A Bloody Good Time 06.14.12: A Look At Masters Of Horror
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.
Last week we looked at the worst episodes of The X-Files. Let’s check out the feedback.
Drew said: I don’t remember the name of it, but I remember one episode that was entirely black and white and ended with some twoface creature at a Cher concert. I just remember Mulder and the creature watchin Cher and just thinking “No…fucking no”. I also recal a Were-Wolf episode that was just a generic lycan story, which given the show’s creativy was a major step down. The only other one that comes to mind is that one whee the guy smokes cigeretes that causes bugs to grow in lungs, the reason why the cigs are created are and other stuff was just…eh.
The episodes you’re thinking of are The Post-Modern Prometheus, Shapes and Brand X, respectively.
Guest#3803 asked: Can you do a top 10 episodes for Tales from the Crypt anytime soon?
I sort of did! I have a retrospective of the show way back when and listed my favorites. You can check that out here.
Scott B replied: Jose Chung’s From Outer Space. This and 4 other horrid episodes were written by hack Darrin Morgan. His horrid writing on Jose Chung left such a mark on me that when I watched the episode “Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me” on Millennium, I said “Is this a Darrin Morgan episode, it sucks!” Notice that no one else wants him to write for them? Chris Carter gave him work on 5 X-Files episodes and 2 Millennium episodes. It took him 12 years to get writing work again, and they gave him 2 episodes of “Tower Prep” and apparently realized the mistake they made.
I think you’ll find you’re in the minority on that one, as the general consensus is that it’s a great comedy episode.
Jim said: I can’t remember the title, but the episode where Scully and Mulder are on a ship stuck off the coast of Norway, and the fresh water supply is aging them is painful – there’s very little lighting in the episode, and what we do see are scully and mulder with terrible make up. It’s a chore to watch.
You’re thinking of Dod Kalm, I believe. Early episodes have hit or miss special effects, so I tend to be more forgiving in that department. The lighting was bad intentionally, because otherwise you would see more of the not great makeup effects.
Guest#5285 complained: Why not tell the truth. The entire series tied for #1 worst tv show in history. With the original star trek coming in a close second.
I’m mostly just throwing this comment up for posterity. If you think either the X Files or Star Trek are the worst shows in history, you either a)don’t watch much TV or b) are 12.
Guest #2335 added: top 10 worst episodes of the x-file…Any and every episode where Robert Patrick is Scullys partner
Nuts to that. I loved Agent Doggett and “Via Negativa” is one of my favorite episodes of the entire run.
Aprince66 asked: I never watched X-files when it aired, but last year tried watching it on Netflix. I put aside my preconceived notions about it being dated, early/mid 90′s dont quit have the retro/nostalgic feel of 80′s and 70′s (which I love), but man, I found season 1 and parts of 2 boring. Does it get better? I just couldnt get into it, and went back to watching Supernatural.
Seasons 1 and 2 have some of the better episodes, but there are quite a few that are a chore to get through. Season one in particular is when the show was just finding its legs. It does get better, but if you’re not that invested in the characters yet you may find it harder to continue.
Billy seemed angry when he said: Okay, so the X-Files had quite a few lame episodes, guess what, all great shows with stand alone episodes have that problem. Buffy and Supernatural had some crap episodes as well.
Hey man, calm down! I’ve already said that The X-Files is one of my favorite TV shows! That makes the bad even more frustrating as a fan.
Okay, time to go on to this week. You know what show I liked? Masters of Horror.
(That’s totally Michael Myers at the end of that intro, by the way.)
It’s a great concept. Get 12 or 13 directors from the world of horror together, let them make their own short films for a horror anthology series. Put it on Showtime so you can get away with anything and everyone has freedom to do what they want. Unfortunately, the series only ran for two seasons before getting moved to NBC and become the far, far worse Fear Itself. But it was fun while it lasted and produced some memorable episodes from some of the best directors working in the genre.
The show was created by Mick Garris, perhaps one of the only things he’s done that I liked (it’s this and The Stand). He brought in names like Dario Argento, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Takashi Miike, and John Landis. Quite a number of horror heavyweights in those six names alone, and that’s only the surface. I’ve long held the opinion that horror anthology needs to make a comeback in a big way. I don’t think I’ve seen a theatrical anthology release in over a decade (but Chillerama made some waves on the indie scene) and outside of a scant number of shows, you don’t see it on TV at all.
