Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Monsters – The Vampire Hunter – review (TV Episode)

title screenDirector: Michael Gornick

First aired: 1988

Contains spoilers

Monsters was an anthology horror series that ran for three seasons from 1988 to 1990. One of the key elements came out of budgets so small that locations were kept to a bare minimum and were sometimes clearly sets. The Vampire Hunter was a season 1 episode.

Robert Lansing as Mr Ernest ChariotWe start with a view of a crucifix that pulls back to a selection of crosses and stakes. They belong to a Mr Ernest Chariot (Robert Lansing). He is a vampire hunter who is retiring. He intends to travel to Egypt and then on to Vienna where a person called Freud has come up with some salacious theories regarding the human mind. He has a young friend, Jack (Jack Keonig), who believes that Chariot cannot abandon the world (as it were) but the older man is tired of fighting a creature he believes to be a coward at heart.

The whole set up is rather Sherlock Holmes in style, so it is no surprise when a housekeeper, Mrs Haggerty (Sylvia Short), comes in and states that they have a visitor – one Miss Maura Warren (Page Hannah). In short, she believes that a vampire has selected her brother in order to steal her fortune. Chariot tests her, to ensure that she herself has not been bitten, but then refuses the case. Jack, once she has gone, states that Chariot is the coward.

Page Hannah as Miss Maura WarrenJack is drinking alone in the dark when she returns and he agrees to accompany her – she tells him of voices from the cellar, bats and a coffin. In the ‘cellar’, the very painted set resembling dungeon more like, there is a creature, Charles Poole (John Bolger). He wears a mask over his jaw and it is clear that Maura works with him. He is after Chariot but laughs at her suggestion that they will let Jack go when they have the hunter. He removes his mask – though we do not see his mouth – and bites the young man.

hiding behind a maskIt is two days later when Chariot returns – he has been checking Maura’s background as he did not trust her. He hears that Jack is missing and then Maura arrives and says she will take him to his friend – he must not bring weapons. Charles and Ernest are old adversaries and it is down to the hunter that he wears a mask – covering the scarring on his mouth. Which is part of the problem…

staked and scars on showAside from the acting, which in parts can fall into histrionics (Mrs Haggerty), the short episode hints at much but reveals too little. Why did Chariot background check Maura Warren? Why didn’t he explain that to his friend? Exactly what was the background between hunter and vampire? How was the mouth scarred (I assume holy water but that is a guess)? Why wasn’t the job completed originally? So many story questions appear that there is little time or inclination to answer. I did like the idea that a vampire was deemed a coward because he was undead – too scared to face death – it was a nice perspective from the hunter. Okay, but had potential to be much better, 4 out of 10.

The episode’s imdb page is here.

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