Masters of Horror is back again with a second season and thirteen more horror stories for us all to enjoy.
Episode 1: The Damned Thing
Starring: Sean Patrick Flanery, Marisa Coughlan, Ted Raimi, Brendan Fletcher, Brent Stait
Director: Tobe Hooper
Hooper is back again in this season and here he works on a script by Richard Matheson which is inspired by a short story from Ambrose Bierce.
When Kevin Reddle was a kid he was a witness to his father going berserk, murdering his wife and almost killing Kevin aswell. Today Kevin is the town sheriff who still lives in his childhood home and has driven his wife and child away from him by his slightly insane thoughts. Random murders are starting to occur in their small town and Kevin believes it’s the same evil force that is behind these new murders that also took control over his father when he killed his mother.
This episode wasn’t a great start to the new season. It’s very mediocre and not very interesting at all. The “monster” or “entity” looked like a pile of crap and was laughable. The story seemed unfocused and it was just not any good at all, even Ted Raimi who plays a priest didn’t do it for me here.
Episode 2: Family
Starring: Meredith Monroe, Matt Keeslar, George Wendt
Director: John Landis
John Landis is back with another comedy filled episode.
Harold is a middle aged, big fella who lives in a quiet neighborhood with a lot of nice houses and gardens. When his new neighbors David and Celia moves next door and accidentally hits his postbox while driving drunk, Harold doesn’t even get upset. That’s just how good of a guy he is. Well… if you look away from his family of skeletons in his house that is.
Family is fun and could just aswell been a part of the Tales from the Crypt show. George Wendt, mostly known as Norm from Cheers, is great as Harold. Meredith Monroe from Dawson’s Creek is also great as Celia, while Matt Keeslar is ok as David. It’s quirky, funny and it’s what Landis does best.
Episode 3: The V Word
Starring: Brandon Nadon, Arjay Smith, Michael Ironside
Director: Ernest Dickerson
Ernest Dickerson is the first new guy in this season. His claim to fame came from working with Spike Lee and he has got his feet a little wet in the horror genre by doing Bones and Tales from the Crypt Demon Knight.
The V Word is written by Mick Garris and is about two teenage boys named Kerry and Justin who breaks into a funeral home. While in there they get attacked by a creature who manages to bite Justin before they are able to escape from the place. Justin starts to feel crappy and soon realises that he is turning into a vampire.
Now there’s a lot going on in this episode and it would probably have fit better in a full 90 minutes movie. There’s a lot of scenes where the guys either talk or play Doom 3, but we never really get to know why. There’s a backstory about Kerry’s dad and everything seems too rushed for a 60 minute episode. It ended up being a mess, the good part about it is that some of the scenes and the music where good enough to make it watchable. Michael Ironside was also underused, which is a big shame.
Episode 4: Sounds Like
Starring: Chris Bauer
Director: Brad Anderson
Brad Anderson is another new guy to this show. He did Session 9 and I guess that was enough to get an episode here.
Sounds Like is a character driven episode where everything is about Larry Pearce. He works as a quality supervisor at a customer service center listening to the calls that are made by customers to the tech agents. After his son died he has developed a super hearing sense and can hear pretty much every little noise that gets made. After a while the sounds that surrounds him gets to be too much and he starts to lose it.
Sounds Like is an interesting episode. Chris Bauer is excellent as Larry and together with the good work by Anderson they make this episode work. The concept is original and it has to be horrible to go through something like that. Thumbs up for Brad Anderson for this.
Episode 5: Pro-Life
Starring: Caitlin Wachs, Ron Perlman, Derek Mears, Emmanuelle Vaugier
Director: John Carpenter
John Carpenter is back after delivering what many thought where the best episode of the first season.
Pro-Life takes place at an abort clinic where young Angelique is taken after running into the road and being hit by Alex who is a doctor at the clinic. They find out that the young girl is pregnant while her father Dwayne has arrived and threatening to cause a scene if they don’t release the young girl immediately to him. Dwayne and the clinic has had previous encounters and they even have a restraining order against him to keep him away from the place. Something is however very wrong with Angelique’s baby and they will very shortly all find out why.
Pro-Life got a lot of criticism when it came out for being below the standard of Cigarette Burns, Carpenters episode in season one. I however thought it was a fun ride. I’m normally not a big fan of Ron Pearlman but he is good here as a christian, anti-abortion, gung-ho madman. There is not that much visual goodies to look forward to here, but the entire thing works well for me and it was enjoyable.
