Dreams in the Witch House
Episode 6 of Cabinet of Curiosities begins with an ominous prologue. Epperley is sickly and worries that the ghosts are taking her. As she passes away, Walter promises not to let her go and to protect her. But it’s no good, she’s taken away from him before his very eyes.
We then fast forward to 1933. Walter watches a medium called Madame Levine, but is dismayed to learn that she’s a fraud. Still, Walter is desperate to find a medium that can help find his sister from the other side. He believes he’s getting closer and closer to the truth, but the Spiritualist Society (whom he works with) doesn’t have that long nor the resources to continue spending on this endeavour.
Naturally, Walter doubles down his efforts and he operates like a man possessed; he’s unwilling to compromise and find a job beyond his part-time bartending gig. Whilst there though, he overhears a couple of men talking about another dimension and immediately perks up.
Walter talks to the man outside who admits that the portal is real. In fact, what’s behind is a forest for lost souls; a sort of limbo area for those who aren’t ready to move on.
Walter wants to find a way to cross over, and he’s eventually given a vial of Liquid Gold, along with a warning not to cause any ripples. When he reawakens, Walter finds himself in a strange ethereal realm where nothing is quite what it seems. Vines wrap hungrily round his wrist and pull him into the forest, where the stumps of trees stick out like tombstones.
Walter follows the sound of singing to a young Epperley, whom he eventually finds. However, the vines grab him and pull him back to the waking world.
Realizing that he has a way of returning to his beloved, Walter doubles down on his research and finds a woman by the name of Keziah Mason, who lived in a place known ominously as “The Witch House.” She was killed for being a witch but believed vehemently that there was a portal allowing you to cross over.
Unfortunately, Walter is banished from his own society after his actions, and told to return “when he’s an honourable man again.”
Well, Walter continues to research this house and its strange goings on, unaware that he’s being stalked by a shadowy figure with glowing eyes. This figure comes to him while he’s suffering from sleep paralysis that night. It’s Keziah, and worse, a rat with a human face shows and retorts how this is the one they’ve been waiting or, someone who will apparently free them from this waking hell.
Walter awakens with a start; there’s no blood on his cheek and everything is as it was in this house. It doesn’t take long for him to take more of this Liquid Gold and allowing himself to return to the forest once more. Walter tries to save his sister, but realizes in pulling her back, Keziah wants to return too. “I will have you,” The witch rasps, and proceeds to kiss Walter hard, trying to keep him within her shadowy embrace. Epperley saves her brother’s life at the last second and the pair hurry away, just in time for them to return to our world.
Walter has left a ripple in the world, and with Epperley back, that also means Keziah has returned too. This is all part of a prophecy – for the dead to remain whole, the living must die. And as Epperley and Walter are twins, that would denote that Walter needs to die for Epperley to return. And the killer? None other than Keziah herself. “The witch will have you dead by sunrise,” The medium says, as Walter is frantic and desperate to keep his sister alive.
The pair race across to a church, where they find sanctuary – and a warning. The Sister there tells him that this may not keep him safe. And of course it doesn’t. Despite Frank arriving too, the Witch begins pounding on the doors, desperate to have Walter. The Sister curses and promptly meets a demise (whether by God’s wrath of the Witch herself, you be the judge!) and the witch sets her sights on Walter. She contorts and controls his body, forcing him out the church.
Just before Keziah kills Walter, Epperley gets involved and moves her hand, forcing her to stab herself in the head. With that, the witch turns to ash and disappears. Epperley also disappears, but she smiles and tells Walter that she’s finally free before vanishing.
Some time later, Frank sits by Walter’s side while he’s bedbound, pointing out how no one will ever know what he’s been through. However, something appears to be stirring in the attic. When Frank heads up, he finds the witch’s remains rotting away.
Frank’s investigation is interrupted by Walter screaming that there’s something inside him, prompting Frank to head back downstairs. In true Alien fashion, the human rat bursts out his chest and rushes away, giggling and cheering. Unfortunately, the witch has won and had her prize; Walter is dead by sunrise.
The rat heads back inside Walter’s body and brings him back to life, in true horror Ratatouille fashion. The rat, now controlling Walter’s body, gets dressed again and heads out into the world, deciding to ride this body for as long as it can.
The Episode Review
Pan’s Labyrinth has always been Guillermo Del Toro’s crowning achievement on film and in many ways, Dreams in the Witch House pays homage to that with a blend of fantasy fairy tales and horror. There’s a nice mix of influences here and the story is simple but effective in conveying that sense of urgency and helplessness.
Ultimately though, Cabinet of Curiosities bows out today’s double bill with a decent chapter, and while it’s far from perfect, there’s certainly enough here to whet the appetite. It also opens things up nicely for the next 2 episodes dropping tomorrow!