Ah ha! Victory is mine — I have successfully binge-watched every episode of MASTERS OF HORROR in two weeks’ time. When we last discussed MOH, we examined possible reasons people might have overlooked the quality of this show. I found both seasons to be enjoyable and grisly, though with a few episodes that weren’t for me scattered here and there.
To me, the second season isn’t as specific in its messaging as the first, which itself served as a kind of time capsule of its era; save for a couple of episodes, Season Two was pretty straightforward horror fun.
Here are my top 5 favorite episodes from that season:
PRO-LIFE — Directed by John Carpenter
I’m starting off with one of the aforementioned “message” episodes, helmed by an indisputable Master of Horror. The story follows a young pregnant teenager who escapes from her heavily religious father (think CARRIE, but pregnant), and is taken to an abortion clinic that her father is barred from entering, thanks to a restraining order.
What we get is a science vs. religion story, in which both are completely viable answers in her circumstance. Ron Perlman gives a culminating performance as the crazed evangelical father, who is joined by his sons in a siege on the clinic. With a sort of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13TH vibe, we are gifted with a slew of disgusting deaths (including sucking the insides out of someone) to proof of life after death.
PELTS — Directed by Dario Argento
Rock star and part-time actor Meat Loaf Aday stars in Dario Argento’s Season Two episode as a fur garment maker. He’s also a huge sleazeball, who will do anything to win the stripper of his dreams. One night he’s phoned up by a trapper (played by John Saxon), who claims to have found the most luxurious raccoon pelts in existence. Thinking this to be his shot, he sets out to make the most beautiful coat ever imagined. Unfortunately, the raccoons come from sacred land… and we all know what happens when people desecrate holy ground.
Strippers, models, sleazy dudes, and John Saxon all spell a Dario Argento story — whether it is feature-length, or an hour-long segment. Between this episode and “Jenifer,” I really wish Argento would keep making compact stories for television. Call me, Hollywood!
VALERIE ON THE STAIRS — Directed by Mick Garris
Adapted from a Clive Barker short story, “Valerie on the Stairs” was a guarantee for me; I never tire of the “writers writing about writing” trope. Here we have a young unpublished author who has come to spend some time in a flophouse for aspiring writers. The deal is, you can live there and write, as long as your work is unpublished. Soon, he starts seeing and hearing a woman in distress and runs to her aid. To his dismay, and the annoyance of the other tenants (one is played by Christopher Lloyd), she keeps disappearing to a hidden evil presence.
I enjoyed the twist as to whom Valarie actually was, and Mick Garris handles Barker’s story with ease — which is not always the case in the Barker universe. I think this one will be an episode revisited closer to Halloween.
WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM — Directed by Tom Holland
Kids can be real assholes, and we’re all probably guilty of being jerks to our parents at one time or another… but then there are the kids of Tom Holland’s tale: Stephen King-style ’50s kids. Lee Tergesen (OZ) moves back to his old home town, and soon his childhood friends start going missing, presumed dead. Soon the remaining few start blaming each other… and we soon learn the awful secret the men share between them.
Holland’s quick story of revenge, done the apple-pie way, is a fun and gooey tale. The aesthetic has a quality of summer to it, and felt perfect for a hot night in Ohio.
THE BLACK CAT — Directed by Stuart Gordon
Stuart Gordon is my ultimate go-to, if I’m looking for classic literature-to-screen adaptations. He usually sticks with H.P. Lovecraft, but it’s always nice to explore other options. His take on Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tale is an endearing look at how influenced Gordon is by Poe, and really crafts a heartbreaking window into Poe’s tragic life.
To some of us, Poe’s woes aren’t exactly unknown… but I have yet to see a screen adaptation that really made me physically feel for him. As with Argento, I want Gordon to get a chance to work on his own continuous show.
Or we could always take to Twitter: #BringBackMOH
*All Photos: MASTERS OF HORROR; Showtime Networks, Anchor Bay Entertainment