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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Top 10 Masters of Horror Episodes

10) Incident On and Off a Mountain Road
The very first Masters that aired, begins as a simple girl being stalked by a serial killer story. The girl then starts setting up elaborate traps for the killer, and things quickly become less predictable. The lead female is more complicated than she seems at first. We're told about her backstory through flashbacks. The killer, Moonface, is only a single part of a much larger story about an unhealthy relationship, learning how to survive and failing to survive. A supporting performance by Angus Scrimm is a shout-out to fans of director Don Coscarelli, of Phantasm fame.

9) Pick Me Up
Fairuza Balk headlines this one, but Michael Moriarty steals the show. It's a story by David J. Schow, directed by Larry Cohen, about two serial killers that stalk one stretch of mountainous road and a girl that gets stuck between the rival killers. Michael Moriarty plays the more nuts of the two serial killers and his character ends up being pretty damn unique, in big part because of the actor. The dual between the two killers all leads to a big showdown. It's wonderful to see the two actors who play the killers play off each other. It's one of the most funny Masters episodes.

8) Family
Some might put this one higher than Right to Die, but Right to Die wins for me because of the exploitation. George Wendt, cough*spoiler*cough, plays a serial killer and Meredith Monroe and some other douche play Wendt's unsuspecting neighbors. All three actors do a very good job, which is rarely the case in a Masters of Horror. It's seriously a great episode. The twist ending is very good, and twist endings were always one of my main problems with Tales from the Crypt. This twist just works especially well. By the point of the twist, you can sympathize quite a bit with Meredith Monroe's character and you like her too. John Landis never lets us down! The music is fantastic as well, as was often the case with Masters. Family is really only missing one thing, cough*and it's not a George Wendt nude scene*cough. Bonus: The Best Buy exclusive version of the DVD was 2 discs. It included the normal DVD and the CD soundtrack.

7) Right to Die
One thing I noticed rewatching these is that almost every single episode could have been called Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, especially this one. It starts out with a car crash on a mountain road, much like Incident, and then a woman gets burned alive. She doesn't die, but at a hospital, goes in and out of dying. When she briefly flat-lines, her ghost reeks havoc on those benefiting from her resuscitation state in the hospital. It's a funny, gorey, and erotic tale about the right-to-life issue. Who couldn't like this episode? Bonus: On the director commentary on the DVD, the director explains that the shot of a topless Julia Anderson actually went on for too long because the crew was taken aback by her big hooters. Cheers to the crew and the editor! And of course Julia Anderson.

6) Deer Woman
This farce, from the director of An American Werewolf in London and Animal House, is totally absurd and it knows it. It plays around with us until it comes straight out admitting, in a funny bit, that there is no motive needed for Deer Woman's killings because we're talking about a woman with deer legs! She's an ancient mythological creature that seduces men and kills them brutally, leaving them looking like a pile of red meat covered in hoof prints. My favorite line, by a rookie cop investigating, is "It looks like some dear did a tap dance on this guy." It pretty much sums up the goofy, but still somehow scary film. And of course it serves on the exploitation cylinders too. Bonus: On the DVD featurette Working with a Master, Don Rickles gives his own unique opinion on director John Landis.

5) Cigarette Burns
Now this one, directed by John Carpenter, is something absolutely every horror fan can relate to. Kirby Sweetman is hired to track down an extremely rare film by a creepy German cinephile. The catch is that the film was only shown once and it caused its audience to go into a violent frenzy. The English translation of the film's title is The Absolute End of the World and it was supposedly produced by some demonic force. Kirby and the German man both become overcome with their need to find it. Kirby also begins seeing images of his dead girlfriend and gets wrapped up in murder as he gets closer to it. All of us horror-fiends I think can relate to wanting to see something that goes farther than anything else and our bloodlust for the amazing always leaves us craving something more harsh. If you could see a film that was possibly filmed in hell, wouldn't you? We've heard of violence breaking out during a film showing (Snuff 102), and films so underground that you have to make it your mission to find them (Niku Daruma), so it was long overdue for a film to draw upon these experiences.

