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Masters of Horror: Season 2 
Written by: on July 27th, 2008

Release Dates: USA, 2006/2007
Directors: Tobe Hooper, John Landis, Ernest R. Dickerson, Brad Anderson, John Carpenter, Dario Argento, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Rob Schmidt, Tom Holland, Stuart Gordon, Peter Medak, Norio Tsuruta

DVD released: July 29th, 2008
Approximate running time: 764 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Stereo English
Subtitles: English
DVD Release: Anchor Bay
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $86.97

After the success of the first Masters of Horror in 2005 it only made sense to bring back the series for a second season. One of the key ingredients of what makes the Masters of Horror series is its strong writing that is cast on the same mold that made T.V. series like The Twilight Zone and The X-Files so compelling to watch. These are not just your average monsters of the week type stories. Most of the stories featured in the Masters of Horror’s series tackle important and controversial social issues. The other key factor that lifts this series above all of its competitors is its ability to draw in some of the world’s best director’s of the Macabre.

The Damned Thing: Twenty four years after Kevin witnessed his father brutally murder his mother. The monster that possessed his father has returned to claim Kevin. Everyone in town including his wife and daughter are now in danger as the monster will not stop until it gets what it has come for.

That Damned Thing is based on a short story written by Ambrose Bierce. Screenwriter Richard Christian Matheson does an amazing job adapting Ambrose Bierce’s short story. The plot is filled with tension that all builds up to an apocalyptic conclusion. There is plenty of blood and guts on display in That Dammed Thing. All of the carnage and the oily monster are all very effective. The acting for That Damned Thing is surprisingly good with the stand out performance being Ted Raimi as a preacher.

Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) who is the first season of Master of Horror directed Dance of the Dead returns for the second season with a more rounded and gruesome tale. His direction is nearly flawless as he creates some frightening moments. The most memorable moment in the film is the opening scene where Kevin’s father kills his mother and tires dot kill him. Ultimately That Dammed Thing is the kind of piece in which Tobe Hooper excels and the end result is a very satisfying horror film.

Family: On the surface Harold Thompson appears to be a good neighbor who keeps to himself. Harold wants the perfect family and nothing will stop him from obtaining his goal. Celia and David is a couple who have just moved in next door to Harold. When Harold see’s them fighting his sets his sights on adding Celia to his ever growing family.

John Landis who directed Deer Woman in the first season of Masters of Horror returns for the second season with “Family” a sinister tale that takes family values to the extreme. The script for “Family” was written by Brent Hanley who most famous work as a screenwriter is the film Frailty. Brent Hanley’s script is filled with wonderful dialog and quirky moments. Visually John Landis does a solid job balancing the films offbeat humor with its more gruesome moments.

The biggest surprise of “Family” is the casting of George Wendt as Harold Thompson a psychopath who is so caught up in his own world that he fails to see his own impending doom. George Wendt who is primary remembered for his role as Norm on Cheers does a phenomenal job playing a character unlike any he has played before. Ultimately ‘Family” is a highly entertaining horror/comedy hybrid that never misses a beat.

The V Word: Bored with their everyday lives two teenage boys go to a funeral home to look at the corpse of a classmate’s who had recently died. While in the funeral home the boys encounter Mr. Chaney who’s craving for blood turns them into vampires. Now creatures of the night the two boys are forced to accept their fate and need to feed on the blood of others.

Ernest R. Dickerson’s The V Word starts off strongly only to lose steam half way through. Visually Ernest R. Dickerson creates some memorable images and moments that pay homage to other vampire films. There is very little if any moments of fright and the gore is average at best.

The only performance that stands out is Michael Ironside as Mr. Chaney the vampire who turns the two teenage friends lurking around the funeral home into vampires. Michael Ironside steals every scene he is in and it is a shame that he is so under used in this film. Ultimately while I admire The V Word’s different take on “Vampires” the end result is disappointing.

Sounds Like: Larry Pearce sense of hearing sounds is magnified after the tragic death of his son. Larry goes through life trying to avoid the sounds of others. This distance that he creates between himself and others puts a strain on his relationship with his wife who desperately wants to conceive another child. Unable to find peace and quiet the sounds around him start to drive him crazy.

