31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.
Nature of Shame:
Unwatched Blu-ray. David McCallum deserves my time.
Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1990’s
Ode to The Witch
The Advance Word: Picked up The Haunting of Morella on Blu-ray due to David McCallum. Also, the story was based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story “Morella.”
The value of Jim Wynorski’s The Haunting of Morella — outside David McCallum clearly providing the inspiration for Bill Pullman’s character in Zero Effect — lies in the film’s earnest attempt to emulate the gothic vistas and pacing of the Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. Sub McCallum in for Vincent Price. Bingo bango.
Morella opens with the execution of woman condemned as a witch (Nicole Eggert). Her husband looks on, at peace with the mob’s decision to burn her at the stake. We’re conditioned as seasoned cinematic viewers of movies featuring these “witch roasts” to side with the ill-fated witch. As the executioner reads from her list of misdeeds however, one can’t help but think that this witchy witch is most surely an unholy abomination and probably deserves what’s coming to her.
Before she dies, Morella promises to return. I believed her, personally. It was something about her screechy tone and/or Nicole Eggert’s acting skills (lack thereof). The rest of the villagers seem skeptical, which confuses me. If you’re going as far as burning her alive, surely you believe she’s got powers to do stuff! Plus, if she doesn’t return this is a five-minute movie, you pitchfork wielding, shortsighted simpletons! Fast forward 17 years and Morella attempts to inhabit the body of her teenage daughter Lenora (also Nicole Eggert!). Morella consumes innocent bystanders and servants in order to regain her mojo.
The Poe short story “Morella” concerns a wife dying in childbirth who swaps her soul for that of the child. I’m simplifying, of course. Even as someone who reads the Poe collected works rather frequently, I had to check back in with “Morella” because it’s just not Grade-A Poe material. Corman adapted “Morella” for one segment of his anthology film Tales of Terror, and to be honest, I don’t remember that segment of Corman’s film either. The Haunting of Morella does an admirable job weaving elements of the Poe story into this material.
About two-thirds of the way through this talky melange of boobs, blood and David McCallum in full Bill Pullman/Zero Effect mode, The Haunting of Morella proves itself handi-capable of adapting Poe. Elements of a good B-movie popped up here and there, but it’s nearly impossible to overcome a full cast of stiffs and underachievers. Poor David McCallum must anchor this film alone despite Nicole Eggert’s best efforts to act herself out of a Target-brand paper bag.
Let’s not kid ourselves. This movie arrives on Blu-ray because of the bounty of boobage. Maybe David McCallum encouraged a few others like me to buy this movie, but I don’t know how many David McCallum fans were knocking on Scorpion’s door begging for The Haunting of Morella in 1080p. With that in mind, The Haunting of Morella is an early 1990’s low budget picture. Wynorski used a variety of soft focus and high contrast cinematography. Whites glow with an intentionally eerie haze and backdrops blend into shades of black. Scratches and scuffs from the print remain. The scratches keep it real. Regarding the audio, at a handful of points during the film I noticed the sound cut out prematurely. The soundtrack left no trace memories.
For Edgar Allan Poe and David McCallum completists. I’m not going to address any Nicole Eggert completists who might be reading this. As someone fascinated by the ways that Edgar Allan Poe has been adapted into cinema, I found academic value in the viewing experience.
Blu-ray Verdict: I can’t imagine revisiting this any time soon unless I decide to update that term paper I wrote in college about the impossibility of adapting Edgar Allan Poe for a visual medium. Sell pile. Sorry David ‘Zero Effect’ McCallum.
Availability: Scorpion’s The Haunting of Morella Limited Edition (1500 copies) is available at Screen Archives.
Earlier 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story