Arghhh! This series makes me so angry! Smashing things angry! Arghhhhh!
Okay, I’ve calmed down a bit now. Breathe. See, the thing is, this is an absolutely brilliant idea. Take some experienced horror directors, give ’em an hour to make something fun, end of.
The problem with all too many horror films is that they’re too long (anything over 95 minutes is “too long”) so the hour-long TV format should be perfect. And yet, time and time again, all that happens if that you end up with an hour of dross. Except – and this is the worst part – it’s not all dross. Usually, there’s at least one episode per boxset that is so mindblowingly brilliant it takes away the pain of the previous shitty episode, and cushions the blow for the next one. It only starts hurting again once you realise that there probably won’t be another brilliant one in the box, and that you’ve still got three episodes left…
Let’s break this down, then.
Tobe Hooper’s The Damned Thing Last season, Tobe Hooper’s Dance of the Dead was a slightly muddled yet still quite good episode. This season, he’s made some generic, boring shit that it’s impossible to care about in the slightest: a cookie-cutter family in a cookie-cutter small town find themselves menaced by some ancient evil. In this case, it’s … an oil monster. Which causes people to kill one another, because it didn’t like being drilled at. Or something. It’s so boring I can’t even remember; my brain shut down halfway through when it realised there wasn’t a shred of originality involved with this episode.Ernest Dickerson’s The V Word Dickerson appears, judging by his IMDB credits, to be a mostly TV director, though he did do Def by Temptation, and apparently one horror credit is enough to earn you a Masters of Horror badge. I’ve given up being irritated by that, even though most of these directors are on a par with the kind of person who’d buy a Blue Peter badge on eBay. Whatever. What matters here is that this is more deathly dull crap – some idiot kids break into a morgue to see a dead body, only it turns out one of the bodies is actually… drumroll… undead. Sadly, everyone in this is so unengaging it’s, again, impossible to care.
Tom Holland’s We Scream For Ice Cream Tom Holland has directed some Stephen King adaptations, Child’s Play, and Fright Night, and this episode is pretty much what you’d expect from someone with those movies on his CV. It’s a bizarre, convoluted story about an angry undead clown that wreaks revenge on his killers by feeding their children voodoo icecream. That’s one hell of a concept, and it’s not that badly executed, it’s just that it’s just sort of mediocre. It’s alright, I guess. Good title, too.
Brad Anderson’s Sounds Like This is the episode that redeems the season. I hate to say it, because Anderson has directed two movies I really hated, and it’s debatable whether either of them classes as “horror”, but then again this episode isn’t exactly horror in the way the term has been understood by all the other directors. This … this is just brilliant. Well written, well acted, scary, great sound design, great visuals, just absolutely brilliant. Creepy, rather than outright scary, but it’ll stay with you. Hurrah!
Peter Medak’s The Washingtonian Peter Medak directed Species II. Someone should have taken his camera privileges away right then, and sent him to stand in the corner, in disgrace. The Washingtonian might be the worst Masters of Horror episode ever (except writing that makes me remember Pelts, and wish I wasn’t stupid enough to watch all this crap). It’s about a cookie-cutter family who move to a cookie-cutter small town (seriously, all these generic families blur into one after a while, because none of them are granted enough personality to differentiate them) only to discover that there’s a cannibalistic cult in town who worship George Washington and like to eat children. It’s… ludicrous. It’s badly acted, badly written, and horrendously directed. It’s unimaginably bad. The punchline of the episode, too, makes me want to punch someone. Preferably Medak. Argh!
Norio Tsurata’s Dream Cruise For some reason, this episode is 87 minutes long, rather than the usual 55-ish. This is not for the best. Norio Tsurata is the guy who directed Ring 0: Birthday, and the episode is based on a short story by Koji Suzuki, who wrote, among other things, the stories Ring and Dark Water are based on, so it’s not hard to guess what it’s about. A man whose brother drowned before his eyes is forced to go out on a boat with an important client and his wife, whom he just happens to be knocking off on the side. Which makes no sense, because it’s really obvious before he even sets foot on the boat that the client is planning to dump his dead body in the sea, so he’s just unredeemably thick. The acting in this episode is somehow worse than the usual (low) Masters of Horror standard, and when the ghosts show up, they’re blatant rip-offs of The Grudge … which is weird, considering all the connections to Ring. But it still sucks.
In conclusion, then, the episodes in season 2 worth bothering with are: Family, The Screwfly Solution, and Sounds Like. Pro-Life and Right To Die are worth a spin if you’re feeling particularly forgiving, but the rest is absolutely not worth your time or brain-space.