Brad Anderson (Session 9) wrote and directed Sounds Like the most unnerving episode of season two. The use of sound in Sounds Like is this episodes strongest asset. By the end of the film the cacophony of sounds will be gnawing at your nerves. The casting of Chris Bauer as Larry Pearce a man with an acute ability to hear everything around him is an inspired choice.

The two most memorable shots in the episode are a scene when Larry is about to cut his ears off and you can see the reflection of his ear in the knife. The other memorable shot is another reflection shot this time of Larry’s severed ears on the dresser. Ultimately Sounds Like is a tragic story about loss and guilt.

Pro-Life: A religious fanatic named Dwayne comes to retrieve his daughter who is inside of an abortion clinic. Dwayne and this clinic have a past. They have a restraining order against him. Dwayne is forced to take the place by force with the help of his three sons.

Out of all the directors to work on the Master of Horror series John Carpenter’s entries Cigarette Burns and Pro-Life have surprised me the most. In recent Years John Carpenter as a filmmaker has been on a downward slide. His work on the Masters of Horror gives me hope that he still has one great horror film left in him. Like most of John Carpenter’s best films Pro-Life is action packed and has a few brutal moments.

The plot for Pro-Life may put some viewers off because of its subject matter even though the film never takes a stand for or against abortion. They leave the meaning of the episode up to each viewer’s interpretation of the piece. The most memorable performance in the film is Ron Perlman as Dwayne Burcell. Ultimately Pro-Life is one of the better episodes to emerge form Season two.

Pelts: Jake Feldman is a furrier who is surrounded by imperfection at work and is infatuated with a stripper named Shana who is repulsed by him. Jeb Jameson is sadistic raccoon trapper who comes across the most beautiful pelts anyone has ever seen and he offers them to Jake at a price he cannot refuse. Jake and his business partner decide to make the most spectacular mink coat ever made out of these flawless pelts and now all they need is the right model to wear it at the fashion show they are going to unveil it to the world at. Happiness is short lived as since bad things start to happen to everyone who comes in contact with the pelts.

The screenplay which was written by first time writer Matt Venne is well written plot that has the right amount of story and gore. The special effects are without a doubt the best to ever grace any Argento film. The level of violence and gore is off the chart as the blood runs deep and often. One of the most disturbing moments is when John Saxon’s character kills a raccoon by crushing its windpipe with his foot and then tells his son if that doesn’t kill them bash their brains in with the baseball bat. Unlike most of Argento’s films there are plenty of bare breasted women in this one with the films lead female character Shana spending the majority of screen time topless.

Acting wise Meatloaf does what he does best play’s another loud and over the top character without adding any depth or background to the man. It was cool seeing John Saxon reunited with Dario Argento and despite his limited screen time he manages to create a memorable performance. The best performance in the film is Ellen Ewusie as Shana the stripper and even though she has very little to say her body movements totally sell her performance. This is by far and away the sexiest performance in any Argento film.

Dario Argento ‘s direction is very stylish and the use of color is the strongest it has been in many years for Argento. The lighting in the scene where Jeb and his son go to kill the raccoons is haunting beautiful as it perfectly captures the mood of the scene. Virtually all the scenes are well done with the one where Sue Chin Yao eyes and mouth are sewn shut being my favorite Argento like moment. Frequent Dario Argento collaborator Claudio Simonetti provides yet another solid score that compliments the action and mayhem. Ultimately Pelts is most brutal and bloody episode of Master of Horror from Season two.

The Screwfly Solution: A deadly virus that only affects men increases their level of violence towards women. The virus spreads leading to chaos and the murdering of all women at the hands of infected men. Who unleashed this plague and will mankind become extinct before they can find a cure?

Joe Dante who on the previous season of Master of Horror directed Homecoming returns for the second season with The Screwfly Solution a tale that is more Sci-Fi based then horror. While the premise of the story a deadly plague and the acts brutal acts of violence towards women in this film are frightening and horrific. The bulk of the piece strays too far into the Sci-Fi realm. Trying to fit this story into sixty minutes is a monumental task. The story needs more room to breathe and the sixty minute time length definitely hurts the end product.

