Masters of Horror (TV, 2007)
A review of the DVD release of Masters of Horror, Season 2, vol.1, from
Death Ray 07.
Show: FOUR STARS
Extras: FOUR STARS
Created by: Mick Garris
Seven tales of terror from the genre’s best directors
Horror’s difficult. We’re all so cynical that a lot of this bloody genre comes across as silly, and is often knowingly played for laughs. Thanks then, for this series of one hour films which, though there’s the odd duff one, is a generally solid anthology of fun with more than the occasional fright.
With a plethora of big(ish) names on the acting, writing and directing fronts, Masters of Horror should be a horror fan’s dream, and it mostly is. It’s all obviously shot in Canada (there’s no disguising the light or the accents), but there’s real money and some neat ideas here, though annoyingly what twists there are mostly blown wide open for the hard of thinking.
Love it or hate it, gorehounds have at least had something worthwhile to talk about with this series, and if you enjoy chills a la The Twilight Zone you could do worse than check it out. There’s plenty of nudity, by the by, so watch it/ avoid it depending on how you feel about such things.
Diversity is the key to the survival of everything from business portfolios to snails, and diversity is this series’ greatest strength. There’s such a mix of style, content and tone that it’s hard to get bored. We’ve everything from devil babies to serial killers in this set, as you will see.
Extras: Each film has its own menu and extras. Too many to list here, they’re mostly informative peeks behind the scenes, interviews, commentaries and more.
Broadcast number: 2
Director: John Landis
Writer: Brent Hanley
Starring: George Wendt, Meredith Munroe, Matt Keeslar
George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) plays Harold, a lonely psychopath who’s made a grisly skeletal family out of the remains of his victims – the flesh of which he dissolves with acid. When new neighbours move in, he longs to add Celia (Meredith Monroe) to his bony tribe. But is she too much to handle? A quirky gospel soundtrack accompanies a tale that combines laughs with the horror.
TWO AND A HALF STARS
Broadcast number: 5
Director: John Carpenter
Writers: Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan
Starring: Ron Perlman, Mark Feuerstein, Emmanuelle Vaugier
Ron Perlman’s a Christian fundamentalist who has been harassing an abortion clinic. When his pregnant daughter takes refuge there, he seeks revenge. But his daughter is carrying no mortal child. Confused story of two parts that don’t quite match. Even a disturbing demon baby doesn’t save it.
Broadcast number: 6
Director: Dario Argento
Writer: Matt Venne
Starring: Meat Loaf, John Saxon, Ellen Ewusie
Ludicrous tale from F . Paul Wilson’s short story of magical racoons cursing lecherous furrier Meat Loaf and the object of his affections, sapphic stripper Shana (Ewusie). The cast is good, but it’s not helped by Euro-hack Argento’s inexhaustible fascination with tits. As a plus, you do find that Meat Loaf will in fact do anything for love.
The Screwfly Solution
Broadcast number: 7
Director: Joe Dante
Writer: Sam Hamm
Starring: Jason Priestley, Kerry Norton, Elliott Gould
Excellent adaptation of James Tiptree Jr.’s short story concerning a mysterious virus that is turning the male population into misogynistic psychopaths, and one woman’s fight to survive. A hard SF concept whose premise is almost irredeemably ruined by it being SPELT OUT VERY CAREFULLY for idiots, right away. Skip the first 90 seconds and it’s grand.
Valerie on the Stairs
THREE AND A HALF STARS
Broadcast number: 8
Director: Mick Garris
Writer: Mick Garris, Clive Barker
Starring: Tyron Leitso, Nicola Lipman, Jonathan Watton, Christopher Lloyd.
Specially written for the series by Barker, there’s not quite enough material to fill up an hour in this story of a struggling writer, a ghostly, beautiful woman and a demon (Tony Todd on form, with a rubber head). The ending’s obvious, but it’s worth watching if just for Lloyd’s excellent performance.
The Right to Die
FOUR AND A HALF STARS
Broadcast number: 9
Director: Rob Schmidt
Writer: John Esposito
Starring: Martin Donovan, Julia Anderson, Robin Sydney
Dodgy dentist Cliff Addison (Donovan) has been having an affair. When his wife is horribly burned in a car crash, he wrestles with the dilemma of turning off her life support. But he’s not as blameless as he seems, and his wife comes back to haunt him. The “Ick” dials are turned to 11 for this, and it’s creepy too. The best in the set.
The Black Cat
Broadcast number: 11
Director: Stuart Gordon
Writer: Dennis Paoli and Stuart Gordon
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Elyse Levesque
Beautifully shot reworking of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic that puts the author at the centre of the action. Combs is great as a drunken and deranged Poe, reeling across the screen and roaring poetically in a manner that stays just the right side of pantomime. It’s all a dream, but in this case neither telling you that nor its actuality matters.
Did you know?
James Tiptree Jr, who wrote ‘The Screwfly Solution’, was the pseudonym of Alice Sheldon. Sadly she felt compelled to use a male name in order to be accepted as an SF author.