Episode 6: Pelts
Starring: Link Baker, Meatloaf, John Saxon, Emilio Salituro, Elise Lew
Director: Dario Argento
Following up the Carpenter episode with Argento huh. If it where up to me I would have spread the diamonds around a little more, but ok. Dario Argento had a great episode with Jenifer in the first season and it’s awesome that he is back again this season.
Pelts is about a shady businessman named Jake Feldman. He is in the fur business and spends most of his spare time drooling over a hot stripper named Shanna at a local strip joint. One of his hillbilly suppliers calls him up one day telling him that he got some prime quality racoon fur, but when Jake arrives at his place both the supplier and his son is found dead. Jake gets the fur with him anyways and returns in joy over his new catch which is bound to make him a lot of money. Things doesn’t go as planned when people who work with the fur end up dead in weird ways.
This episode deals with the way we choose greed above the life of animals and it’s done very different from the typical animals take revenge by attacking humans. It’s very different from what Argento has done in the past, but then again so was Jenifer. Just like Jenifer, this is very gory, perhaps even the goriest stuff Argento has done before. There’s no beautiful shots here but it goes for a more grimy look which suits it better anyhow. The biggest downside is that the role for John Saxon is too small since he is such a great actor to watch. Pelts is good though and I’m sure every horrorfan will enjoy it.
Episode 7: The Screwfly Solution
Starring: Elliott Gould, Kerry Norton, Brenna O’Brien, Jason Priestley
Director: Joe Dante
Joe Dante is back again after the funny Homecoming episode from the first season. This one is based on a short story by Alice Sheldon and it’s something Joe Dante has wanted to make a movie out of in over 20 years.
A virus is hitting the human species and affecting all males, making them aggressive and violent towards women. Alan is one of the scientists working on this epidemic and he sends his wife and teenage daughter up to the forest while trying to find a cure. We then see how their lives become when they are outsiders of the now male dominated society.
The story is interesting, but would be more suited for a full length movie. I didn’t care much for the characters involved here though, especially the teenage daughter which just does stupid things that make you dislike her. There are some good dialogue and it isn’t bad, just not as good as it could have been.
Episode 8: Valerie on the Stairs
Starring: Tyron Leitso, Nicola Lipman, Jonathan Watton, Christopher Lloyd, Christine Barne
Director: Mick Garris
Mick Garris, the creator of the show, is back again after having the worst episode of the first season with Chocolate. This time he is working with a story from Clive Barker.
Valerie on the Stairs is about a struggling writer named Rob Hanisey who moves into a building called the Highberger House. This place was made to provide rent-free housing for aspiring writers until they get some of their work published. Right after he settles in, Rob starts to see a young girl crying for his help and he starts to assume that she is a ghost. It also seems like the others in the house is hiding a secret and he needs to figure out what is happening in that place.
This episode is better than Chocolate (thank you!). It’s a creative concept, but it doesn’t really get very engaging. The characters aren’t very interesting and a lot of it is about Rob running around trying to figure out what is happening. The ending is alright however. Even though Garris gets props for creating this show he again shows why he would be a better producer than a director here.
Episode 9: Right to Die
Starring: Martin Donovan, Julia Anderson, Robin Sydney, Anna Galvin, Corbin Bernsen
Director: Rob Schmidt
Rob Schmidt is the guy behind Wrong Turn and that was enough for him to make an entry into the Masters of Horror series.
Cliff has been unfaithful to his wife Abby. While driving down the road they have an accident that leaves Abby in a very bad state. Her entire body is burned up and she cannot move or talk. Cliff and Abbys mother starts to argue about letting Abby die naturally or keeping her alive by the use of machines. While the decision gets taken to court, Cliff starts to have hallucinations about his wife and wonders if his thoughts of letting her die is the right one.
Right to Die is a very dark story that has some resemblance to the stuff shown on Tales from the Crypt. The darkness of the story makes this work even though it does drag a bit at times. It’s one of the darkest entries of the second season and it is alright, but nothing groundbreaking.
Episode 10: We All Scream for Ice Cream
Starring: Lee Tergesen, Colin Cunningham, William Forsythe, Brent Sheppard, Maxwell Neck
Director: Tom Holland
Tom Holland is the guy who was behind the great Fright Night, Child’s Play and the not so great Psycho 2 and Langoliers. Most of his movies are in the horror genre and he is definitely a “worthy” addition to this show.