Of note this is the goriest film that Joe Dante has made since The Howling. The most shocking moment has to be the scene where a man who has just tried to kill a stripper takes a broken bottle and repeatedly stabs his crotch with it. He even inserts some nudity into the mix. One positive about this film is the outstanding performances from Jason Priestley and Elliott Gould. Ultimately The Screwfly Solution is an ambition piece that fails to live up to its potential.

Valerie on the Stairs: Rob Hanisey a struggling writer moves into a house for unpublished authors. Over the years there have been a handful of mysterious disappearances and deaths. Shortly after his arrival Rob encounters a woman named Valerie who no one else appears to see. Rob quickly discovers that three of the authors living in the building are writing a book titled “Valerie on the Stairs and that the characters in the book have come alive.

The story Valerie on the Stairs is based on a treatment written by Clive Barker (Candyman, Hellraiser). This episode was episode directed by Master of Horror creator MicK Garris. Visually Valerie on the Stairs is a nightmarish experience that features some jaw dropping moments. The first of these moments is when one of the writers has his spinal cord ripped out by the beast. The other is the episodes poetic ending were Rob Hanisey the episodes main protagonist literally becomes part of the story he is creating.

Fans of other films based on Clive Barker’s writings will be thoroughly pleased with the imagery and tone of Valerie on the Stairs. The makeup and special effects are all dead on. The cast for Valerie on the Stairs all do a spectacular job in their respective roles. Two familiar faces in the cast are Christopher Lloyd as Everett Neely a failed writer and Tony Todd cast appropriately in the role of The Beast. The biggest surprise is Tyron Leitso’s performance as Rob Hanisey. Ultimately Valerie on the Stairs is a hauntingly beautiful tale about a writer who loses himself in his creation.

Right to Die: A man is haunted by the spirit of his wife who was severely burned in a car accident.

Right to Die was directed by Rob Schmidt who is most remembered for his horror film Wrong Turn. The plot for Right to Die is a satisfying ghost story. Visually this episode is lacks the style evident in most of the episodes from season two. This episode does feature one of the most brutal scenes to merge from season two. Cliff needing skin for his badly burned with removes the flesh he needs from his mistress.

This episode’s greatest assets are is two lead performers Martin Donovan as Cliff Addison the cheating husband and Julia Anderson in the role of Abbey Addison his wife. Besides the moments of horror and gore director Rob Schmidt does a solid job mixing in some eroticism with the moments of horror. The best example of this is a scene were Julia’s naked spirit visits Cliff who is taking a bath. This scene starts off harmless enough until she shows her true image of a burned corpse. Another performance of note is Corbin Bernsen who plays a slimy lawyer. Ultimately Right to Die is an uneven episode that is almost saved with its superb ending.

We All Scream for Ice Cream: Buster a mentally retarded man who works as an ice-cream man is accidentally killed when a prank goes horribly wrong. Years later the kid’s responsible for the prank are now grown up and have children of their own. Buster the clown comes back from the dead and uses their children to gets his revenge.

One thing that most people remembered from their youth is that Ice Cream Man and his truck that plays an all to familiar tune that leads his perspective customers to him like a piped piper. Filmmaker Tom Holland (Child’s Play) directs We All Scream for Ice Cream a tale that was adapted from a short story written by John Farris. The look and feel of We All Scream for Ice Cream reminded me of films like Sometimes They Come Back and It.

This episode is the tamest to emerge from season two. The story retreads themes and ideas that have been done many times before. The only thing that stands out in this whole episode is William Forsythe’s maniacal performance as Buster the ice cream man. Ultimately We All Scream for Ice Cream is a very pedestrian affair that lacks any real moments of horror.

The Black Cat: Edgar Allen Poe struggles to find the inspiration he needs for his next tale of the macabre. After a wild night of drinking and being tormented by his wife’s black cat. Poe finds the inspiration he needs to overcome his writers block.

The Black Cat was directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) who directed H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreams in the Witch-House for the first season of Masters of Horror. The Black Cat reunites Stuart Gordon with one of his most frequent collaborators Jeffrey Combs. This version of The Black Cat is unlike any other cinematic telling of the story. Stuart Gordon infuses new life into a tale that had lost its identity over the years in its previous cinematic incarnations. The one thing that really makes The Black Cat so interesting is that the story uses Edgar Allen Poe as its protagonist and it incorporates real life events of Poe’s into the story.

