I started watching Masters of Horror shortly before starting the movie blog, so in my season one round-up, three episodes are mentioned but got no writeup. Well it turns out MoH blu-rays are cheap, so now I own those three episodes, and am gonna rewatch the two good ones – Mick Garris’s Chocolate is doomed to be the odd man out.

Imprint was the episode I remembered the least. I wanted Miike’s English-language debut to be better than it was, and now that I can enable subtitles I didn’t miss any part of the story, but it seems like he and writer Shimako Iwai were trying to impress by throwing in every shocking thing they could come up with: pregnant prostitute murder, sibling incest, parental rape, aborted babies tossed casually into the river, a syphilitic dwarf (actor familiar from Zebraman 2), birth defects, Audition-reminiscent needle torture, madness, hanging and strangling and… this:

But there’s great color and some arresting images – more than any other MoH episode, I’d guess.

And the actors all acquit themselves well enough with the English dialogue, even native speaker Billy Drago (Papa Jupiter in The Hills Have Eyes Remake). Drago has made his fortune and returned to Prostitute Island to rescue his lovely Komomo (Michié of R100) but is told that she’s dead by a facially-deformed woman (Mystery Train star Yûki Kudô), who proceeds to tell him why, changing the story multiple times making herself more and more guilty of Komomo’s torture (at the hands of an evil needle woman played by the author Iwai) for supposedly stealing a ring from the house madam (Toshie Negishi of Over Your Dead Body and Audition), until Drago has heard enough stories, murders the woman and goes to jail.

The vibe I’m getting so far from Fear Itself is “lazy.” This was pretty bad, but it doesn’t seem like the kind of bad I should hold against John Landis – he just turned in the same lazy work as everyone else on this doomed TV series. If I’m gonna blame someone for this mess, it’s writer Victor Salva, the controversial convicted pedophile behind Powder and Jeepers Creepers (I didn’t know he wrote it, so this is coincidental timing to the current Polanski brouhaha). The other three episodes (almost forgot I watched Family Man last year) at least had some aspirations to horror, and they made sense, while this one’s more plot-hole than plot.

img

The idea is that it’s the wedding day of Maggie Lawson and James Roday (costars of a show I’ve never heard of called Psych), everyone’s telling her it’s too soon to marry this guy (we never find out how soon), then she gets an anonymous note delivered via the hard-of-hearing priest (played by The Cigarette Smoking Man) that says:
img

“Person?” Strangely phrased, think I. She runs around acting panicked, has a pointless scene with new hubby’s red-herring uncle Marshall Bell (of Starship Troopers, Nightmare on Elm Street 2), while we tolerate sluggish pacing and tons of church imagery. In the end we learn that SHE is a serial killer and the warning, written by her mysterious brother, was intended for the husband… the kind of twist ending which, rather than making all the puzzle pieces fit together, invalidates the whole rest of the movie, like some stupid anti-Sixth Sense. Well, at least we got to see how the Cigarette Smoking Man has been doing since X-Files ended (he doesn’t smoke anymore; it’s not allowed on network television).

img

“Why are you so bad?”

img

A brutal anti-police-brutality story. Eric Roberts (The Prophecy II) stars as a burnout drunk ex-cop P.I. with a history of brutality (and accidental firearm fratricide), set up by the sister of a suspect he once killed to go on a stakeout in a haunted house. She’s hoping he’ll go mad and kill himself, but incredibly he figures out the plot and goes after her in a rage. She’s saved by Roberts’ partner Larry Gilliard Jr.

img

Got your Session 9 haunted-house business and your Sounds Like hearing-things-that-aren’t-there, so one could make a case for Brad Anderson auteurism, but one would have to be more interested.

img

Look, it’s D’Angelo from The Wire! That’s the second Masters of Horror episode in a row to feature a Wire alumnus – and not just any old minor Wire actor, but a main character of a season. Looking forward to seeing Avon, Bubbles… hey, maybe Herc and Carver can do an episode together.

img

“Nothing worse than a horror movie geek.”

