Showtime’s Mick Garris created horror series Masters of Horror provided some of the greatest terror-filled pieces of art to hit televion. The first season in particular exceeded typical expectations, and left a lasting impreson in the minds of viewers. With wonderful filmmakers like Dario Argento, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper and Don Coscarelli (to ame just a few) all aboard, it probably should come as no surprise that the series garnered masve acclaim.
Sadly, Masters of Horror has still eluded countless genre fans, so I’ve taken a few moments to help usher you in the right direction, and encourage you to seek the entire series out, as it is for the most part, dazzling. I’m not going to analyze all 13 episodes, but I am going to illuminate five of my personal favorites from season one.
Be prepared, you’ll recognize just about everyone involved with these films, and you may be stunned to learn that, in a few cases these are the best genre contributions to be made by some legendary horror icons in years.
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Norman Reedus, Udo Kier
Carpenter’s “Cigarette Burns” follows a financially deprived theater owner who’s recruited to track a film that is said to be the most horrific piece of cinema in history; reports indicate the picture once influenced viewers to embark on a homicidal spree, prior to the film’s disappearance.
Carpenter works some of his finest magic for this taut chiller. There are some unbelievably eerie visuals in store for viewers, a handful of melancholy revelations that tug at the strings of the heart as well as the new of fear. Norman Reedus does a fine job as the picture’s lead, but Udo Kier’s onscreen time threatens to steal the show.
An absolute must for any Carpenter fan, this one has a little bit of everything taboo, a technically impresve script and some wonderful gore.
The Fair Haired Child
Director: William Malone
Starring: Lori Petty, Lindsay Pulpher
If you want to talk about extremely harrowing tales of kidnap, you want to talk about The Fair Haired Child. When Tara finds herself in a basement accompanied by a young man on the verge of hanging to death, a deep will to ensure both survive overcomes the level-headed heroine. However, while self-preservation is a must, Tara forgets to keep an eye on her company, who may offer some nister secrets.
This is a multilayered movie that packs some unforeseen twists; great care was invested in the script, and for that I applaud scribe Matt Greenberg. In addition to a well refined story, there are some beautiful camera angles; the cinematography as a whole is just fantastic, as is the subtle but creepy score, and the impresve special FX from Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger.
Incident on and off a Mountain Road
Director: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Ethan Embry, Bree Turner, Angus Scrimm
Enjoy slashers and cool villains? You’ll love this film. Moonface is a towering, frightening mutation of violence that looks extremely cool and possesses a knack for creative weaponry. When Ellen finds herself abducted by this freak of nature, she’s forced to rely on lessons learned while enduring an abuve relationship in order to overcome one of the most underrated onscreen villains you’ll find (seriously, we need a Moonface movie!).
Coscarelli’s direction is as wild as fans have come to expect, but there’s a fantastic aesthetic quality about the picture that will leave you hooked from the jump. There’s no downtime, fine tenon and even an entertaining appearance from longtime Coscarelli collaborator, Angus Scrimm. Dare I say, this may be my favorite MOH installment!
Pick Me Up
Director: Larry Cohen
Starring: Fairuza Balk, Michael Moriarty, Warren Kole
What’s worse than running into a serial killer on a lonely stretch of isolated highway? How about running into two serial killers on a lonely stretch of isolated highway? This creepy offering sees two psychopaths vie for the same killing grounds, while the wandering Stacia finds herself in the middle of an increangly tumultuous scenario.
Though some sketchy dialogue hurts the picture early on, David J. Schow’s script quickly works itself out. The concept of rival antagonists is a blast, and between Michael Moriarty and Warren Kole’s performances, there’s an escalating sense of grand rigidity that piles up before the viewer’s eyes. One hell of a climax tops off this often humorous, often frightening, and constantly enjoyable flick.
Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Steven Weber, Carrie Fleming
When Frank Spivey rescues a disfigured woman from the clutches of death, he unwillingly sets a series of catastrophic events in motion. See, this woman, Jenifer is certainly better off dead, which Frank soon learns after taking the woman in, and developing a fatal obseson with the beastly stranger. There’s a mple lesson to learn here: don’t intervene in a strangers buness.
Argento crafts an unnerving tale of eroticism, animalistic nature and near-palpable fear. The performances are excellent, and the make-up FX are shall we say… to die for. What sets this MOH installment apart from so many others is the prime display of misguided efforts, a sadly tangible take on humanity and poorly invested emotions. Keep an eye out for another terrific pinnacle.
While they didn’t make this specific list, I’d also highly recommend MOH season one installments, Dreams in the Witch-House, Homecoming and Deer Woman.