Masters Of Horror - "Fair Haired Child"

fair_hairedrating-3.0Possibly seeming better than it is because of low expectations or coming so close on the heels of excellent episodes, "Fair Haired Child" is probably the last episode of "Masters Of Horror" to show any real promise.

William Malone, director of the terrible but interesting-looking FeardotCom, gives an interesting visual approach to a fairly cut and dried ghost story, a tale of a girl being sacrificed to save an already-dead son.

There are a variety of nay-sayers who disparage this particular episode, but there is also a variety of people who like the shittiest episodes of the season for no discernibly good reason, so you can take all that with a grain of salt.

Above all other things, this episode at least manages to keep you interested in and entertained by what goes on, without just putting you into a generic horror coma.

The great failing of the anthology format is displayed in its lesser and, particularly, its more mediocre episodes. This is obviously not one of them, as it does not stand to totally shame the franchise with its existence and only petty whiners would complain too loudly about the episode.

It stands slightly above the pack, in large part due to the lack of meat to its brethren, though you can’t blame it for the other episodes’ failings. The plot is of little note, the acting is nothing of exceptional mention, and the only thing that stands out is some interesting stylistic and effects-oriented touches.

It can’t be said that this is one of the worse episodes of the show, but I guarantee it won’t be memorable.

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Masters Of Horror - "Deer Woman"

deer_womanrating-4.5"Deer Woman", John Landis' entry into the "Masters Of Horror" series, is where things really started to pick up, however briefly.

"Deer Woman" isn't probably great in the sense that most horror fans would appreciate, as they seem to deride it as stupid and revel in nothing but gore- and blood-soaked massacres with plots resembling nothing but an episode of "Cold Case Files". They desire no art, no heart, and no soul to their entertainment, only buckets of viscera and cringeworthy effects. Anything else, to them, is unnecessary set dressing and serves no purpose to a "true" horror fan.

I beg to differ. That kind of retarded, assfaced thinking is typical of the grunting, stupid horror elite, IQ's barely higher than their shoe size, more interested in masturbating to than seeing or having made any form of higher, more intelligent entertainment under the "horror" umbrella. Anything that is not some half-assed imbecilic Italian horror shlock is obviously inferior.

Given that, "Deer Woman" is a perfect balance of horror and comedy, combining the better parts of Landis' American Werewolf In London with Landis' comedy direction. Brian Benben, long unseen since HBO's "Dream On", provides a really excellent comedic performance as a burnt-out, embittered cop, trying to solve a series of brutal murders, comitted by inhuman hands. Anthony Griffith plays a cop who gets him involved with the case as he tracks down the beautiful Native American woman behind the carnage, Cinthia Moura (who I wouldn't mind seeing in absolutely anything, even if she doesn't speak).

To tell much more would give away the few secrets within, but the ride here is well-worth taking and this stands as the only "Masters" episode to successfully crossbreed horror and comedy, especially in hilarious dream sequences (reminiscent again of "Dream On").

This will not please all the gore-hounds looking for a Miike massacre or a Fulchi bloodbath, but it is one of the few episodes that transcends the series and actually arrives at some part of what the experiment promised.

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Masters Of Horror - "Cigarette Burns"

cigarette_burnsrating-4.5"Cigarette Burns" is the best episode of "Masters Of Horror". Anyone that tells you is a liar, an idiot, or some Japanese movie fetishist who thinks that Miike's bloody but unintelligible offering is somehow superior to something with a plot.

"Cigarette Burns" plays out like a combination of the Kult roleplaying game and something Lovecraftian. Like 8mm combined with Carpenter's In The Mouth Of Madness.

The plot covers a young man, played well by Norman Reedus (whom I usually don't like), in search of a rare film that has incited its viewers to madness and murder. He begins his search for the cursed film and is drawn into its dark web of mystery, leading to some of the most dark and explicit acts of violence and gore in the series, played in a bleakly human light instead of the shiny and intentionally-shocking method that a scene of violence usually receives. The short film earns its revulsion and takes us on a journey with Reedus to find the cursed artifact and see it all to its end.