It’s sad to think about, but a show like The Twilight Zone may not have lasted an entire season if it were on today. While I’m a huge fan of serialized drama, there is also a place for stand-alone stories told on a week-to-week basis. If you don’t like one episode, tune in next week because there’s a completely different creative team involved! It seems like a no-brainer, but instead of telling stories, we get more reality TV and music competition shows. If that’s you’re thing, fine, but you’re ruining it for the rest of us.
I’m going to stop ranting now because we’ve got a lot to talk about.
Masters of Horror began in 2005, and ran for only two years. Its first season was probably the best of the show, but that’s only my opinion. It premiered a new episode every Friday and ran for thirteen episodes a season. There were some good episodes, and some not so good episodes. Let’s look at season one first.
-Incident On and Off a Mountain Road: The first episode of the series was written and directed by Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep) and even stars The Tall Man himself, looking a little older obviously. A woman is traveling on a mountain road and hits an abandoned car. She finds a trail of blood and follows it, only to meet up with the psychotic Moonface (John DeSantis). What follows is a game of cat and mouse as she tries to find a way to escape. I thought the season really kicked off with a bang here, as it was a decent take on a slasher story. The twist at the end is a little predictable, but it doesn’t take away from anything else in the episode. While I liked Angus Scrimm, I never saw the point of his inclusion. He doesn’t really add anything.
- Dreams in the Witch-House: Stuart Gordon loves his HP Lovecraft, as he directs yet another adaptation of his work. Ezra Godden also returns to the author’s stories as he was previously in Dagon (also directed by Gordon). He plays a grad student who rents a room in an old house to live and study inter-dimensional string theory. Pretty soon he starts having nightmares about a witch and her companion, a rat with a human face. I can’t recall actually reading the story is based on, but a rat with a human face is where it loses me, mostly because the “ratman” itself looks silly.
- Dance of the Dead: Now we get a story from Richard Matheson, directed by Tobe Hooper. Robert Englund is also in it as an MC, but he’s a lot like Angus Scrimm in the first episode in that he could have been gone and I wouldn’t have noticed. It features a post-apocalyptic town, where dead people have been re-animated and dance around for the survivors’ benefit. A naive girl soon learns the dangers of the outside world and the sacrifices made to guarantee her survival. One thing that you’ll learn about Masters of Horror if you sit and watch it is that due to the nature of it’s concept, it can be very hit or miss. Tobe Hooper’s work after the 80s is mostly miss, and this really is one of the lesser episodes of the series.
-Jenifer: Dario Argento makes his first of two appearances on the show with a story about what is more than likely a succubus. Steven Weber plays a police detective who finds a horrific looking woman about to be murdered. When he breaks it up, he feels sorry for her and takes her in. He doesn’t realize that she eventually destroys the bodies and souls of men who cross her path. While the episode itself has a lot of gore and sex, it lacks in the story department. If you’re willing to sacrifice one for the other, you may enjoy Jenifer. If you’re looking for more from your stories, you may want to skip it. It’s all up to the viewer this time.
-Chocolate: This is actually one of my favorites of the season, which I find odd because it’s most definitely not horror and it’s written and directed by Mick Garris. I just don’t like the man’s work in general, but every now and then he does something I can enjoy. Even his most recent King adaptation Bag of Bones wasn’t bad, just incredibly dull. That’s a step up from Desperation, believe me. Anyway, Henry Thomas plays a man who is psychically linked to a woman. He lives out her life instead of his own in his momentary flashes and witness her murder someone. Once this happens, he loses contact and has to find out if she’s alright. Thomas carries the film with his performance and it’s an interesting premise that is played out well.
-Homecoming: Out of all the episodes of the series, this is what got the most attention. Based on a story by Dale Bailey (called “Death and Suffrage”, look it up), it is a strong political satire involving zombies wanting the right to vote. Obviously we know the political landscape this arrived in as we were still firmly in both Iraq and Afghanistan at the time. But is it any good? Yes! It’s one of the best of the entire series, and just the fact that a zombie movie of all things manages to be such a well-made satire of that time period makes it that much better. This is biting (no pun intended) commentary against the administration of that time and the way governments work in general.
-Deer Woman: If you’re a fan of John Landis, you may like this. Personally, I thought it was a little too ridiculous for me to get into, but I think that was kind of the point. It is also about a succubus, one that is part..deer. It’s tongue-in-cheek, obviously, so if you’re looking for scares this is not the place. My favorite moments would be the different scenarios the detective comes up with in his mind to explain the murders (every body is found with hoof prints in them). They get more bizarre and twisted and that makes them even funnier. My favorite is probably when he pictures a girl beating a man to death with a deer leg.
