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Reviewed by: JimmyO

Directed by: Various

Steven Weber
Lori Petty
Angela Bettis

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What's it about
Tales of terror from some of the most important horror directors past and present, they include Dario Argento, John Landis, Larry Cohen, William Malone, Lucky McKee and Joe Dante. From killer bugs, to zombie soldiers and a dueling serial killers, Season 1 of Masters of Horror offers up a mostly entertaining nightmare.
Is it good movie?
I remember when Season 1 of Masters of Horror first came to Showtime. There was a lot of hype surrounding it yet many were disappointed by the finished product. I for one felt that there were a few glimmers of brilliance mixed with a few satisfactory chills. But after going back to the horror, I find myself noticing a few gems among a mostly strong set of episodes.

Deer Woman is one of the most entertaining of the set. Directed by John Landis, Deer Woman is a fun take on a Native American myth of a woman/deer who seduces men and then stomps them to death, turning them into a bloody pulp. It stars Brian Benben who is great as a detective trying to figure out why deer hooves are found all over these horny dudes. The best moment is when Ben’s character talks about a mutant wolf attack in London back in 1981. This is basically a fun popcorn flick with a bunch of deer.

Surprisingly, my least favorite on the disc is by one of my favorite directors. Dario Argento’s Jenifer is an odd take on the weakness of men when it comes to sex and desire. It feels odd and I didn’t like a few of the performances. Steven Weber (who also wrote the script) works as the lead character who saves Jenifer from a crazy dude who wants to kill her. This beautiful woman with the face of a monster. Jenifer is played by Carrie Anne Fleming, and she really makes the role work. But the whole psycho sexual aspect just seemed odd. Maybe it’s me, but a face like that, no matter how great the bootie… yuck. Although this still has a few of Dario’s trademark groovy images.

The Fair Haired Child is a very creepy tale directed by William Malone which opens with a bang. A young teenage out-cast girl Lindsey Pulsipher is kidnapped by a bizarre couple, Lori Petty and William Samples who have a deep dark secret. This is pretty predictable yet it is very atmospheric and surprisingly intense, reminding me a little of Wes Craven‘s The People Under the Stairs. It is fun to see Ms. Petty in a strange performance, but it works, and Lindsey is terrific in the role of the out-cast who tries to survive in the house of horrors.

As for Pick Me Up, I had a blast with this one. Larry Cohen directs this story of two serial killers (Warren Kole and Michael Moriarty) who end up in a bit of a territorial war. Caught in the middle of that war is a is the lovely Fairuza Balk who literally has to fight this two madmen off of her. I’m a sucker for these middle of nowhere hitchhiker flicks and this wasn’t a let down. The only minor issue I have is the “twist” ending which seemed a bit silly. Still, a few gruesome images and great performances by Kole, Moriarty and Balk. One of my favorites on this particular season.

Lucky McKee adds a winner with Sick Girl. Ida Teeter (Angela Bettis) is a entomologist who lives a lonely life as her co-worker and friend (Jesse Hlubik) keeps telling her that she needs to get rid of her pet bugs if she’s going to find a girlfriend. Oh, wait? Did I just say “girlfriend”. Why yes I did, and yes she does? A young lady Erin Brown takes notice of Ida and Ida takes notice of her. Too bad that a nasty little pet bug has also taken to the new girl and begins to take Ida’s sweetie over. Loads of buggy goodness on this one but I did find Angela’s parental bug voice to her pets was somewhat annoying, quite a unique performance though.

Finally, this is the love it or hate it episode. Joe Dante’s Homecoming is a fascinating satire on the Iraq War, and all politics aside, was a damn interesting story. When Jon Tenney as a speaker for the Republican administration wishes all the fallen soldiers could come back and let America know how they feel about serving their country… the dead come back to vote. And they do, to vote for the other candidate. Now if you feel that this is all liberal propaganda… well, it probably is to a certain extent. Yet I thought it was a wonderfully acted episode with Tenney and Thea Gill. Not necessarily a horror story, but a social commentary shot by a talented director.

A pretty terrific set of DVD’s to own, yet if you already bought them in their single disc format… a little déjŕ vu, or just the curse of the double dip.
Video / Audio
Video: A sharp 1.78:1 widescreen transfer that keeps the blood looking nice and red.

