MASTERS OF HORROR MICK GARRIS CHOCOLATE Distributed by: Anchor Bay Entertainment Original Air Date: 25 November 2005 (Season 1, Episode 5) Film Length: 60 minutes Genre: Horror/Thriller Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1 Colour/B&W: Colour Audio: English 5.1 Surround English 2.0 Surround Subtitles: none Film Rating: not rated Release Date: May 9, 2006. Matt’s Rating: / Mike’s Rating: / Scare Factor: / Henry Thomas (Jamie), Lucie Laurier (Catherine), Matt Frewer (Wally) Written by: Mick Garris Directed by: Mick Garris HTF DVD Reviewer Matt Stone writes: The first half of this two-disc set is directed by Stephen King adaptation junkie, and Masters of Horror founder Mick Garris. The short film follows a fairly traditional B-A-B format bookending the main plot with narration from the film’s main character, Jamie (played by ET-loving Henry Thomas). This episode kicks off when recently divorced Jamie (who creates artificial flavours for a living) begins to have flashes of a life through another person’s senses. It begins with the taste of high-end chocolate and quickly extends to other senses: sight, smell, etc. There’s even a fairly shocking out-of-body man-on-man rape sequence where we learn that Jamie’s other half is a women. It seemed a little low brow, but still freaked me out a bit. Thomas does a decent job of playing depressed and scared, with an underlying stalker-like psychosis that we see during the opening moments of the film. Garris also uses long-time favourite Matt Fewer effectively as Jamie’s older co-worker/wannabe rock star. There are also a few beautiful women (including Jamie’s “other half”), but none of them are particularly interesting. With a film based around a man’s senses, Garris does a great job of letting sight and sound envelop the viewer. That’s not to say there isn’t explanatory dialog, but Chocolate definitely plants its flag in the “show me, don’t tell me” camp. Music is used very effectively with a flowing orchestral soundtrack that plays during most of the sensory sequences. Garris doesn’t have much visual flair, but some of the handy-cam scenes work well. I prefer longer and more meticulously designed shots, but Garris chops up most of his stuff with edits (again with that handy-cam/steady-cam shots being longer). Thanks to the editing style, the pace of the film is pretty quick. Unfortunately, after a pretty decent introduction and second act, the ending comes off as pretty disappointing. I don’t need my plots wrapped up into a nice little basket, but I’d at least like a climax of some sort. Oh well. As a horror fiend, I found this to be a fairly decent entry into the blossoming Masters of Horror series. With his extensive TV background, Garris is suited for this type of material, but he can’t quite strike the right balance between camp and horror. I’m not a huge fan of his work, but his adaptation of The Stand is still probably my favourite TV movie/mini-series. Whether each episode is out of the park or not, I’m really grateful that Garris established the Masters of Horror series. It gives some classic directors an outlet for more experimental work. HTF DVD Reviewer Mike Osadciw comments: Chocolate is a pleasant entry in the Masters of Horror series. It’s much slower moving than the other titles thus far and tries to capture the audience with a story rather than pure horror. Mick Garris is successful at it to a point; the one-hour episode slows down quite significantly during the second half and I thought I was watching an hour and a half movie instead. I agree with Matt about Henry Thomas; he plays his part masterfully and he’s the prefect actor for this confused and gentle man. This title may appeal a broader audience because it’s less gut-wrenching, but the telekinetic man on man rape sequence may make other shift in their chair slightly. VIDEO QUALITY / HTF DVD Reviewer Mike Osadciw writes: For this review, I viewed this title on the Mitsubishi HC3000 DLP projector that I’m temporarily using. I can’t say I’m entirely familiar with this piece, so I’ll describe the video of this DVD as best I can. It’s fairly clean of artefacts although there tends to be a bit of noise present in lower brightness scenes. I don’t believe it’s because of the DVD but rather artefacts from using DLP technology. Colour saturation is very good although the image is soft. I believe this series was shot using HD cameras so seeing the level of softness is slightly surprising, although it could also be intended by Garris to make it look a little smoother rather like film rather than razor sharp HD video. The outdoor scenes in