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"Masters of Horror" The Damned Thing (2006)

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16 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Damned by the Writing

Author: bopsichord from Ireland
27 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As someone with a lot of time for Hooper, and as a fan of Ambrose Bierce, I was excited at the prospect of a Hooper directed adaptation of Bierce's story, "The Damned Thing" (a kind of American version of Guy de Maupassant's "The Horla"). The original story, though chilling, was a short and simple piece, so some broadening of the tale was always going to be necessary. Unfortunately this proves the undoing of the episode.

Inasmuch as he draws nothing but a one-note performance from Flanery and an inappropriately over-the-top one from Raimi, Hooper must share some of the blame for the failure of the piece. However, he achieves a sense of dread at the start that he doesn't let disperse. His hinting at greater terrors, also hearkens back to his "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" days, and overall I saw more to celebrate than criticise in his direction. The main flaw lies in Matheson's screenplay.

From a subtext point of view, Matheson is good. Tying the damned thing to oil exploration and so to the basis of American wealth and prosperity is clever, linking the evil of society to its very mainspring. However, his charting of the disintegration of Cloverdale leaves far too much to the imagination. One day there is bad weather and restlessness, the next it's the end of the world. There is too much of Flanery moping around with his whiskey, instead of small vignettes of growing madness (such as the hammer suicide).

Sheriff Reddle, for all his centrality in the story, is a truly wasted character, serving very little purpose. For instance for all his paranoia and remembrance of things past, he fails to respond when his wife uses practically the same warning phrases that his mother once used. Instead of preparing for the coming storm and protecting town and family, it seems his sole function is as catalyst for the unfolding of the exposition; a journalist tells him his family history; a doctor tells him about deaths; old newspapers tell him about the original oil drillings (adding very little to what we've learnt already); and at the outset he is the child who witnesses an earlier manifestation. All these things come to him, he himself doing very little. Then to sabotage what psychological realism there was, we have this apparently socially conscientious sheriff abandon the town to carnage while he drives his family home. Even if one charitably sees him as being possessed at this point, it's a pretty stupid course of action.

As I wrote, the original story was slender to begin with. However, this simplicity opened it out to all sorts of interpretation. This adaptation is strongest when it seizes on this ambiguity to make a reasonably clear ideological point. Ironically it is the telling itself that proves to be confused. Next time Matheson should keep it simple.

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22 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

Damned is right!

Author: preppy-3 from United States
11 November 2006

Sean Patrick Flanery plays the sheriff in a small town. As a child he saw his father kill his mother and then be killed by a thing (never shown). He grows up in total fear of that thing coming back for him. It destroys his marriage...and then it seems it's come back for him...

That may sound sort of vague but you should see the movie! Good acting by everybody (especially Flanery) can not save this confusing, pointless tale. At the end a slew of impressive special effects are shoved in the audiences face...but it doesn't make any sense about what exactly is going on. Director Tobe Hooper has done worse but he's certainly done better. The only part that got to me is when we see a man attacking himself with a hammer! Confusing and dull.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Oil's Well That Does not End Well

Author: BaronBl00d ( from NC
6 November 2010

This episode of Masters of Horror has some excellent aspects and some rather dubious ones as well. Now, I am not one of those Hooper haters. I actually think much of his work - mostly early am afraid - is quite good - and some even amazing. He definitely has talent. But this episode's faults are mostly with the script not the direction. Hooper got me interested early and the performances were all very adequate - some a bit over-the-top undoubtedly. The story concerns a man who as a child witnessed some inexplicable force taking over his father and "making" him execute the boy's mother and try to kill the boy. Thirty Years later the force rises again and haunts the boy and the town - as we discover that the force not only had changed the boy's father but also caused the townsfolk to go mad and on a killing spree. Well, things go fairly fluidly until the last fifteen minutes or so where all hell breaks looses both figuratively and literally. I like the way Hooper shot the scenes, but the story dissolves really at the end into one big "What just happened?".Sean Patrick Flannery does a good job in the lead and Sam Raimi's brother Ted gives an overblown yet fun performance as a local priest. Although Hooper shows he still has touches, he needs to find better material to work his craft with.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Could have been fleshed out into a decent feature.

Author: filmbforever from Australia
2 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I enjoyed this MOH episode (although it was not the season opener in Oz). I believe the whole oil / Texas / Iraq / madness embodied by a demon connection could have made a good horror feature - not for the obvious reasons but for what made this episode so watchable. That is, the people who are responsible and those who subsequently benefit are held accountable - fair or not. Good to see Tobe Hooper plugging away as I always like his work (Dance of the Dead on MOH season one was excellent). Hooper appears to be much more an actor's director than a "horror guy". See his fantastic Salem's Lot miniseries and you will get the picture. Cheers!

