Thursday, October 22, 2009

October Horror Fest #21: MASTERS OF HORROR, PART 1

Masters Of Horror was a great idea that produced some really interesting and occasionally brilliant short films. The genesis of the project was director Mick Garris, best known for his film adaptations of Stephen King material (Sleepwalkers, The Stand, etc.) He wrote or co-wrote each episode and handed them to his circle of friends-basically every noteworthy horror director alive-and the Showtime series was the result. Carpenter, Hooper, Dante, Argento, they're all here.

Despite the pedigree of talent involved the total output was, for the most part, mediocre. A number of factors could be responsible: the shortened format, the availability of good talent, or maybe the inclusion of some questionable directors (Peter Medak? Really?) Still, it produced some excellent work; here's a guide to the best episodes.

EPISODE 2: H.P. Lovecraft's Dreams In The Witch-House

Stuart Gordon has established himself as the authority on film adaptations of Lovecraft. Since Re-Animator, no one has surpassed him in either quality nor quantity. This version of HPL's classic tale of madness diverges a bit from the original text, but it boasts solid performances from its cast and simple yet effective special effects.

EPISODE 8: Cigarette Burns

John Carpenter almost always writes his own films, so it's interesting to see him interpret ideas from someone else. The subject matter is also unusual for Carpenter: it's more of a murder mystery than a straight horror. But there's plenty of bloodshed and some genuine twists that keep you involved until the very end.

EPISODE 13: Imprint

By far the most controversial episode of the entire series, Imprint is a trippy descent into a haunted man's subconscious, where nothing is as it seems. As the story evolves, everything you discover becomes something else entirely. Takashi Miike is truly the master of subversive cinema. Showtime refused to air this episode because of its truly horrific content; don't watch this on a full stomach.

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