An Average Movie-Goer’s Review
Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post
I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.
Today we’re looking at Netflix’s Dreams in The Witch House. The sixth mini-feature of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities
Decades after seeing his twin sister’s spirit dragged into purgatory, a man searches for a way to bring her back and comes face to face with a dangerous witch.
Is Cabinet of Curiosities: Dreams in The Witch House (2022) Scary?
No, Dreams in The Witch House leans heavily into the fantasy of fantasy horror. There’s really nothing that will make you jump until the very last scene. Other than that you won’t leave the movie afraid of anything unless you’re planning a trip to purgatory.
All of our Cabinet of Curiosities Explanations/Reviews:
This episode opens with our main character Walter Gilman (played by Rupert Grint) laying unconscious in a room as our narrator, who sounds like he’s been smoking since he was 3, tells us we’re in for a fable with a happy ending.
We flashback to a young Walter watching over his sick twin sister Epperley (played by Daphne Hoskins). The girl is literally blue in the face and Walter stills asks “what’s wrong?” …She’s dying dude!
Epp warns him that the ghosts are coming for her but Walter says he’s going to protect her and promises he won’t let anything bad happen to her. Epp immediately dies.
She reappears as a very confused ghost and realizes she’s dead. Walter confirms she’s a ghost but both are shocked when an unseen force suddenly pulls Epp. Walter runs after her as she’s dragged into a weird portal into a bush and disappears. Never make promises you can’t keep.
Years later an adult Walter and his friend Frank (played by Ismael Cruz Cordova) are working for the Spiritualist Society and looking for a spiritualist who can access the other side. Unsurprisingly they’ve been unsuccessful and instead find multiple frauds. Frank tells Walter of a potential job offer he has for The Times but Walter takes it as an insult as he is determined to bring his sister back.
The following day Walter meets with his boss, Mr. Labuschagne (played by Tom Rooney) at the Spiritualist Society. He walks in on a meeting between Labuschagne and a painter, Mariana (played by Tenika Davis).
Mariana is renting a room in a house that once belonged to a witch Keziah Mason. She begs Labuschagne to check out the house which she claims is a portal to another dimension and gives him a painting that displays a vision, although we don’t get to see it.
After she leaves, Labuschagne tells Walter they lost funding and will most likely have to close in the near future. That night at Walter’s second job as a bartender he learns Frank took the job at The Times and the two argue. Walter overhears some men talking about the other side and asks them to show him.
The men tell Walter his sister was taken to The Forest of Lost Souls, basically purgatory. For a price, he offers to show Walter how to go there. In the basement of some club where everyone is a bit handsy and some are very clearly on drugs, the men give Walter a vial of “liquid gold”. They warn him to not make any ripples in the forest and Walter downs the drink.
Walter passes out and his soul is able to enter the forest. He quickly finds his sister but a tree branch pulls him back to the world of the living. Walter immediately rushes to Frank’s house and tells him about the night’s events, hoping that he’ll help him buy more liquid gold. Frank refuses and thinks his friend was given drugs causing him to trip balls.
Walter returns to the forest of lost souls on his own and stumbles upon Mariana who was somehow also able to enter the forest. Mariana runs from him leaving behind a painting that Walter recognizes as the witch’s house. He continues his search for Epp and eventually finds her but after a brief chat, the forest once again grabs him.
Walter grabs onto Epp’s nightgown and accidentally tears a piece of it off as he’s pulled back into the world of the living. Waking up in the club he discovers he’s still holding onto it so we’re going by Freddy Krueger rules here.
The question is will he go the Nightmare on Elm Street route and make this a big deal or will he go the route of the remake where Nancy never even mentions this is possible until the last 15 minutes?
Walter decides to research the witch Keziah Mason and learns she lived in the 17th century. She claimed she could travel to other portals and dimensions with the use of a key-like dagger.
Since it was the 17th century, she was hanged by the hysteria-ravaged settlers who were afraid of witches and believed her to be one. It didn’t help that she proudly claimed to be a witch. After she was hanged her body was never found and I’m not sure how that happens.
Walter decides to rent a room at the witch’s house but before he leaves for there, he visits his boss in an attempt to get funding. Mr. Labuschagne refuses to give him money and doesn’t believe his story.
Walter is kicked out of the Spiritualist Society but before he leaves, he spots the painting Mariana gave Labuschagne the day before. In an unshocking twist, it’s revealed to be the same painting he saw her drawing in the forest.
Walter steals it and heads to the house.