My three-year quest to see every Jacques Rivette film is slowly ongoing, my five-or-six-year quest to see every Luis Bunuel film proceeds at one title per year, but I thought it was best to push those cinematic luminaries aside and watch everything by Stuart Gordon, creator of classic 80’s horrors Re-Animator and From Beyond. Why is that? Because during SHOCKtober it’s nice to have someone you can rely on. While I admit there was nothing special about Daughter of Darkness, his Masters of Horror episodes have always been good, and this one, from the quickly-cancelled and rumored-to-be-crappy season 3 (aka Fear Itself) was excellent.

img

Starts out promising, setting a creepy horror mood off the bat, with a shadowy, rattle-shaking voodoo prisoner Dwayne (horror regular Stephen Hart) loaded into a police station jail cell for the night, the station lights flickering so badly that I’m thinking the episode’s budget didn’t include lighting and sets.

img

Our protagonist, eager rookie Bannerman (Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss) is a horror fan, turned on by proximity to Dwayne, wants to hear more about his crimes. I figured it’d go in a more Silence of the Lambs direction here, but there’s no time for quiet spooky conversations about fava beans – Dwayne “escapes” by possessing the bodies of the other cops, saving her for last. Interesting horror tactic – we don’t see any killings, just find bodies left behind, like the ending of Halloween, hidden all over the place. Bannerman is trapped in the locked station with a cannibal psycho killer and is definitely going to be eaten, so she eats rat poison, so when he catches up and takes a bite out of her neck, it kills them both.

It’s not like Gordon to have such a shocking, depressing ending, but it works. Anyway he didn’t write the episode – the guys behind WTF story The Washingtonians did. Nicely done, extremely tense little flick (maybe a tad underlit) with a great supporting cast. Witness:

Stephen Lee, star of Dolls over 20 years ago and still kinda looking the same
img

Russell Hornsby, whom I loved as the boyfriend in Stuck
img

Nick Sobotka, star of The Wire season 2.
img

Don’t know why I saved this one for last… guess being based on a Clive Barker story made it seem like a safe bet. Might be my least-favorite episode in the series, though. I mean, “dance of the dead” was awful, but it had its apocalyptic rain scene to recommend it, and Robert Englund I guess. This one’s got mediocre actors speaking awful period dialogue in service of an awful script, and McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Wild Things) doesn’t seem to be trying too hard, treating this as the low-budget TV episode it is, instead of aiming for something better like nearly every other director did. At least he got Jon Polito.

Dude pesters old woman necromancer to raise his beloved wife from the dead, she tells him the horrible story of Ernst Haeckel, a science student who once pestered necromancer Jon Polito. Ernst spends the night at an old man’s house. The man discloses that he keeps his young, beautiful wife by paying off Polito to reanimate her dead lover some nights so she can have a graveyard orgy. Ernst fouls everything up, the old man dies, Polito gets the high hat, and back in the “present day” the old woman reveals herself to be that young woman and she’s learned the necromancy art herself and has undead sex with Haeckel, yuck!

A slog to get through, mostly because of the dialogue… if Clive is smart he’ll want nothing to do with this one. Ohhhh, I see that George Romero was supposed to direct, but dropped out due to scheduling problems. Probably either his upcoming Stephen King movie or his upcoming zombie mockumentary. Between those two and this MoH episode, it’s hard to say which is the worst idea for Romero.

The high hat, the fake mustache:
image

The nudity:
image

Another angle on that:
image

The gang’s all here:
image

So the final Masters Of Horror Season One evaluation:

GREAT:
Cigarette Burns (Carpenter)
Homecoming (Dante)

GOOD:
Incident On and Off a Mountain Road (Coscarelli)
Dreams in the Witch-House (Gordon)
Deer Woman (Landis)
Fair-Haired Child (Malone)
Sick Girl (McKee)
Pick Me Up (Cohen)
Imprint (Miike)

OKAY:
Jenifer (Argento)
Chocolate (Garris)

BAD:
Dance of the Dead (Hooper)
Haeckel’s Tale (McNaughton)

A nice ratio, better than most X-Files seasons. On to season 2!