Audio: Also impressive is the Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround 2.0. This is a great looking and great sounding DVD.
The Extras
I’ve always thought the Masters of Horror DVD’s put together an impressive set of special features. And yes, since these are the same features on the original single episode discs, they are also great. It would have been nice to have a little something extra possibly, but what can you do?

Starting off with the basics, each disc has the point your remote and click Still Gallery, Director’s Bio and a lovely DVD-ROM which includes the original script and or a screensaver. They also include Trailers for “Chocolate”, “Cigarette Burns”, “Dream in the Witch-House”, “Homecoming”, “Deer Woman”, “Jenifer”, “Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”, “Dance of the Dead, while a few of the discs also offer trailers for “Fair-Haired Child”, “Pick Me Up” and “Sick Girl”. And if you want more… there are Also on DVD previews which include “Masters of Horror”, “Room 6”, “Demon Hunter” and “The Tooth Fairy”.

As for Commentaries, we are offered Brian Benben and Anthony Griffiths for “Deer Woman”. Although I like the two guys, they are not the most exciting listen, with plenty of dead spots. For “Jenifer”, we have Steven Weber and DVD Producer Perry Martin who offer up some fun stories on working with master Dario and a creepy looking chick with a great body. Larry Cohen offers up a very insightful listen for “Pick Me Up” including fun facts about working with Michael Moriarty. Writer Matt Greenberg and William Malone give some vision into the atmospheric “Fair-Haired Child” which made me appreciate the show even more. As for “Homecoming”, Sam Hamm offers some interesting facts in regards to writing the episode, but it would have been nice to have Joe Dante on board. And finally, we have a very entertaining track with “Sick Girl”, including Angela Bettis, Lucky McKee, composer and indie rocker for Poperatic, Jaye Barnes Luckett and finally an actor that seems to get eaten by women a lot, Jesse Hlubik. They really have a great time together, and so will you.

Also included on each disc are several Featurettes that include conversations with the director of each episode including “Animal Hooves” (25:59) for Deer Woman, “So Hideous My Love” (14:32 for Jenifer, “Death on the Highway” (26:52) for Pick Me Up, “The Face of Fear” (25:30) for Fair-Haired Child, “The Dead Come Marching” (24:02) for Homecoming and finally “Blood Bugs and Romance” (14:48) for Sick Girl. All of these shorts were fascinating, especially the interview with Dario Argento. I wasn’t necessarily a big fan of Jenifer, but I was able to appreciate what he was trying to do. All of these are worth checking out.

Each of the discs also include episodes of “Working with a Master” for each director, and several “On-Set” interviews with the main cast, while the most interesting belongs to Brad MacDonald, the bug-wrangler for “Sick Girl”. Talk about creepy stuff. And also, we are offered up a “Behind the Scenes” for each episode. Not the most impressive extra here. Just a basic, behind the scenes without any real insight that the director and cast interviews didn’t cover.

Wrapping up the extras, we also have a few “Script to Screen” features for Jenifer, Pick Me Up and Homecoming. Mick Garris offers up some early interviews he did with a few of the directors for his local television show Fantasy Film Festival. You have Joe Dante at the time of Pirhana, Larry Cohen for It Lives Again and John Landis for Animal House and The Blues Brothers. Also thrown in for good measure is Howard Berger and the Make-Up for Jenifer and Scenes from William Malone’s First Short Film which is a tad dull. But the make-up for Jenifer was fun… quite attractive young lady under that nasty looking face.

And in case you dig hidden extras… look for the skull.
Last Call
Whether you want certain episodes or half a season, or even the whole season, Anchor Bay will deliver. Yet it still seems a bit like double dipping, but in my personal opinion, this is how they should have released it in the beginning, none of this single episode nonsense. But still, looking back on the first season of Masters of Horror, I am happy to say that there were a few pretty strong episodes in this batch. From Homecoming to Deer Woman, with Pick Me Up to Sick Girl there was much to love. Dario Argento didn’t excite me with Jenifer, and Fair-Haired Child took awhile to grow on me with it’s atmospheric tone. But it is very nice to have this series available for these directors to explore and imagine with. While not all winners, it is still a fun trip into some dark territory.
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