In his new room on the top floor, Walter sees a weird mold spot above the bed and we see some weird rat-monkey hybrid run into the walls. That night Walter wakes up unable to move and sees the witch appear from the shadows. She hovers over him and the rat-monkey hybrid emerges from the wall.
I don’t know if it’s weirder that it speaks English or that it is friends with the witch. It tells the witch that Walter smells poor and the witch notices a picture of Epp on the nightstand. The witch realizes they’re twins and the rat-monkey excitingly asks her if he’s the one they’ve been waiting for to free them.
It all appears to have been a dream as Walter wakes up the following morning but finds a slab of concrete with ritualistic markings on it. Realizing that being a twin is the key, he gets some more liquid gold and returns to the forest.
This time Epp finds him and warns him that something followed him. The witch appears behind them and the two run as she chases after them. After a brief chase including being attacked by the talking rat-monkey, Walter and Epp escape the forest.
Back in the world of the living, Epp is shocked Walter was able to bring her back. She is a ghost though and I’m not sure what Walter’s plan was at this point. The rat-monkey appears and the two run to Mariana’s room in the house.
Mariana recognizes them and shows them that they’ve appeared in her paintings which foretell the future. She reveals that a ghost from the forest can only get a body back if they kill the person who pulled them out. She also reveals that the paintings show the witch following a ripple created by Walter’s actions and now she will kill him by sunrise.
Distraught, Epp disappears and Walter asks Mariana for help. The two run to a nearby church as it’s holy ground and will provide some protection. Walter calls Frank who arrives and despite being told what’s going on by Mariana, a nun, and a weakened Walter, he still doesn’t believe it.
The witch shows up and blows open the doors, calling out to Walter, so now Frank has no choice but to believe.
The witch uses telekinesis and pulls Walter to her. Frank is unable to hold him back and the doors slam closed as the witch grabs Walter. You don’t often see an evil entity use telekinesis to grab the main character, they’ll use it to kill supporting characters but for the main character, they always run after them because of plot armor.
This was a refreshing change, having said that, it looked stupid as the witch made weird arm movements to show that telekinesis is happening.
The witch brings Walter back to the house and pulls out the dagger to kill him. Epp appears and turns the dagger onto the witch, stabbing her in the face and killing her. Walter tells Epp he doesn’t want to lose her again but Epp tells him she’s not scared anymore. She asks him to let her go and her ghostly form evaporates.
Walter collapses on the ground and we tie back to the beginning of the episode. As we pan out, the rat-monkey approaches. A few hours later Frank and Mariana are caring for an unconscious Walter as Mariana states she’s glad her visions were wrong about Walter’s death.
Spotting the mold above the bed, Frank realizes it’s coming from the attic and decides to do something no one has done in the last 250 years… check the attic. There, he and Mariana find the witch’s decaying remains and the remains of the rat-monkey, meaning the rat-monkey has been a ghost this whole time.
Walter wakes up, grabbing at his chest and crying out for help. Frank and Mariana run back and Walter convulses and dies. The rat-monkey rips out of Walter’s chest and runs off as we see its remains in the attic evaporate.
Mariana helps a crying Frank leave the room and tells him there is nothing they could have done as it was foretold in the painting. After they leave, the rat-monkey climbs back into Walter’s body and is somehow able to take it over. The episode ends as the rat-monkey, now Walter, reminds us that this is a happy ending and leaves the house.
Dreams in The Witch House is okay, it’s smack dab in “ehh” territory and not the worst or the best of the Cabinet of Curiosities. The acting is good, the dialogue makes sense, and the story is pretty easy to follow despite it having some plot points that seem to contradict its own rules. It’s also extremely predictable and nothing that happens in the story will surprise you.
Annoyingly, We’re hit over the head with the theme of the story. It’s clear Walter put his life on hold because he couldn’t get over Epp’s death but we’re told this blatantly in the story over and over. For example, in the forest, Epp asks Walter about his piano playing and we learn that he stopped playing piano after her death. In the end, the rat-monkey says “I’ll use his body as long as it last, he wasn’t doing anything with it anyway.” we get it, he put his life on hold because he couldn’t get over his dead sister.
The rat-monkey itself is a weird plot point that feels like it was only added to create the down ending. It doesn’t even follow the rules of the forest. In the end, we learn it was a spirit the whole time but that doesn’t explain how it got out prior to Walter entering the forest. It’s not a big deal but it does feel like the ending was added just to, once again, emphasize the theme.
Overall I recommend giving Dreams in The Witch House a watch but only if you have nothing else to watch.
Stuff to Ignore
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