Visually The Black Cat features many satisfying moments of terror and gore. The episode’s two leads Jeffrey Combs as Edgar Allan Poe and Elyse Levesque as Virginia Poe give the two most memorable performances of the second season of Masters of Horror. Ultimately director Stuart Gordon does for Edgar Allen Poe what he had previously done with the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Create satisfying adaptations that retain the essence of the story.

The Washingtonians: While looking through the belongings of his deceased grandmother a man discovers a letter written by George Washington. The contents of the letter if ever revealed could change the legacy of George Washington. Not wanting the letter to ever been seen by the public a group of loyalists to George Washington and preserving his legacy try to retrieve the letter.

The Washingtonians was directed by Peter Medak (The Changeling). The plot for The Washingtonians is a macabre tale about how history can be shaped and altered if need be by those who are in power. One of the most interesting parts of this episode is how it takes the Cannibal genre and turns it on its head. The scenes of cannibalism are all very effective and grotesque. One moment of cannibalism that stands out is a scene in which The Washingtonians eat Thomas Jefferson.

After a tremendous amount of buildup this episodes ending misses its mark. The episode is beautifully lit and a tremendous amount of atmosphere is created throughout. The acting is very good all around with all the performers cast as the various Washingtonians really embracing their roles. Ultimately The Washingtonians starts off strongly before losing itself in satire.

Dream Cruise: Jack Miller an American Lawyer is having an affair with Yuri the wife of one of his client’s. Yuri’s husband Eiji has found out about the affair. Eiji invites Jack who is terrified of the water on a sailing trip were he plans on confronting the two lovers’ about their affair.

Just like the last season this season of the Masters of Horror ends with an episode from a Japanese filmmaker. Dream Cruise was directed by Norio Tsuruta (Scary True Stories, Ring Ø: Birthday). Unlike the other episodes in this season which are just under an hour in length. Dream cruise is essentially a full length feature with its eight seven minute time length.

The core of the story revolves around ghost one that only wants to protect while the other ghost is a malevolent spirit hell bent on vengeance. Visually Dream Cruise has all the elements one would expect from a J Horror film. The buildup is near perfect and the ending is surprisingly upbeat. The episode really starts to hit its stride once Jack, Yuri and Eiji on the boat. Ultimately Dream Cruise is a chilling ghost story that could stand on its own as a feature film.

All around all most of the episodes are enjoyable and have the requisite amount of gore, nudity and mayhem. The standout episodes for season two of the Masters of Horror are Valerie on the Stairs, The Black Cat and Dream Cruise. The episodes that missed the mark are The Screwfly Solution and We All Screw for Ice Cream. Ultimately the Masters of Horror is a superb television series that pushes the boundaries of the format to its limits.

The DVD:

All thirteen episodes of Masters of Horror season two are presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves their original aspect ratios. Anchor Bay have done a solid job with all the transfers as they all look clean and detailed throughout. There are no problems with compression or artifacts and edge enhancement is kept to a minimum.

All thirteen episodes in Masters of Horror season two come with two audio options a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a Dolby Digital stereo mix. All the episodes expect “Dream Cruise” are in English. Dream Cruise’s soundtrack is dual language English and Japanese. English subtitles have been included for the Japanese language dialog. All the audio mixes included for each episodes sound clean, clear and evenly balanced. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes sound more dynamic then the Dolby Digital stereo mixes.

This special edition release of Masters of Horror season two comes in a plastic skull which holds all eleven DVD’s. The skull is housed in an outer see through case. Nine of the episodes come on their own DVD’s while four of the films Family, The Screwfly Solution, Pro-Life and Pelts come on double sided DVD’s which place one episode on each side.

The extras for each episode are as follows:

The Damned Thing: Two making of featurette’s “The Damned Thing: Building the Oil Monster” (4 minutes) and “Texas Terror: The Making of The Damned Thing” (13 minutes), an audio commentary with writer Richard Christian Matheson, a photo gallery, Tobe Hooper bio and the screenplay (DVD-ROM).

Family: Two making of featurette’s “Skin and Bones: The Making of Family” (16 minutes) and “Terror Tracks: Mastering the Family Score” (7 minutes), an audio commentary featuring writer Brent Hanley, a stills gallery, original storyboards John Landis bio and the screenplay (DVD-ROM).

