company where in production. We see the director at work and the stars getting in to character, and we also see some shots being set up and some effects work. There's not a lot of context here but behind the scenes junkies should enjoy this none the less as the footage is pretty interesting.
Two quick interviews are up next, titled On Set: An Interview With Henry Thomas and On Set: An Interview With Lucie Laurier respectively. As you could probably gather, this are talks with the two main stars of the film, both of whom have very kind things to say about the director and about each other. From the sounds of things the cast and crew enjoyed themselves while working on this project, and it's nice to get the actors' point of view on a few specifics in this clips.
Another really interesting bonus feature comes in the form of a clip called Fantasy Film Festival: Mick Garris Interviews Roger Corman which is just what it sounds like – footage of (a young) Mick Garris chatting up the King of the B's on camera for an early talk show project of his. It's an enjoyable discussion of Corman's films conducted by a knowledgeable interviewer who obviously has a lot of appreciation for the man and his work.
Rounding out the extra features on this release are trailers for the first batch of Masters Of Horror episodes, a still gallery, a Mick Garris text biography, and, in DVD-Rom format, the original screenplay, Mick Garris' original short story, and a screensaver.Final Thoughts:
Anchor Bay continues to treat the Masters Of Horror line with plenty of respect, giving each episode awesome audio and video quality and more extra features than you can shake a stick at. Sadly, Chocolate fizzles, making this one worth a rental for the curious and not much more than that.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.