Written and Directed by: Mick Garris
Starring: Henry Thomas, Matt Frewer and Stacy Grant
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
ďWho knows, you might meet a rock 'n roll nymphomaniac."
Maybe Mick Garris had to create his own TV series so he could finally direct one of his own stories. Heís a guy whose directorial career has been marked by mostly directing follow-ups to existing films (like Critters II and Psycho IV) or adaptations of Stephen Kingís work (which I think makes him a poor manís Frank Darabont). Anyway, Garris wrote the short story ďChocolateĒ ages ago and tried to bring it to the screen for a while, so he finally found the right venue in Masters of Horror (besides, who was going to stop him as series creator and producer?).
The story is centered around recently divorced Jamie (Henry Thomas), who develops flavors at a food lab. As he tries to get back on the horse and meet other women, he unwittingly takes his work home with him when he eats a strange piece of chocolate that creates a euphoric sensation. Unfortunately, it also causes him to hallucinate; at first, these are just seemingly random images, but it soon becomes clear that heís actually seeing through someone elseís eyes, having acquired some kind of ESP.
Chocolate has a fine concept, I suppose; something about it makes me think it could have played well as case for Mulder and Scully, probably because Iím thinking about the similarly-themed ďMindís EyeĒ episode of X-Files. The actual narrative itself is a bit scattered about and takes a while to really get centered--the first half is mostly comprised of Jamie goofing around with his lab buddy (Matt Frewer) who doubles as an aging, balding wannabe rock star on the weekends; when these two arenít discussing their respective love lives, Jamie is visiting with his young son or picking up a girl (Stacy Grant) at the supermarket. Their one night stand is where the conflict really ramps up; Jamieís been having strange visions involving an Asian guy each night, but, on this occasion, he imagines that the guy is screwing him (literally). As he appears to convulse in the bed, the girl with him is befuddled, and things only get more awkward when his ex-wife and child walk in.
All of this sounds a lot funnier than it really is; Chocolate takes this premise and plays it really straight and quickly turns into a grisly detective story. Jamie figures out that heís become psychically attached to a woman (Lucie Laurier) when he shares one of her more sensual moments involving a bathtub shower-head. Soon, though, the images grow more violent; however, Jamieís attraction to this woman also grows. Suddenly, he discovers heís fallen in love with her, so he needs to track her down, and it all leads to their meeting, where the story just sort of fizzles out and leaves you wondering what the point of Chocolate is. The entire premise is so ludicrous that youíd think this would play a lot more outrageously, but itís mostly just this sad little story about a man who has become so desperate for love that he becomes attracted to a complete stranger, and itís odd how the central theme of food is ultimately discarded. Everything starts to go downhill once Jamie indulges not only in sex, but food, as he and his supermarket pick-up gorge themselves on sweets.
So is the point of Chocolate to resist indulgences? I donít know--Jamie pays a pretty steep price for a guy who ostensibly does no wrong. In fact, Thomas makes him quite affable and sympathetic, truly dignified, even. In fact, he might be one of the best characters Iíve encountered in Masters of Horror so far. As a whole, the episode is a nicely oddball entry in concept; I like that itís a lot more low-key than previous entries, most of which have been gore and schlock-soaked, so it serves as a decent change of pace. This is more of a story about obsession and cruel fate, particularly as it pertains to Jamieís eventual fate (well, part of his fate--the story strangely ends with us wondering what will become of him). One especially gory image punctuates an otherwise slow-burn that relies on weird moments that mix sensuality and violence.
All of it is at the service of a mystery that never really amounts to much, but this is at least probably one of the more unique episodes so far. Itís still far from great, but I can say that Masters of Horror is probably the best possible avenue for this story to be explored--itís short and semi-sweet, perhaps. As always, though, Anchor Bay gave it a fine DVD treatment, with an anamorphic widescreen transfer that does justice to the filmís slick production values, plus a couple of soundtrack options (both stereo and 5.1). Among the extras are the typical on-set/behind-the-scenes features, plus a commentary with Garris and DVD producer Perry Martin. Still, Chocolate manages to be more vanilla for the most part and leaves a bland taste in your mouth, so you're better off leaving this one to Netflix. Rent it!
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