Layne Banixter and his family recently moved back to Layne’s hometown. Something is however very wrong in this town these days and more and more people starts to end up dead, melted to death actually. Layne starts to think that this could be caused by the ghost of Buster, an ice cream seller dressed up as a clown, that he and his friends got killed in an accident when they where kids.
So it took 23 episodes before we got a killer clown, something that is a must have addition to all horror shows! Buster looks great and scary, the way he kills people by giving ice cream to a kid causing the parent of the kid melt is silly and fun. Everything else though do not work here. I’m not sure how Holland did this, but he made this into a very crappy and dull experience. Lee Tergersen is also annoying to watch in this and simply everything else than the clown does not work… at all. And I’m even a sucker for cheesy, stupid stuff like this!
Episode 11: The Black Cat
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Patrick Gallagher, Christopher Heyerdahl, Eric Keenleyside, Ken Kramer
Director: Stuart Gordon
Stuart Gordon is back and instead of tackling the work of Lovecraft, he goes for Edgar Allan Poe this time.
Edgar Allan Poe is a struggling poet who’s biggest income is by his horror stories. He is suffering from a writer’s block which is making him go hard into poverty. His wife Virginia gets sick and Edgar now has to raise some sort of money for her medicine or else she will die. At the same time he gets increasingly annoying by Virginias black cat and he goes berserk and hangs the poor thing one night only to have it reappear a few days later.
The biggest strength of The Black Cat is Jeffrey Combs as Edgar Allan Poe. He is, as almost always, great to watch. The biggest downside of the episode is that this story has been done a lot of times before and also done better. One of the reasons for my huge dislike of remakes is that I hate watching the same story again, regardless if it’s from another persons perspective. The Black Cat is alright and Gordon does a good job, but it’s not something I would revisit or recommend to anybody except big fans of Combs.
Episode 12: The Washingtonians
Starring: Johnathon Schaech, Venus Terzo, Saul Rubinek, Chris Kalhoon, Richard Stroh
Director: Peter Medak
Peter Medak isn’t exactly a master of anything cinematic, but he did do The Changeling and he has also done Species 2 so he has had some experience in the horror genre. He gets to work with a short story by Bentley Little on this episode.
Mike’s grandmother has recently died and while searching through her house he finds an old little letter, hidden in an old painting. The letter seems to contain cannibalistic thoughts and is signed by George Washington. The ones who live in this city is very interested in getting this letter and things soon get very weird when a group of evil-looking men dressed up in gear from the American Revolutionary War with powdered wigs and ugly teeth shows up at their door threatening to eat Mike’s daughter unless he gives them the letter.
The Washingtonians goes for cheese and silly fun. It does work alright in the first half, but the nearer it gets to the end the more the quality falls. The concept of having the founders of the United States being cannibals is funny, but the execution is not done very well here sadly.
Episode 13: Dream Cruise
Starring: Daniel Gillies, Ryo Ishibashi, Yoshino Kimura
Director: Norio Tsuruta
After Miike’s episode in the first season, I guess they felt they needed some asian influence again this time. I’m happy they did, but surprised they decided on Tsuruta. He did Ring 0: Birthday and Kakashi that I am familiar with and they are alright but there is better japanese directors out there.
Jack is an american lawyer working in Japan. He is involved with Yuri, the wife of one of his firms most valued clients Eiji. Eiji suspects that something is up between those two and he wants to take them out on a boat ride. Jack is very much against this since he has had a traumatic experience with water as a child when his little brother drowned right in front of him. Out on the sea the boat stops working and they find out that the ghost of Eiji’s previous wife, who he killed, is after them.
Dream Cruise is very typical japanese ghost story. For some reason they have to put in an american leading role here and I think it would have worked a lot better if they had all-japanese cast and made it in japanese. It does get creepy at times and is perhaps the most scary episode of this entire show, but the japanese has just done so many better ghost movies in the past that works against this one.
The second season of Masters of Horror is very alike the first one. If you enjoyed the first, then you will like this one aswell since the general quality here is just as good as the first one. The second season perhaps lacks the outstanding episodes, except Pelts, though. The show didn’t get renewed for a third season so if I gotta summarize the entire show then I would say that I’m very happy for the few great episodes and thank the ones involved for several hours of decent entertainment.