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While Masters of Horror Season 1 came and went with it's share of
criticisms, I personally thought it was a clear hit. Sure not every
episode was flat out scary or true horror, but then again most movies
that come out aren't either. And there in lies why the series works.
Some of the top writers of the horror genre combined with the top
directors in the genre to provide a series were each episode had a
unique flare. Sure some episodes were better than others, but that just
how it goes.
Here's my quick thoughts on the series with the episodes ranked as to how I liked them. If looking for a synopsis of each show, look elsewhere.
1. Jennifer - This was Dario Argento at the top of his game and the best thing he's done in years. Steven Weber did an excellent job in the lead role and as the writer of the teleplay. The episode generally creeped me out and it had truly disgusting scenes. The best show of the first season.
2. Cigarette Burns - Most John Carpenter movies provide the view with a slow build of suspense which leads to a final outcome. This episode is no exception. Again one of the better things Carpenter has done in awhile and I love the story concept. The one flaw was the the search for this extremely rare film seemed a bit rushed. Cant help but think this would have made an even better full length film.
3. Deer Woman - A classic example of horror comedy, done only as John Landis can do it. The lead character was great. Almost everything about the episode just clicked.
4. Incident On and Off a Mountain Road - A clever story based off a Joe Lansdale tale, directed by Don Coscarelli. It's great to see a strong female lead and one that may be more twisted than the serial killer she takes on.
5. The Fair Haired Child - A Lovecraftian type story that really surprised me. The creature in this one was incredible. Directed by William Butler and was far better than the few movies his done.
6. The Pick Me Up - The man who bought us ultra campy horror movies in the 70's & 80's, Larry Cohen puts together a solid episode pitting a girl against two deranged serial killers.
7. Haeckel's Tale - Taken from a story from Clive Barker (which is again very Lovecraftian) and directed by John McNaughton. Definitely some very disturbing scenes but a fairly interesting episode none the less.
8. Dance of the Dead - Tobe Hooper directed this episode, and it really a far cry from what he normally does. Very MTV video style. Nice twist.
9. Dreams in the Witch House - Stuart Gordon does HP Lovecraft as only he can. A twisted little story that updates the story for modern times.
10. Sick Girl - An odd tale by Lucky McKee that loaded with dark humor. A nice concept.
11. The Homecoming - Many great horror movies actually have a lot of political subtext. This episode is a flat out slap at the current War in Iraq and the Presidential regime. This one makes you think a bit.
12. Chocolate - I liked the story behind this Mick Garris episode and though it fell apart a little at the end. Overall it's not that bad.
Persistence paid off-- I was eagerly looking forward to this series. I
have been a fan of horror as a genre for most of my adult life. The
genre is so diverse-- ranging from low-brow slasher films to the deeply
disturbing and the sublime. This one episode will shake you for a long
time. It does have a few shocks which will scare you-- even in the
comfort and safety of your own living room. But it also is deeply
intense and disturbing in a sinister and cerebral way. Carpenter is a
great director who, even when lending his talents to more colloquial
fare (such as "Vampires"), still is able to deliver a satisfying film.
This chapter in the series is phenomenal. It would not surprise me if
this is the reason the series is remembered decades from now. A great
horror short film and finally redeems the series and makes its premise
true: Carpenter is a master of horror.
Watch this episode. In my area it is available "on demand."
When I saw "Cigarette Burns" it felt as though I was watching a great
horror feature film.
This was definitely the best "Masters of Horror" episode. Just when I thought John Carpenter had "lost his eye" for the genre. This one is a classic.
I was totally creep-ed out by this one. The story was very involving and Udo Kier was fantastic as usual.
Thanks to Showtime for keeping this series going. I hope that it continues on with new episodes later this year. They've done a great job in getting the best horror directors and writers for the series.
I really recommend this series for all horror fans who are tired of the new ghost films era, this is old school baby!!!! blood , violence , interesting plots and an excellent camera work in the two episodes i have seen. I was really glad that we can enjoy new works from this old masters... for all of you who enjoyed re-animator, Friday the 13, Texas chainsaw (the old one), Halloween, etc etc... But remember, this is old school , so if your kind of horror is the ring and stuff like that, try ghost whisperer or medium. I cant wait to see the works of Carpenter, Argento and Miike , their are my favorite ones. Mckee too, cause May is one of my favorite films.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've just come back from the Torino Film Festival, and was thus able to
check out a few episodes that have yet to be screened in the U.S. I
thought I'd write down a few quick notes just to highlight the treats
that are up for Showtime viewers.