Starting with the twist-ending back-story… Lesbian entomologist Ida (see, it’s already unique) can’t find a date because her bugs scare people, cute girl sits in her office lobby stalking her for years, cute girl is daughter of Ida’s ex-prof super bug guy who ships scary bug from brazil or someplace to infect brain of Ida and lay eggs in her so daughter won’t date her, but they start dating first, then bug gets daughter, and finally bug gets ’em both, kills Ida’s male friend, and they are happy and pregnant with 1000’s of bugs together. Sort of like that episode of Creepshow except instead of an unappealing dude there’s two girls kissing… a marked improvement.

Effects are silly, plastic bugs and full-body bug-suits, but all well used. Ida is May from the movie May, has a cool voice, and stalker girlfriend is softcore porn star Misty Mundae. Fun flick, not bad at all.

image

image

image

image

Pretty awful Masters of Horror episode, continuing Tobe’s long streak of pretty awful movies.

A perfectly good backstory about the deadly acid rainstorm that turned most of the world into zombies is wasted on a crappy movie about Jessica Lowndes meeting Jonathan Tucker from the Pulse and Texas Chainsaw remakes, and daring to venture away from her protective mother to attend a club run by Tobe’s old bud Robert Englund. This has got to be the most boring “extreme” nightclub in any horror movie.

image missing

It’s all downhill from there, as Englund drinks the blood of the elderly to stay alive, and the entertainment of the club turns out to be watching zombies “dance” (the, um, dance of the dead) by shocking ’em with cattle prods. Jessica finds out one of the dancers is her druggie sister, who was sold to Englund by their mom… gets revenge by killing/selling the mom. Whatever.

The movie was bad enough before the SHOCK EDITING, which is unrelenting. Besides the usual quick-cut-crap, they keep blurring and sliding the picture with staticky sound effects to add “energy” to the movie. Ugh.

image missing

image missing

Loud music by Billy Corgan, I might add. Credited cinematographer and editor have both done other (decent) MoH episodes, so I have to blame the flash editing entirely on you, Tobe.

MOH trademarks: just the naked women.

Katy didn’t watch this one. Katy wouldn’t have liked it. I wouldn’t have blamed her.

A novel plot (and supposedly based on a Lovecraft story, so no wonder). Ezra Godden (of Stuart Gordon’s Dagon) is a poor physics student who rents a room in a very crappy boarding house. After some fun about studying the angles of his walls, a hot nude witch appears with her rat-creature pet to take over his mind and make him do weird things like sleepwalk to the university library and kill his next door neighbor’s baby. After he’s arrested for the baby-killing, the cops find the remains of all the other babies that past residents of the room have killed, and the rat-creature sneaks into prison to bite our hero to death. Oh and the crazy old man downstairs kills himself.

image missing

image missing

A lot better than the plot description sounds. Ezra is pretty convincing and the weirdness and atmosphere and pacing are all well held.

MOH trademarks: naked women, eye gouging (the witch’s eyes / ezra’s fingers), and our hero looks like Edward Norton most of the time (and Ben Affleck the other times).

image missing

image missing

Katy didn’t watch this one. Katy wouldn’t have liked it.

Fun, memorable Masters of Horror episode. Woman runs off the road, sees other car with trail of blood towards guard rail, follows trail and insane creature leaps out and chases her through the woods. Flashbacks to her survivalist husband and the lessons he taught her, she fights back for a while but is captured along with the woman from the other car. Creature takes them to house where Phantasm‘s own Angus Scrimm is locked up laughing and yelling. Woman takes control, escapes, kills the monster, kills Angus, and in flashback, kills survivalist husband whose body is still in her trunk, and drives away.

image

image

Pretty good looking movie. I was sucked in. Standard super-baddie with a Hostel-referencing eye-drill. Some surprises (traps that don’t go according to plan) and a not-bad-at-all ending. More, more!! Katy didn’t watch this one. Katy wouldn’t have liked it.

Creepy Tall Man:
image missing

MOH trademarks: eye gouging (see above).