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12 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Some Damned Thing Haunts Texas Hicksville

Author: Bensch
31 July 2007

Based on a short story by the great Ambrose Bierce, Tobe Hooper's second contribution to the "Masters Of Horror" series, "The Damned Thing", is more solid and quite a bit better than Hooper's first episode, "Dance Of The Dead", but it is still far away from being one of the great episodes of this overall brilliant series. Tobe Hooper more than deserves the title as a 'Master Of Horror' for his 1974 masterpiece "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" alone, but his contributions to the MoH series are not quite as masterly as one could have hoped for. Still, although being one of the lesser episodes of the series, "The Damned Thing" has its qualities. Some good characters, a certain atmosphere and a storyline that is not nearly as messy as it was the case in "Dance Of The Dead" make the episode well worth watching.

In 1981, young Kevin Reddle has to experience his parents die a bloody death, after his father has been driven insane by a mysterious force in their little Texas hometown. 25 years later Kevin (Sean Patrick Flanery), who has a family himself now, has become sheriff of the little town, and is understandably still a bit paranoid due to the horrible incident in his childhood...

As stated above "The Damned Thing" is certainly not one of the best episodes of the great "Masters Of Horror" series, but it has its very eerie moments and delivers a certain amount of suspense. There are also some fun characters, such as the town's rather strange clergyman, Father Tulli played by Ted Raimi (Mr. 'Evil Dead' Sam Raimi's brother), or the naive Deputy, who plans to get famous with a cartoon character he keeps drawing. Some scenes have a great sense of black humor too, and the episode has its own atmosphere, but then, that's about it. The performances are OK, but not breathtaking and I've certainly seen great acting in some of the other MoH episodes. All things considered, "The Damned Thing" is an acceptable episode that will not leave people bored, but I would certainly recommend most of the other episodes over this. 6/10

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Damned good thing.

Author: Scunner from Edinburgh
2 November 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

First off this has little to do with Bierce's excellent short story other than *mild spoiler* an invisible monster, however this doesn't detract from a superbly crafted bit of horror far superior to anything from the first season, other than perhaps John Carpenters 'Cigarette burns'.

Hooper, not known for his subtlety, while still churning out a moderate amount of gore manages with this to gradually (after the prologue) build a growing sense of horror altogether in the tradition of Bierce or Lovecraft before reaching a conclusion which I found not only made perfect sense but left me with a broad grin as he credits suddenly rolled.

Given the time constraints this was a wonderful effort.

Absolutely recommended.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad story

Author: trashgang from Midian
6 June 2013

The Damned Thing is the opener of season two of Masters Of Horrors. And let it be Tobe Hooper who directs. Two good things but once this episode was over I only could conclude that Tobe has lost it years ago and that CGI doesn't always work.

Although we do have a few nice gruesome scene's it just doesn't work because the story itself is a bit of a laughter. I don't have any problems with the underworld or the supernatural, I could even stand a Mummy made by sand but here a demon made by oil was a bit too laughable.

It starts rather strong with young Kevin seeing his father going berserk and killing his mother. Kevin runs away but the father is after him only to shoot him but when Kevin hides in a tree his father is disemboweled by an unseen thing. That part was rather good and on the edge of pure gore but then we move 24 years further with a grown up Kevin (Sean Patrick Flannery). From there on the story falls into a lot of talking but still we do have a few nice scene's like a woman with no legs in a car accident and one guy going bonkers with a hammer on himself. But how further you watch The Damned Thing how deeper it sinks story wise.

It's again the effects that really saves this done by Berger and Nicotero. Maybe I shouldn't blame Tobe for the bad script but I can blame him for the use of CGI at the end.

For the opener of season two it already shows that season one was magnificent and that it isn't that easy to follow up such a series, but of course there are exceptions in season two. But this one, it was indeed a damned thing.