Carpenter works with fresh-faced writers Drew McWeeny & Scott Swan to craft a really excellent short film that surpasses its made-for-cable roots to be something more powerful. Carpenter, for his part, manages to undo much of the damage done to audiences with Ghosts Of Mars and Escape From L.A. in one fell swoop, reminding us that he really is one of the masters of the horror genre, much like most of the has-beens, whose only real claim to the field is having made one bloody movie that people remember (sometimes even less).

For all his flaws, this proves again that Carpenter is a man to beat and that you can't often do better than bleak mythical fables of dark artifacts bringing about unspeakable change.

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Masters Of Horror - "Homecoming"

homecomingrating-4.0Coming hot on the heels of "Chocolate", "Homecoming" was a breath of unexpected fresh air, though it has an equally lauded and awful rap, depending on who you talk to.

Detractors point out its stupidity, its obviousness, its lack of depth, and its divisive nature. Advocates appreciate its political satire, its ribbing of asshole pundits, and its thoughtful pointedness about our times. So, as you can see, opposing viewpoints, much as you are wont to see in our political culture.

The plot involves a conservative pundit's opportunistic wish that all our fallen troops from the Iraq War would return, sure to vote for his neo-con President in a tight election. His wish, of course, comes true and the troops rise from the grave to the astonishment of the establishment.

They don't know how to deal with the troops, so they handle things badly. There's camps. People are told the apocalypse is coming.

Of course, all they want to do is vote. So they're allowed to and they pass back into death. Until their votes are discounted... The rest you'll have to see.

It has analogues for Cindy Sheehan, Karl Rove, a particularly nasty jab at Ann Coulter, all the biggest, dumbest talking heads in the business. It's a fairly astute vision of politics, filtered through the pathos of our troops and the sacrifice they make for... well, roughly nothing. It lampoons the assholes that run our world blisteringly.

The one criticism I have is the very end, which is far too cartoonish and pushes well past the point, which was already made. No need to drive it home, Mr. Dante.

Joe Dante is a horror fan and has made a name for himself as a director. It is well-deserved. Sam Hamm shows that he has an excellent handle on how to tell a horror story that has a social context. It's all very well-done and I enjoyed it very much, though other people would easily write it off because of the overtly political texture. To them I say "Eat it."

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Masters Of Horror - "Chocolate"

chocolaterating-2.0Poor, silly Henry Thomas. You were okay in Suicide Kings. And, here you are now, reduced to doing this horrible episode of "Masters Of Horror".

The problem with this episode is Mick Garris. Mick, we thank you for putting together the show and being a big dork who managed to gather directors for the "Masters of Horror" dinners that got this ball rolling. You're a nerd and you got it going, so kudos to you. But you can't direct worth a shit. Look at all those horrible Stephen King movies you've done... Stephen King isn't even a decent writer, but you keep churning out crap TV-grade movies based on his hacky novels.

And Mick's writing is no favor, either. Bland and stupid stories play out before you everytime he writes something, often based on someone else's crappy writing. Every time, it's a series of bland and pointless incidents with characters talking about nothing, barely strung together coherently. The concepts are weak.

This episode is no exception. A man, the aforementioned Henry Thomas, starts seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, sensing the life of a woman he's somehow in intermittant psychic connection with.

Against the judgement of any intelligent person, he tracks the girl down, acts like a huge, crazy stalker, and generally makes a big stupid scene, of course leading to general badness but not a shred of horror, going against the theme trumpeted in the show's title.

The particular episode is not as incompetant as "Dance Of The Dead", for example, but it's a bland and pointless exercise in creating a second-rate sci-fi short film. It might as well be an episode of some syndicated anthology show, just updated for the twenty-first century.

As far as positives, Matt Frewer is in the episode briefly and shows what a real actor can do before collecting his check and escaping from the horrible affair.

If only we could all escape with you, Matt, assured in our notion that Mick Garris was done writing and directing ever again. Sadly, it's not so.

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