Starring Henry Thomas, Matt Frewer, Stacy Grant, Jake D. Smith, Michael Curtola, Katharine Horsman, Paul Wu, Leah Graham, Lucie Laurier
Directed by Mick Garris
Expectations: Low. I’m not expecting anything from this series unless it’s a director I highly respect and I haven’t seen enough of Mick Garris’s films to really respect him.
Respectable and well made, Chocolate is a great entry into the Masters of Horror series. Director Mick Garris proves that he’s worth checking out, showing a great sense of suspense and careful plotting. Of his other films, I’ve only seen Sleepwalkers: a fun, if forgettable, early 90s horror romp. Garris loves Stephen King and has directed numerous adaptations of his work so I was surprised he didn’t go down the King path here as well. Chocolate is based on Garris’s original short story, adapted by Garris himself, making for one of the best written and filmed episodes of the series yet.
Starring Henry Thomas (Elliott from E.T.) as an artificial flavor chemist, the film follows him as he begins to have strange sensory losses. It all starts with the taste of bittersweet chocolate in his mouth as he wakes from sleep. As with any mysterious story, the unraveling is the fun, so I’ll leave the synopsis at this. The story does progress is ways you wouldn’t expect, culminating in a fitting finale. My only beef is that the ending itself is somewhat weak, garnering a “That’s it?” and a shrug. It’s not a big concern, as what happens after the fade to black is obvious, but it is a bit jarring. I respect Garris for not completely hand-holding the audience though, and allowing their intelligence to fill in the final blanks.
One of my big issues with the Masters of Horror series may seem strange upon initial reading. Whenever a woman appears in one of these films, it’s nearly a forgone conclusion that at some point during the film, she’ll be nude on-screen. For instance, in this episode there are four women with speaking parts and two of them have extensive nude scenes. One of the others takes her shirt off to reveal a bra, and the other is wearing something close to lingerie in her only scene. See what I’m talking about? While the reckless adolescent side of my brain enjoys this facet of the series, having every female sexualized to this degree is utterly ridiculous and demeaning. I’d love to see what a female director would do with this series, but in addition to female directors being scarce, female horror directors are in even more short supply. I know that horror is something of an adolescent genre aimed at males, and that these paid cable shows like to push whatever envelope they can simply because they can, but I’d like to see gore and nudity used in service of the story, not to drive ratings. I will say that the gore in this episode was excellent and absolutely in service of the story.
Chocolate isn’t a traditional horror picture, instead it’s more psychological as Henry Thomas slowly loses grip on his senses. The story is interesting and engaging, but still feels somewhat padded to make the one-hour mark. A little tightening would have done some good, but given the general quality of this series, I’ll take what I can get. I really enjoyed Chocolate and it gives me hope that Mick Garris’s other films will be as well made.