Gore 1,5/5 Nudity 0/5 Effects 3/5 Story 2/5 Comedy 0/5

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A Bubblin' Crude Excuse for Horror

Author: Jonny_Numb from Hellfudge, Pennsylvania
8 September 2008

As is the case with most second-season "Masters of Horror" episodes, 'The Damned Thing' is simply a downgrade in all departments: a poorly structured, generally ineffective tale suffering from a muddled plot, one-dimensional characters, and effects that come off as absurd in their own exaggeration (the ep opens with an overblown disembowelment and only gets sillier from there). The actors are done no favors by Richard Christian Matheson's script (a loose adaptation of an obscure story by Ambrose Bierce), which stitches together disparate moments of somber exposition and hyperactive bloodletting in a story that never really comes together: in 1981, Kevin Reddle witnessed his father go on a rampage, murdering his mother in cold blood on his birthday; 24 years later (and now a lawman played by Sean Patrick Flanery), a vague, possessive evil rises up to transform the residents of his sleepy Texas town into bloodthirsty maniacs. While Matheson seems to be making a social comment on man's reliance on fossil fuel turning civil society to pandemonium (echoes of Katrina and the Iraq quagmire), his method couldn't be less subtle. Also problematic is Flanery's portrayal of Reddle--mumble-mouthed and listless, his performance borders on sleepwalking, and a cliché-ridden voice-over does nothing to help us sympathize with him (especially when he unconvincingly heads into Jack Nicholson territory in the last reel). With so much working against 'The Damned Thing' my middle-ground rating comes from Hooper's direction: while 'Dance of the Dead' (his season one entry) combined the horrific and sleazy with pathos and social insight, the director weaved it into a dazzling barrage of nightmarish imagery through his spastic technique; similarly, 'The Damned Thing' shows him operating well within his limited resources--even if the other elements aren't up to snuff, Hooper knows when to shake the camera, and when to keep it perfectly still. But that alone really isn't enough to warrant repeat viewings.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Magic Touch

Author: kosmasp
22 June 2010

Many argue that if Tobe Hooper ever had any magic touch going for him, he lost it. Some also argue, that even Poltergeist was mostly directed by the producer of the movie (Mr. Spielberg that is) and therefor Mr. Hooper never had "it". Whatever you think of him, he at least created some fine visuals for this episode.

And Mr. Flanery tries his best to convince us and get us into the story. A predictable one and also (and unfortunately) a very lame/tame one. While Style over substance is mostly used to describe something as negative, I think the style here adds quite a few point to the whole thing. At least, that's how I felt about it. I know, that most people are or will be disappointed by it.

One thing is for sure: As this is a Masters of Horror episode, this means, you don't have to watch a 90 minute movie. It's not even an hour long. If you are willing to spend that much time on this, try to enjoy it as much as possible ... if not for the story, then at least for the gore and visuals on hand

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8 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Great Story and All, But Lacking Something Crucial

Author: gavin6942 from United States
11 January 2007

A young boy named Kevin Reddle sees his father go berserk and kill his mother and is then mauled and disemboweled himself. Years later, Kevin is the town sheriff and when similar incidents start happening around town, he must piece together the mystery before the evil consumes the town.

Like season one's "Dance of the Dead" this is a story directed by Tobe Hooper and written by Richard Christian Matheson, adapted from a classic horror story (though this time from Ambrose Bierce rather than from Matheson's father). And also like season one, it is the least critically acclaimed episode in the season.

I haven't read the Bierce story, but the elements here should be familiar: a town consumed by evil, an evil that returns every 24 years (not unlike Stephen King's 30 years from "It") and a son who must deal with his father's legacy. Some variations from other stories you may have seen, but the general idea remains unchanged. Even Sean Patrick Flannery (Kevin Reddle) reminds me of Nathan Fillion from "Slither" in his sheriff uniform.

Where this episode shines is in the gore. While perhaps not as gory as "Jenifer", we have a man who smashes his own face with a hammer, a car accident victim with no legs and a man get visibly disemboweled before our eyes (not unlike what happened to Judas Iscariot probably).

The acting is also decent. Flannery is respectable, the local reporter is well-casted, and Marisa Coughlan makes for a good female lead. (Viewers will recognize Coughlan as the female lead from either "Super Troopers" or "Freddy Got Fingered" -- this film is not as funny as either of them.) Really standing out is Ted Raimi as Father Tulli, in one of his bigger roles (and a much better one than in "Skinner" with Ricki Lake).

Where the film fails, though, is the lack of a plot. In the first ten or fifteen minutes I thought I was watching a great film, but it fell deeper and deeper down the ranks as it went. By no means will I give away the ending, but I think it will leave you about as unsatisfied as you can possibly be. It is the only ending of a "Masters of Horror" episode I have really despised.

I cannot say you need to watch this film. I would be hard pressed to say it is better or worse than "The Fair-Haired Child" or "Pick Me Up" (my two least favorites), but I can say this: Tobe Hooper is proving to the world over and over again that whatever magic he had, he lost a long time ago.

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