I was able to see - projected on a big screen in HD - the episodes directed by Landis, Dante, Argento, Hooper, Garris and Coscarelli. And the first thing to say is each one of them would deserve an individual spot here on IMDb. Although it kinda makes sense to review the pilot of most TV series, on this particular one that is a big mistake: the whole point of this format, created by Mick Garris out of a series of friendly dinners with fellow horror directors, is there's no conceptual format. Yes, each episode is a horror, and yes, each episode is about 1-hour. But that's as far as the format goes: each episode is distinctly personal, and only reflects the style of its author-director. Judging the series as a whole is therefore pointless.
That said, all the episodes I've seen are really worth watching and much above average television. You've already been able to see Hooper's disturbing "Dance of the Dead" segment, Coscarelli's fast-paced "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" and Argento's sickeningly sexy "Jenifer", of course. Be sure not to miss Landis', Garris' and especially Dante's episodes when they air.
John Landis's "Deer Woman" is a radical development of the whole premise behind such a classic as "An American Werewolf in London". The idea on that film was giving the werewolf myth a realistic, almost everyday spin to make it scary again in spite of tons of bad werewolf movies. "Deer Woman" does the same, only the premise is even more outrageous, because the monster is something you're unlikely to having heard about before: a creature half woman and half deer which seduces men and then kicks and tramples them to death. With such a ridiculous premise, you'd never believe a filmmaker could produce the smallest shiver in any average viewer. The fact that "Deer Woman" does, without relying on any established movie myth, is a tribute to Landis' (John, but also his son Max, who wrote the screenplay) deep knowledge of how horror movies work. Without even the slightest hint of parody, this film is funny *and* scary and a triumph of what is called suspension of disbelief. Great performances by former "Dream On" star Brian Benben and heart-stopping newcomer Cinthia Moura.
Mick Garris's "Chocolate" is based on a "Twilight Zone" like premise: a guy suddenly starts sharing a stranger woman's senses - it all starts with sounds, and then it becomes images and event tactile feelings. This lures him into an obsession which is very similar to love but also has a strong potential for tragedy. Kind of an ultimate "amour fou", this is quite a bizarre, yet moving, love story that you'll find both involving and desperate.
Joe Dante's segment was acclaimed by thunderous applause at the festival, and it is the most overtly political. I wish someone would dare doing a similar film on our (Italian) administration: "Homecoming" deals openly with how Iraqi war was based on the blatant lie of Mass Destruction Weapons that were found not to exist, and has dead marines coming back from their graves as zombies to let the Bush administration know what they think of its lies. The President is actually never mentioned in person: but the clues are so crystal-clear one couldn't miss even if he tried hard. Witty and bitterly cynical, this is a film a Billy Wilder might have made if he was interested in horror. It should be a must-see for anyone who's voted for the current administration - and also for anyone who thinks horror cannot deal with important issues.
I am dying to see the next episodes.
(update of april 26th, 2006)
At last I was able to see "Imprint", the 13th episode in this 12 episode series, and the one that was deemed too gruesome to actually be aired on US television. It was screened, however, in the UK (albeit with some cuts, or so they say) and on a big screen at the Italian "Far East Film Festival" - which makes sense since it's directed by Takashi Miike. You can't help but admire this man's portentous energy: he keeps cranking out movie after movie after movie, and he does so without giving any impression of fatigue, or of cutting corners. True, "Imprint" does have a couple of very long, static, takes that effortlessly beef up the final footage: but they work that way, and contribute notably to the result. In spite of some dialog that sounds annoyingly literate (and it's mostly over-acted, which does not help) this episode is strong on atmosphere since its very beginning, with the main character being carried on a heavily charged boat on eerie waters. Not all of the story makes a lot of sense, but neither does expecting logic from a horror film. This one has a typically Miikian torture scene which is sure to make anyone cringe (it involves, just so you know what you'll have to endure as a watcher, suspension bondage and needles under fingernails and gums), and a freak-happy ending that is quite disturbing, in a silly kind of way. I saw a version that allegedly was slightly cut, but - surprisingly - was a little longer than the average MoH episode, running up to a little more than 1h.
When I learned of this series, I was thrilled. I'm a big follower of
some of the directors involved, such as Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter or
Dario Argento, and the idea that they would be given freedom and
resources to direct one-hour self-contained horror stories made me
shiver with anticipation.
The results, however, are a mixed bag. Don't take me wrong, most of the directors involved seem to be in good shape, and the stories have potential, but the writing and the acting are, with some notable exceptions, just by the numbers.
Anyway, if you like horror you won't mind spending a few hours with the lesser episodes. They're still above average, and the series has enough hidden gems to keep you wanting more.
My favorite episodes were, in no particular order: "Incident on and off a road mountain" (Don Coscarelli), "Cigarette Burns" (John Carpenter), "Deer Woman" (John Landis)and "Sick Girl", directed by Lucky McKee.