Vancouver are nicely delivered with rich green grass and a neutral grey sky on cloudy days. Interiors in Jamie’s apartment are also nicely lit and night scenes never look too dark; there is plenty of city light coming through the window in the room to give adequate lighting. The aspect ratio is 1.78:1. AUDIO QUALITY / HTF DVD Reviewer Mike Osadciw writes: This series is recorded in 5.1 surround and takes advantage of all channels at varying levels. The Dolby Digital encoding delivers the front soundstage nicely. It’s recorded very well and sounds clean and much more balanced in terms of frequency response than large-scale films are. The music uses a wide soundstage and relies a lot on the left channel. The music soundtrack also has excellent phantom and sidewall imaging to create a sense of space – an aspect of sound that many motion pictures are failing to deliver on these days. The surround channels are used moderately but are effective when used. Sound effects and synth music tries to wrap around the listener using these surrounds, but I found the front soundstage was more than enough to deliver a satisfying sound experience when sitting properly between the left and right speakers. The LFE channel is hardly used and when it is it is too low in volume to be effective. TACTILE FUN!! / TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: OFF HTF DVD Reviewer Mike Osadciw writes: Since there is very little LFE I wouldn’t recommend using the transducer, not even for the brief moments it is used. The level of LFE is recorded so low it makes it virtually undetectable. SPECIAL FEATURES / HTF DVD Reviewer Matt Stone Writes: Commentary – The feature-length commentary includes Mick Garris and DVD Producer Perry Martin. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to listen to the entire track, but what I did listen to was pretty interesting [I don’t fault you for that Matt – there is little time to listen to full commentaries! -Mike]. Garris talks at length about his intentions with the film, and Martin drives the commentary with interview-style questions. When I have a free hour, I’ll go back and listen to the entire track. The Sweet Taste of Fear (20:24) – The first half of this featurette examines Mick Garris’s history in the horror genre, including his relationship with Stephen King. I’m familiar with Garris’s work, but it was fun learning a little more about his background. The second half tackles the Masters of Horror group and finally the making of this entry. It’s a conventional featurette driven by Garris, but for the most part stays fresh and interesting. This being my third MoH entry, some of the background on the group is getting a little redundant. Working With A Master: Mick Garris (19:25) – This featurette goes into a little more detail on Mick’s history. It primarily relies on interviews from family and friends that he’s worked with in the past. For the most part it’s very interesting, and isn’t too redundant. On Set: An Interview with Henry Thomas (8:12) – A short interview with Henry Thomas that highlight’s his take on the character and the short film. There are a lot of unnecessary cuts back to the film, but Thomas is a pretty smart guy and is interesting to listen to. On Set: An Interview with Lucie Laurier (7:37) – Lucie plays Henry Thomas’s counterpart in the film, and this featurette examines her thoughts on the film. Behind the Scenes: The Making of Chocolate (20:04) – A long reel of behind the scenes footage with no real coherence or narration. It’s a bit more interesting than the shorter behind-the-scenes featurettes on the two previous MoH releases, but it’s still tedious to watch. Fantasy Film Festival: Mick Garris and Roger Corman (11:32) – This is a very interesting little feature. Mick interviewed famous genre directors back in the seventies on a local show called Fantasy Film Festival. This featurette presents the original interview between Mick and Roger. The DVD also features original Trailers, a still gallery, a Mick Garris bio, the screenplay, the original short story and a screensaver on DVD-ROM, as well as a very short Easter egg. IN THE END... The latest entry of the Masters of Horror series is an interesting view. Die hard horror fans who love the gruesome will prefer Incident On and Off a Mountain Road more than Chocolate, but being a collector and the fact that Chocolate isn’t a terrible entry into the series, I’d recommend the two-pack rather than buying these titles individually. For more information on this series you can visit www.mastersofhorror.net. Reviewed by: Matt Stone & Mike Osadciw May 8, 2006.