For my final entry in my Ghoulish Tens, I tackle the Masters of Horror television series. Airing for two seasons in 2005 to 2006 on Showtime, each episode was directed by a notable horror director. Of the two seasons, these ten episodes are my favorite. If you like horror, you must check this series out. Some of the best horror broadcast on television. Unlike my other ten lists, I have listed these episodes in order with the first being my favorite and so on.
Cigarette Burns by John Carpenter. So John Carpenter, you know, that guy who directed Halloween and The Thing. There’s a subtle beauty to some of John Carpenter’s movies. There are no gory scenes in Halloween, yet when I think of that movie, I seem to remember lots of gore. The entire hour of Cigarette Burns, Carpenter builds the tension with some crazy horrifying shit while a guy searches for a movie called “Le Fin Absolue du Monde” (Absolute End of the World) that’s supposed to drive people insane after watching it. A weird deformed man, an act of slasher brutality and you’re just wondering, what the hey! Kind of like the Ring, but I must say when you actually see images from Le Fin Absolue du Monde, well, suffice it to say, unlike the Ring, I had to remind myself this is a friggin tv show and I’m not going to go crazy.
The Fair-Haired Child by William Malone. Malone hasn’t directed any films I’ve liked: House on Haunted Hill remake and Feardotcom, but OMG. Can he please make a movie like this short? I loved this one. Once again, some great pathos. Tragic, horror. And awful (in a good way), wonderful performance by Lori Petty as the mom.
Incident On and Off a Mountain Road by Don Cascorelli (Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep). I didn’t think I’d like this one. I’m not so much into the slasher chase through the woods. But Cascorelli definitely grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Not even when I was squirming on the couch at what the slasher dude did with his victims did Cascorelli lessen his grip. I’ve seen movies with captured victims, agonizingly awaiting their fate like Saw, but unlike Saw, this one got to me. Maybe it was the freaky old dude imprisoned with our protagonist in the basement of horrors or the bits of her compelling back story sprinkled in to great effect. The ending provided a neat twist that I did not see coming, which is refreshing because I often figure out horror movie twists. (I figured out The Sixth Sense in the first five minutes.)
Haeckel’s Tale directed by John McNaughton. Here we have American Werewolf in London werewolf (John McNaughton) directing an episode based off a Clive Barker story. Clive Barker is a sick dude who I am morbidly fascinated with. Haekel’s Tale has zombies, creepy babies, sensual horror, gothic horror and I’ll let your imagination go to work. And really, when weird shit is going down, just do not go into a cemetery at night. Do. Not.
Dario Argento is another sick dude. (I say this, like with Clive Barker, with the utmost respect.) If you haven’t seen Suspira…what can I say. Argento builds these beautiful horror glam rock tableaus with his movies. His entries, Jenifer and Pelts, are horror absurd. Jenifer is a weird blend of camp, beautiful gruesomeness. Here we have men who become obsessed with a horribly disfigured woman (or whatever the heck she is!) who has a taste for entrails. Pelts is also Argento-wonderful starring Meatloaf and vengeful raccoons, but I liked Jenifer better.
Family by John Landis. I love that the guy who directed Animal House also directed one of the best horror movies ever, American Werewolf in London. But you get it because he uses his humor sensibilities to great effect in his horror movies. Here he takes his quirky voice to a tale about George Wendt as a completely psycho dude who, unlike the rest of us who marry and have kids, builds his family a bit differently. Really, he’s just a big teddy bear. The ending is also a karma-pleasing surprise.
The Black Cat by Stuart Gordon who also did Re-Animator. Based off the Black Cat, this entry is just a great Edgar Allen Poe homage in which Poe himself succumbs to the insanity of his own tale. Great gothic portrayal with a wonderful performance by Jeffrey Combs as Poe. Gordon also directed the entry, Dreams in the Witch House, a nice H.P. Lovecraft adaptation with a phantasmagoric rat and a truly sad, horrific ending, which really kind of freaked me out.
Sounds Like directed by Brad Anderson who directed Session 9 and The Machinist. If you’ve seen the Machinist, you can get an idea of the human degradation focused on the body theme in Sounds Like. Anderson’s movies are not outright horror, but build up to horrifying endings, although I’d have to say the entirety of Session 9 creeped me out. In Sounds Like, Sheriff Andy Bellefleur, (Chris Bauer of True Blood), plays, Larry Pearce, a man going crazy because he can hear everything, every little thing. What I like is, despite Pearce’s tragic back story, he isn’t someone we route for. I think he was pretty messed up even before the tragedy hit his family.
Sick Girl by Lucky McKee. Horror and bugs are truly a bad (in the good sense) combination. Sick Girl is about Ida, an entomologist, and what happens when one of her bugs bites her girlfriend. I always find transformation movies interesting a la The Fly or Altered States. Not as “buggy” as The Fly, yet the psychological horror will creep you out.
Pick Me Up by Larry Cohen. The Freddie vs Jason and Predator vs Alien movies became popular. Now we have a more “grounded” approach when two serial killers fight it out over who gets to kill someone in a seedy motel. Fairuza Balk, who can turn on the freaky camp (see her in The Craft) is the “hapless” victim caught in the middle of the competitive serial killers, who each have their own methods of stalking their victims. Michael Moriarty does a delightful turn as one of the killers. Forget, Law and Order!!