I just heard the series has been renewed for another season. All I can say is that I will keep watching it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Unless you've been living under a rock, or working the third shift at
your job, you know by now that Showtime's provocative series MASTERS OF
HORROR is the brainchild of creator/writer/producer/director Mick
Garris (STORM OF THE CENTURY, THE SHINING, THE STAND). Known as one of
the better adapters of Stephen King material, Garris conceived the idea
by way of a series of bi-monthly dinners he attended with some close
friends and colleagues, who also happened to be many of the famous (or
infamous) horror/fantasy directors who make significant contributions
to the series. Made mostly in Vancouver on ten-day shooting schedules
with limited budgets, each director tackles a particular piece of
material in the style they are most famous for with horror and fantasy
I can only base my reviews on the installments I have seen, so here's my take on each one, not necessarily in order of broadcast:
INCIDENT ON AND OFF A MOUNTAIN ROAD. Directed by Don Coscarelli (PHANTASM); written by Coscarelli and Stephen Romano, based on the story by Joe Lansdale; starring Bree Turner, Ethan Embry, Angus Scrimm and John de Santis as 'Moonface.' Given that it has an interesting premise, (victim of spousal abuse by a psycho-survivalist matches wits with a deranged serial killer), I've heard that this wasn't one of Joe's best, and with the hit-and-miss style in which Coscarelli seems to have shot it, I would tend to agree. It's good to see the likable Embry playing an absolute bastard, and Ms. Turner is great in the classic Marilyn Burns-style heroine role. Yet much like the hit TV series LOST, the flashbacks (between the two of them) are much more engaging than the main focus of the story, which is all about Turner's struggle to survive in the killer's lair. And as fun as it is to see Angus Scrimm reunited with his old PHANTASM buddy, his presence is criminally wasted here. Good action sequences (no surprise there) and helped by Coscarelli's strong visual sense, but it's mostly worth ** out of four stars.
DANCE OF THE DEAD. Directed by Tobe Hooper ('SALEM'S LOT); written by Richard Christian Matheson, based on Richard Matheson's short story; starring Jonathan Tucker and Robert Englund as the MC. Tobe does what he's best at: innocence lost meets evil and depravity incarnate and triumphs...or makes said moral and spiritual compromise in order TO triumph. In a post-apocalyptic, plague-ridden world that makes any place Mad Max has been seem like Club Med, patrons of a club where Goth-meets-grunge in the Ninth Circle of Hell, are entertained by the chemically-fueled gyrations of briefly reanimated corpses as the main spectator sport. In the midst of this unholy mess is the story of a sweet, innocent young thang who meets a bad biker boy, (the monumentally talented Tucker), in a 'Romeo-and-Juliet'-esque tale with a very dark twist, which puts a whole new spin on the concept of 'family values'. As the MC of the "Dead Can Dance" dive which is the story's central focus, Englund gets the tour-de-force performance, natch, doing what he does best. In this case, he might even be a little more unsettling than the alter-ego he's best known for, Freddy Krueger. Filmed in a jittery, dreamlike style that merges experimental art film with rapid-fire MTV editing, (think E. Elias Merhige meets the Brothers Quay), it's a whole different style for the CHAINSAW MASSACRE director. For me, this had a better, more "Twilight Zone"-ish ending than INCIDENT, so some may find it more accessible, if not as grounded in realism as Hooper's earlier work. This gets **1/2 out of four.
JENIFER. Directed by Dario Argento (SUSPIRIA); written by Steven Weber, based on the original graphic story by Bruce Jones and Berni Wrightson; starring Steven Weber, Beau Starr and introducing Carrie Anne Fleming as JENIFER. The master of Italian gialli, Dario Argento, works his macabre magic with almost surgical skill with this one, bringing to life a tale so twisted that it sears itself into your memory with the same intensity as the original story upon which it's based. Writer/actor Steven Weber, (so good in Mick Garris' reworked version of THE SHINING) stars as world-weary cop Frank Spivey, whose life and sanity are destroyed by a fateful encounter with a young girl. Frank interrupts what appears to be a murder-in-progress: a crazed maniac wielding a meat cleaver over a bound, helplessly cowering figure. But even after Frank fatally shoots the man and frees the girl, all is not what it seems. Frank has just met "Jenifer," which is the only word the dying man can utter with his last breath. Jenifer is a mute, graced with a body that would shame the Venus de Milo. But the problem with her speech is horrifyingly clear, as the poor girl also has a unnaturally deformed face that would stop a clock...especially if that clock is BIG BEN. Confused by his simultaneous feelings of repulsion and sympathy, Frank takes the girl into his house, once he discovers that she is homeless. But at the core of his compassion, which his wife and son understandably don't share at all, is something compelling, disturbing and powerful that he can't deny, explain or resist...He has fallen under Jenifer's insidious spell, and as she systematically destroys his will, his sanity and finally his life, he discovers that she is one siren/succubus whose appetite for the flesh is not limited merely to rounds of mind-blowing sex, in horrifically erotic sequences that will make you cringe and yet leave you unable to avert your eyes at what's on-screen...Weber does some of his best acting ever as Frank makes the constantly shifting transitions from sympathy, to lust, to revulsion, to self-loathing, to outrage and back again. *** out of 4. (To Be Continued.)