The V Word: Two making of featurette’s “Bite Me: Tearing Up the FX Shot!” (6 minutes) and “Feeding Frenzy: The Making of The V Word” (14 minutes), an audio commentary with director Ernest Dickerson and Writer/executive producer Mick Garris, a photo gallery and the screenplay (DVD-ROM).

Sounds Like: Two making of featurette’s “Aural Madness: The Making of Sounds Like” (13 minutes) and “A Cacophony of Sounds Like: A Look Behind the Special Effects” (5 minutes), an audio commentary featuring director Brad Anderson, a photo gallery and the script (DVD-ROM).

Pro-Life: Two making of featurette’s “Final Delivery: The Making of Pro-Life” (15 minutes) and “Demon Baby: Birthing the FX Sequence” (6 minutes), an audio commentary, featuring director John Carpenter and writers Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan, a photo gallery, original storyboards, John Carpenter bio and the Shooting Script (DVD-ROM).

Pelts: Two making of featurette’s “Fleshing it Out: The Making of Pelts” (13 minutes) and “All Sewn Up: Mastering the Effects Sequence” (7 minutes), an audio commentary with writer Matt Venne, Dario Argento bio, a photo gallery, original storyboards and the screenplay (DVD-ROM).

The Screwfly Solution: Two making of featurette’s “The Cinematic Solution” (10 minutes) and “The Exterminators” (5 minutes), an audio Commentary featuring director Joe Dante and writer Sam Hamm, Joe Dante bio, a stills gallery and the screenplay (DVD-ROM).

Valerie on the Stairs: Two making of featurette’s “Spine Tingler: The Making of Valerie on the Stairs” (15 minutes) and “Jump Scare: Editing Valerie” (5 minutes), an audio commentary Featuring writer/director Mick Garris, a photo gallery and the script (DVD-ROM).

Right to Die: Two making of featurette’s “Burnt Offerings: Making of Right to Die” (15 minutes) and “Flay-O-Trish” (5 minutes), an audio commentary featuring Rob Schmidt, photo gallery and the script (DVD-ROM).

We All Scream for Ice Cream: Two making of featurette’s “Sweet Revenge: The Making of We All Scream for Ice Cream” (14 minutes) and “Melt Down: The Scoop on the Visual and Make-up Effects” (8 minutes), an audio Commentary with Director Tom Holland and Writer David J. Schow, a photo gallery and the screenplay (DVD-ROM).

The Black Cat: Two making of featurette’s “The Tell-Tale Cat: Making of The Black Cat” (14 minutes) and “Bringing Down the Axe: A Look Behind the Special Effects of The Black Cat” (6 minutes), an audio commentary Featuring director Stuart Gordon and actor Jeffrey Combs, a photo gallery, Stuart Gordon bio and the screenplay (DVD-ROM).

The Washingtonians: Two making of featurette’s “Feast On This: The Making of The Washingtonians” (13 minutes) and “Wigs, Teeth and Powder!: The Makup Effects Of The Washingtonians” (7 minutes), a blooper reel (4 minutes), an audio commentary featuring director Peter Medak and writer/actor Jonathon Schaech, a photo gallery and the script (DVD-ROM).

Dream Cruise: A thirty minute featurette titled “The Making of Dream Cruise” (in Japanese with English subtitles), an audio commentary featuring Actor Daniel Gillies and producer Mick Garris, a photo gallery and the screenplay (DVD-ROM).

The remaining extras which come with each episode are trailers for other titles available on DVD from Anchor Bay. The featurette’s included with each episode cover the special effects, the score, casting, the origins of the story, as well as cast and crew reflections of the project. The most interesting extras are the audio commentaries that are included with each episode. Even though there are a few instances where there is information that was discussed in the other extras are repeated during the audio commentaries the bulk of each commentary are very insightful. All around the extras are really thorough and leave no stone unturned. All thirteen episodes include in this collection have been previously released individually by Anchor Bay and all of the extra content has been carried over. Anchor Bay’s box set for the second season of Master of Horror brings together all thirteen episodes at more than affordable price, highly recommend.

For more information about the Masters of Horror T.V. series visit their website here.

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