Cigarette Burns: A lot of people love this one and I can’t say I disagree. For all the things John Carpenter has done wrong in his post 2000 work, this is something that he did very right. Norman Reedus plays a man who is hired to track down “La Fin Absolue de Monde”, a rare film that is rumored to make anyone who watches it go insane and murder everyone around them. Does the film really do that? What happens if it does? It’s without a doubt the best show of the entire run of the series. I wish Carpenter would make more films like this instead of The Ward.
-The Fair Haired Child: You’re really stretching for “Master of Horror” when you bring in the guy who directed FearDotCom. This is about a girl who is kidnapped by a couple and is locked in the basement with their younger son. There is also something in the basement ready to kill them both. William Malone’s past films aside, this does have some solid suspense and a nasty looking monster. The twists may not be that great, but it does play to its strengths and is fairly solid.
-Sick Girl: Lucky McKee and Angela Bettis reunite after May for an episode about an entomologist who keeps bugs as pets. She begins a lesbian relationship with softcore porn star Misty Mundae around the same time she gets a rare insect that is aggressive and large. I don’t know what to make of this one. I really loved May so I was looking forward to this episode, but this is just really silly and doesn’t really hold my interest. Angela Bettis certainly can play an oddball well, I’ll give her that.
-Pick Me Up: Larry Cohen presents a movie that is great in concept but very flawed in execution. A woman is hitchhiking and is suddenly thrown into a bizarre turf war between two serial killers. One kills the people who pick him up, and the other kills the people he picks up. This is one of those instances where the plot sounds like something you really want to watch, but it doesn’t play out as well as I would have hoped. The two psychos were played well and I really liked the twist ending. However, this was still a somewhat weaker episode than the rest, so it gets a mild recommendation.
-Haeckel’s Tale: It’s based on a story by Clive Barker and directed by the man who gave us Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. What could go wrong? Well it could have necrophilia. Amazingly enough, even with that, it’s very dull and not entertaining at all. It is probably the most bizarre of the season, I’ll give it that. Barker always did have tales of the flesh and desire that go out into realms most never want to think about.
-Imprint: This was a very interesting case for this show. Takashi Miike’s Imprint was controversial in the fact that Showtime wouldn’t air it. They felt it’s subject matter and certain scenes were not appropriate for their audiences. Miike didn’t return to the show after this. Whether it was because of this episode or the fact they wanted someone else I have no idea. An American man goes back to Japan to search for the Japanese prostitute he loved and abandoned earlier. Soon he ventures to an island off the coast, and sees that human demons and whores rule the land and someone is waiting for his arrival. If you’ve seen any of Miike’s work you should have an idea of what to expect here. It’s a bizarre, twisted story full of torture and insane visuals. It’s definitely one of the better episodes.
Season one was overall a mixed bag, but there were more hits than misses. You got a real idea of what the show could be if you get the right group of talents together. Season two would keep the majority of the directors, replace some of the others and the result was more of the same, but also not as good.
-The Damned Thing: So this is probably as good a time as any to point out that of the two main stars of The Boondock Saints, Sean Patrick Flanery is nowhere near as good as Norman Reedus. One is amazing in The Walking Dead, the other made for the worst protagonist in the Saw series. That’s all I’m saying. Flanery stars in an episode which involves a force named “the damned thing” is causing a string of violent deaths in a small town and the sheriff has to figure out a way to save his family. Tobe Hooper does better this time around, but the season doesn’t have a strong an opening as the last.
-Family: Norm! Okay, I really liked this episode and it’s because of George Wendt. He’s really good in this episode, which focuses on a couple of newlyweds who move into a home next to him. He seems friendly and well-meaning, but there’s something odd about him. That odd thing is that he’s a serial killer. But the couple have a secret of their own and it’s one of my favorite episodes of this season. I really liked Wendt here and would love to see this idea expanded somehow.
-The V Word: Michael Ironside plays a vampire, but that’s the only thing about this episode that I enjoyed. There’s enough gore for a vampire story, but the story isn’t that great to begin with. When you throw in the fact that the cast’s performances aren’t really that great. As we get into the second season, we get into episodes that I don’t feel particularly strong about one way or another. This is one of those times.
-Sounds Like: I have yet to see something from Brad Anderson that I haven’t enjoyed. After his son’s death, a man develops super-hearing and everything hurts to listen to. This is a story that you can tell you’re going to like just from the premise. The idea of painful enhanced hearing is a scary one, because you’d never be able to listen to anything again without feeling any pain. I think if you had the scenario of that vs being deaf, you may select being deaf. This guy certainly seems like he would, anyway. This is a good episode.