I just recently watched three episodes (I still haven't seen "jenifer"
unfortunately) but I thought I would share my thoughts about the series
like everyone else posted here. Big fan of most of these directors so i
was really anticipating this show (can't wait for Dante's and
"Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" was an interesting take on the whole victim\victimizer story that turns the clichéd format on its' head by delving into some pretty heavy stuff concerning violence and its' traumatic affects on its' victims. Liked the subtle moments suggesting early into the episode that Ethan Embry's character is a racist tyrant psychopath. Well made. I give it an A.
"Dreams in The Witch House" is so both unsettling and amusing (that rat kills me). I always love how Lovecraft can make you question what we see as reality as opposed to the real unexplainable horror that exists everyday on this planet and how if things like this really happened, no one would believe you no matter the evidence. I guess the truth can be too horrible which lies at the center of this story. I don't think I have anything but high praise for this one. Another first rate adaptation by Stuart Gordon with some great performances. A+.
"Dance of the Dead", from what I read here, is the most divided among the fans but I think it's pure Hooper: Sick, Outrageous, and off the map. What always strikes me about Hooper's work is that for better or worse he always seems to be careening out of control which can be satisfying to horror fans (for his fearlessness to just go for it) or for a lot of people, grating. I did think that motion cam thing was a bit overused but other than that I was really impressed with this one. Although Englund has been good in other Hooper offerings, I would say this is the best of their collaborations overall. Some really funny and horrible things in here as well as an amusing commentary on our preoccupation with sex, drugs and "enteratinment" (we all kept watching didn't we?). Those dances on stage reminded me of Bumfights or boxing or any other form of twisted spectacle people can't get enough of. My kind of horror. B+.
"Jenifer" is reportedly based on a graphic novel by bruce jones and bernie wrightson. It tells the story of a Cop's obsession for a demonic woman with one messed up face. The actress is hot and there is a fair amount of T& A in this episode as well as one pretty twisted castration sequence. Like "Jenifer's" face this one's pretty messed up. B
"Chocolate" is so far the least satisfying in my opinion, chronicling a lonely, recently divorced man (Henry Thomas, who's pretty good in this), suddenly sharing the same experiences of a woman he's never met. Intriguing premise, some amusing bits but ultimately unsatisfying. The concept never seems to fully generate into anything mindblowing or eerie. It all just kind of seems bland. C
I like what I've seen here. I guess it helps if you're a fan of horror and these filmmakers. I myself have never been that blown away by the types of Horror pictures that just feature stuff jumping out at you. I'm much more interested in seeing original works that go a little deeper into the really sick and horrible facts of life.
A friend of mine bought vol 1 of season one and I thought: Hmm, maybe this is something like modern Tales From The Crypt or maybe a modern version of Tales From The Darkside so I decided to see one episode, which was Cigarette Burns. Before I borrowed it, my friend said it contained scenes of extreme gore so I thought it would be another ordinary splatter, but I was so wrong. It turned out to be the scariest thing I have ever seen... The violent and gory scenes weren't scary, but the small clips from the movie: "La Fin Absolude de Monde" scared me to death. I can honestly tell you that Cigarette Burns is John Carpenters finest work.
As a whole the TV series of wonderful and I hope they continue. It is
rather refreshing to see films like these. Most often in the film
industry, ESPECIALLY with horror films, directors must do certain
things and follow unwritten rules if they want their full length film
to be big budget and to become a feature film that airs in theaters.
With this show, it gives some of the best horror directors of all time the change to really show what they can do. There are absolutely no limitations on which stories are being told. The director has complete control over his creation with out having to follow in rules that big feature films do. And with the exception of a few rules put on by Showtime, they also have freedom over how they tell the story too.
But this is both a blessing and a curse as it makes the movies either hit or miss. There is no middle ground. The episode is either great of it is horrible. And this is solely do to directors' choices.
For example, John Carpenter and Dario Argento have wonderfully horrific and captivating episodes. They tell the short story magnificently and create true horror master pieces. Yet John Landis' contributions can't make the par. He doesn't use his time wisely for the one hour that he is given and as a result his contributions are predictable and slightly cliché. And finally, Mick Garris has hit both sides. His film, Chocolate, from season one was just awful. Slow moving, dull, and predictable. But his episode from Season 2, Valerie on the Stairs, his terrific. Suspense, unpredictable ending, and very will filmed.
As a whole though, this series has been wonderful and contains from beautiful gems of horror films that just never could have done as well if stretched beyond an hour or done as well if tried to turn into a big budget, profit earning film.
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