4) The Black Cat

I already did a review of The Black Cat, so check that out in my archives! It's a phenomenal work, with an exquisite performance from Jeffrey Combs as the tormented Edgar Allen Poe. Bonus: Combs & director/co-writer Stuart Gordon do a great commentary on the DVD.



3) Sick Girl
Sick Girl holds a special place in my heart. It's an awesome lesbian, bug story dealing with obsession, horror and true love. I really can't fault anything specific in Sick Girl. The performances are all around great too! It serves as modern film noir at its absolute best. Rumor has it that director Lucky McKee completely changed the story because the original screenwriter made it about a heterosexual relationship. Making it gay completely changes everything. I cringe to think what it would've been like with a man and a woman. Yuck!

2) Homecoming
Dead soldiers come back to life to vote! They voice that they didn't die for a just cause. A genius concept for an anti-war horror film if you ask me. Rod Serling would most definitely be proud. One scene shows two parents, that had a son in the war, provide shelter to a scared undead soldier. It's a pretty powerful scene that's actually touching. Who woulda thunk, from a Masters of Horror? It's a cool satire on the Fox News pundits too. I'm not a big zombie movie fan, but this horror-comedy just got me. Bonus: On the DVD special features, Roger Corman jokes that he was afraid Joe Dante was gonna be thrown in Guantanamo after this.

1) Imprint
This story is almost too nightmarish to take. It takes place in the 1800s and is about an American tourist in Japan in search of a prostitute he fell in love with years earlier. He promised her he'd come back for her. His quest to find her leads him through a story he wished he'd never heard. Imprint was particularly controversial because the Showtime network refused to air it. There is no censorship on this network, mind you. I believe the anthology film Hell Hath No Fury, which included Ryan Nicholson's Torched, even aired on this network. Anyway, Imprint involves abortion, incest, rape, torture, body horror, cannibalism and one of the most violent death scenes ever committed to film. It is also phenomenal filmmaking with atmosphere that will live under your skin as much as anything else in the movie. The cinematography is also quite unforgettable. It's no surprise that this MoH is done by Takashi Miike, possibly the most unsettling horror director working today. Imprint is not only my favorite MoH film, but also one of my very favorite horror films ever. The same goes for all of the top 5 episodes on this list.

AND NOW.............The Masters of Horror Awards

Season 1 Awards
Best Director: Tie: Takashi Miike & Lucky McKee
Best Screenplay: Cigarette Burns by Drew McWeeny & Scott Swan
Best Actor: Steven Weber for Jenifer
Best Actress: Angela Bettis for Sick Girl
Best Supporting Actor: Udo Kier for Cigarette Burns
Best Supporting Actress: Erin Brown for Sick Girl
Best Music: Sick Girl

Season 2 Awards
Best Director: Stuart Gordon
Best Screenplay: The Black Cat by Stuart Gordon & Dennis Paoli
Best Actor: Jeffrey Combs for The Black Cat
Best Actress: Meredith Monroe for Family
Best Supporting Actor: William Forsythe for We All Scream for Ice Cream
Best Supporting Actress: Elyse Levesque for The Black Cat
Best Music: The Black Cat

3 comments:

  1. This is a great post! I would rearrange a bit but the choices altogether are perfect!
    Jeffery Combs was an amazing POE. RIGHT TO DIE was guilt at it's worst! But IMPRINT seemed a bit lacking after all the hype.
    We All Scream, however, was one of the worst things I've seen...but since season 2 didnt have much to choose from, I understand!

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  2. Imprint was definitely the most extreme, but the bad English dialogue prevents it from being my number one.

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  3. @ B.STANK - Thanks a lot! Yeah it's too bad that season 2 was far less consistent than season 1.
    @ Bonjour Tristesse - I love most Miike stuff and Imprint just did it for me in part because it was so visually stunning and I crave body horror.

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