Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bree Turner, Angus Scrimm, Ezra Godden, Jonathan Tucker, Jessica Lowndes, Robert Englund, Steven Weber, Carrie Fleming, Henry Thomas, Jon Tenney, Thea Gill, Robert Picardo, Brian Benben, Cinthia Moura, Norman Reedus, Udo Kier, Lori Petty, Angela Bettis, Erin Brown, Fairuza Balk, Warren Kole, Derek Cecil, Leela Savasta, Jon Polito, Billy Drago, Youki Kudoh
Written by: Don Coscarelli, Stephen Romano, Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon, Richard Christian Matheson, Steven Weber, Mick Garris, Sam Hamm, John Landis, Max Landis, Drew McWeeny, Scott Swan, Matt Greenberg, Sean Hood, Lucky McKee, David J. Schow, Daisuke Tengan
Directed by: Mick Garris, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, John Landis, Stuart Gordon, William Malone, John McNaughton, Joe Dante, Takashi Miike, Don Coscarelli, Dario Argento, Larry Cohen, Lucky McKee
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 692
Date: 19/03/2013

Masters of Horror: Season 1 (2005)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Something Really Scary

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy Masters of Horror: Season 1 on DVD

Anchor Bay Entertainment has released a spectacular, 14-disc box set containing the complete first season of "Masters of Horror," including a new bonus disc. (The box comes in the shape of a mausoleum and should spice up your shelf quite nicely.) Horror has always been shafted in the grand scheme of genres, but lately it has even been biting its own hand. Certain artists who become associated with horror find that they can never escape its clutches. This is still true, except that in the current craze for horror remakes, even these practitioners are sitting back, helplessly watching their work massacred by younger and less talented filmmakers. Sure, they collect a paycheck, but why aren't they working? Why can't they direct their own remakes? Or better still: make new films that future filmmakers can remake?

And so director Mick Garris, probably best known for his television adaptations of Stephen King, concocted the idea for this series, which would allow thirteen horror directors, ranging from veterans to newcomers, to do anything they wanted with an hour's time for the small screen. For his first season, he assembled the following new films: Chocolate (Mick Garris), Cigarette Burns (John Carpenter), Dance of the Dead (Tobe Hooper), Deer Woman (John Landis), Dreams in the Witch-House (Stuart Gordon), The Fair-Haired Child (William Malone), Haeckel's Tale (John McNaughton), Homecoming (Joe Dante), Imprint (Takashi Miike), Incident On and Off a Mountain Road (Don Coscarelli), Jenifer (Dario Argento), Pick Me Up (Larry Cohen), and Sick Girl (Lucky McKee).

As with any collection of this sort, it has its highs and lows. The general consensus is that Carpenter's Cigarette Burns and Dante's Homecoming are the top two, followed by Miike's Imprint, Coscarelli's Incident On and Off a Mountain Road and Landis' Deer Woman. Cigarette Burns, which refers to that little circle in the upper corner at the end of a reel on a film print that signals a reel change, is an intriguing and tense tale set within the world of film collectors. The debt-ridden Kirby (Norman Reedus) owns a dying revival movie theater (currently showing Argento's Profondo rosso), and so when the creepy Bellinger (Udo Kier) hires him to find an extremely rare film, he agrees. But this particular film has a peculiar and deadly history. Carpenter, a film nut himself, lurks around in this world of projection rooms and archives with great pleasure.

Dante's Homecoming is something else entirely, an astute political satire that doesn't skimp on laughs or scares; it may be the best film yet made about the Bush era. A president announces during a press conference that he wishes the dead soldiers dispatched to fight a suspect war could come back and say how proud they were to have served their country. Unfortunately for him, they do come back, as a hoard of zombies, and they're anything but pleased about their fate. In fact, they start voting against him! Jon Tenney plays the shady hero, a political consultant, and Thea Gill is at his side, as Jane Cleaver, more than a little resembles Ann Coulter. Dante regular Robert Picardo co-stars.

I was mixed on some of the other titles, but Landis' Deer Woman is an enjoyably successful mixture of that director's love of comedy, horror and beautiful, naked women.

DVD Details: Each DVD comes with a load of extras, including in-depth bios, commentary tracks (sometimes by the directors, but sometimes by the writers), trailers for other "Masters of Horror" episodes as well as other Anchor Bay releases, PDF versions of the screenplays, still galleries and behind-the-scenes featurettes. The new bonus disc comes with a "dinner discussion by several of the directors (some from Season Two), a Director's Guild panel hosted by Clive Barker, and old television interviews conducted by Mick Garris with Steven Spielberg (on Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and John Boorman (on Zardoz).

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