Written by: Matt Greenberg
Directed by: William Malone
Starring: Lori Petty, William Samples and Lindsay Pulsipher
Reviewed by: Brett G.
At this point, even a lot of casual genre fans would probably balk upon hearing the name William Malone in the same sentence as Masters of Horror. Boasting a filmogrpahy that includes the likes of The House on Haunted Hill remake, Feardotcom, and three (count ‘em, three) episodes of Freddy’s Nightmares, he’d hardly be the first name you’d expect from this series. Such a repertoire doesn’t exactly inspire a whole lot of confidence for The Fair-Haired Child, especially when you consider that it was written by the guy who delivered The Prophecy II and Halloween: H20. But, this is why they play the game, as it were, and, despite its somewhat unimpressive pedigree, The Fair-Haired Child mostly works.
Though she is fair-haired, Tara (Lindsay Pulsipher) is not the title character; instead, she’s a beautiful and talented teenage girl that we’re supposed to believe is average. None of the boys are interested in her, and she often daydreams in class; she must be particularly zoned out one day while riding her bike home because she gets rammed by a creepy guy in a van (William Samples). She wakes up in a hospital, where a creepy nurse (Lori Petty) assures her that she’s okay, albeit far away from home; after a series of weird questions, Tara surmises that this nurse isn’t who she claims she is. She’s right, of course, and her detective work earns her a one way trip to this odd couple’s basement, where she’s trapped with another boy named Johnny (Jesse Hadock).
There are warnings down there about escaping the fair-haired child before he wakes up, and the rest of the film fills in the blanks from there, as there are more instances of people not being who they appear to be. Time is split between Tara and Johnny being terrorized by the unseen fair-haired one and Petty and Samples hanging out upstairs, playing musical instruments, awaiting the eventual carnage they’ve set up. Interspersed are some flashbacking interludes that explain just who they are and how they’re connected to the boy downstairs, and it’s all very "Pet Sematary meets The Wicker Man,” meaning The Fair-Haired Child is rather derivative.
Still, the familiar story is rather well-told; it’s probably anachronistic to consider Pulsipher a revelation here considering the episode premiered over six years ago, but I’m surprised I haven’t seen her in much since (mostly because she’s been on TV programs). At any rate, she has a strong screen presence that enables her to juggle sweetness and toughness; she sort of reminds me of Emma Stone in that sense, which only makes me want to see more of her. Even though her character isn’t given a lot of depth on the page, she brings it to the screen with a well-rounded performance that carries the film. Petty and Samples are disconcerting weirdoes due to the disconnect between their affluent exterior and their dark intentions; I think there’s some room to find some empathy in what these two are attempting to do, but they’re a little too one-note to engender such feelings on the part of the viewers.
The title character is eventually revealed to be a pretty neat combination of practical and computer effects; highlighted by a deformed and unusually bulbous head, this creature is (as the title implies) a child gone horribly awry. Its clothes are tattered, and its eyes are eerily vacant, so it kind of looks like a zombiefied version of Jason Voorhees when he was a scary little bastard popping out of lakes. A majority of Malone’s creepy shots involve this little freak scuttling about, but the director’s vision is accentuated by the decrepit production design down in the basement. Full of eerie scrawls and a surprisingly cavernous geography, it provides the grounds for an effective chase sequence that eventually leads to the film’s last big (but predictable) turn of events.
The Fair-Haired Child stays safe but satisfying; it not only retreads the aforementioned horror films, but it even recycles the “girl gets terrorized by a strange creature” motif that we saw in the first episode. Despite this, it’s well-suited for the 55 minute block, as there isn’t a whole lot of meat on its bones. The same can’t be said for Anchor Bay’s disc, which packs in a bunch of extras alongside another solid presentation. In addition to a commentary with Malone and Greenburg, you’ll find an assortment of interviews and behind-the-scenes stuff, plus some rough footage from one of Malone’s 8mm short films he made when he was younger. One of the features profiles Malone’s career, and it’s full of neat anecdotal stuff that kind of justifies his place in this series (he’s one of the guys responsible for crafting Michael Myers’s iconic mask). His episode of Masters of Horror is a nice little surprise--I especially like the stuff he mixes together, and it comes out to a fine, serviceable episode. Rent it!
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