-Pro-Life: Another John Carpenter episode, this one stars Ron Perlman as a man who is trying to stop his daughter from aborting a baby after “God” told him to let her keep it. The problem is that the baby was a result of rape by a demon. This one seems like it’s trying to be somewhat political like Homecoming just from its premise. Whether or not it actually does is up to you. I think that while this isn’t as strong as Cigarette Burns or even Homecoming, it’s not bad. Any excuse to see Ron Perlman work is fine with me, the man’s a great actor.
-Pelts: A satire on the fur industry, this teams Dario Argento up with Meat Loaf and John Saxon (!) for an episode that’s very similar to Jenifer. I mean that in the way that it’s incredibly gory and violent, but it isn’t worth much in the story department. So like Jenifer, it depends on if you just want to see some gore vs if you want to be scared/watch a decent story. There’s room on this show for both, and it’s a matter of personal taste if you like this or not.
-The Screwfly Solution: Joe Dante’s story is a good one yet again. A virus turns all of the men of the world into psychotic killers while a mother and daughter plan to escape the country. The only thing I didn’t like about this episode was the end of it, which explains why the virus does what it does. Couldn’t it just be a mysterious virus? Did we really need that kind of explanation. It may work for you, but it doesn’t for me. It sort of undercuts everything with a hand-waving twist. But if you can get over that, it’s a fun ride before then.
-Valerie on the Stairs: It’s another story based on Clive Barker, and it’s another story from Mick Garris. This is more what I expect from him, as it’s one of my least favorites of season two. I’m not sure what to think of the ending, for one. For another, I just didn’t care for the story. I will say this, however. One of the fun parts of Masters of Horror is seeing who they get for each individual episode. You’ll get a rare 2000s appearance from John Saxon in one, or an almost just as rare film role for Christopher Lloyd in another.
-Right to Die I love this story because it’s a different type of ghost story than you’ll normally see. A man is haunted by his wife, but she’s not dead yet, just in a coma. It’s caught in the middle of a “right to die” debate and a man going crazy with being haunted by a woman that may or may not be dead at the end of it, depending on who wins. There are some flaws, yes, but I really like the ride we get and all the twists and turns the story entails. Another win from Rob Schmidt, who also directed Wrong Turn.
-We All Scream For Ice Cream: Before I watched this, I always thought the cover art was fairly creepy. When you’re dealing with a movie about killer clowns, you have to expect to be disturbed a little. At least if you have a thing against clowns. I think anyone who read or saw IT is going to be in that category. The story itself is sort a generic “ghost wants revenge” story, but the addition of clowns makes it better than it normally would be. Still, not as good as you’d expect.
-The Black Cat: Best episode of the season, easily, and probably one of the best of the series. As I mentioned in my earlier Edgar Poe column, this features Jeffrey Combs as Poe, who is almost broke and suffering from writer’s block. He gets tormented by the cat that inspires him to write the story. Combs is always great but to see him play such a legendary author is wonderful. While I still have yet to see The Raven, all reports indicate that Combs is still the best in this role.
-The Washingtonians: What if the founding fathers were cannibals, and a cult was created in their memory. That’s the premise you get for what is, without a doubt, the worst episode of the series. How in the hell can anyone be afraid of a group of crazy people when they are wearing wooden teeth and powdered wigs? Sure it’s bloody and gory, but it’s also very dumb and the story does not translate well. It’s not scary, and as a satire it’s not very funny, either. This show has done parody right, and Peter Medak’s episode is not a good example of that.
-Dream Cruise: Taking the spot of international director that Miike had in season one, Norio Tsuruta directs a story about an American in love with a Japanese woman before something crazy happens. Very similar to Imprint in that respect, but the story itself is a lot different. It ends the show’s run not with a bang or even a whimper, just a resounding “eh”. I didn’t like or hate this episode, it was just sort of there. Tsuruta has had better work in the past (check out Ring 0: Birthday).
The show would be canceled in 2007 and went onto become Fear Itself. I may talk about that in the future, but it was mostly disappointing due to the restrictions that being on a network can provide and the fact the stories just weren’t as good. That show didn’t even last a full season, as there are a number of episodes that never aired.
The best part about Masters of Horror is that it’s readily available in various formats. You can go to Youtube and watch it legally for free. It’s on Netflix Instant. Chiller and Reelz Channel usually air it on a semi-regular basis (edited, of course). Plus if you don’t want to see the worst episodes, there is the option to buy each individually on DVD.
That’s it for me. Did you enjoy Masters of Horror? Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. Next week, TV month continues with a my countdown of the best episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)
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