Masters Of Horror - Collector's Edition Two (2006)
By: J.R. McNamara on May 30, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Starz (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. 350 minutes
The Movie
Directors Larry Cohen, John McNaughton, Tobe Hooper, Joe Dante, Dario Argeno, William Malone
Tagline: The greatest minds in horror...
Country: USA
From the darkside, from a zone that may appear at twilight, from the outer limits, comes more of the wonderful Masters of Horror. I am not a fan of TV horror, but MoH has been able to turn my opinion around with its horrific tales, dynamic direction and amazing acting…well usually, there are some exceptions, one being this sets Jenifer, from Italian horror legend Argento. This is the second set of series one, featuring six more tales, this time by directors Larry Cohen, Tobe Hooper, John McNaughton, Joe Dante, the aforementioned Dario Argento and William Malone (still no sign of Takashi Miike's Imprint).

Pick Me Up: Forget Freddy vs Jason and Aliens vs Predator, director Larry Cohen and writer David J. Schow have the real serial killer beat 'em up for you. Fairuza Balk (The Craft) stars as a recently divorced woman who gets caught up in a war between two serial killers on an abandoned highway: one, a trucker, Jim Wheeler (Michael Moriaty) who kills hitchhikers and the other, a hitchhiker, Walker (Warren Kole) who kills his rides.

This episode has one of the most brutal punch-ups ever put on television, when the far-too-obviously named Walker and Wheeler finally get it on. Most of the episode feels overacted, but I believe this may be deliberate, as it almost appears to be some kind of fight between two Gods of Death, withBalk's character being some kind of representative of mankind, looking on to her potential fate. This episode is a lot of fun, but at times seems to be overdone and overlong.

Haeckel's Tale: This Masters of Horror episode is directed by Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer's John McNaughton, from a screenplay by Mick Garris, taken from an original story by Clive Barker. This episode is a period piece set somewhere in the 18th or 19th century. While on his way to visit his ailing father, doctor in training Ernst Haeckel (Derek Cecil) is taken in overnight by Wolfram (Tom McBeath) and his lovely wife Elise (Leela Savasta). Haeckel has been researching, much to the disdain of his teacher, bringing the dead back to life, which has had him cross paths with necromancer Montesquino (Jon Polito). Whilst staying with the Wolfram's he discovers that they have an awful secret, one which involves Montesquino, and the local graveyard…

This episode had a lot of potential, but seems to meander at times. The acting is competent, the direction is fine and the idea is fascinating (and caused me to seek out Clive Barker's original tale) but somewhere seems to lose direction, before regaining it for the end.

Dance of the Dead: Tobe Hooper's entry into the foray tells a tale written by Richard Matheson about a post-World War 3 world where the community has been exposed to many chemical weapons, including one which kills but gives corpses the appearance of half life. At a nightclub, The Doom Room, run by a cruel miscreant (played with gusto by Robert Englund). these bodies are used for the amusement of the guests, of whom one young guest, Peggy (Jessica Lowndes), taken there by teen-drug addict/ dealer Jak (Jonathan Tucker, of Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake fame) finds a missing piece of the puzzle that she calls her family.

There are many pieces of classic Hooper in this wonderful tale by Matheson, but the overuse of MTV, cross-cut editing makes this, at times, difficult to watch. The young stars are quite capable actors, but as you would expect, Englund chews up every scene like Pac-man on speed. A special note should go to the soundtrack, which was written by Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan.

Homecoming: I am going to leave it to Skunk Anansie to describe this story:' Yes, it's fucking political'! Joe Dante, of Gremlins and The Howling fame, directs this tale written by Sam Hamm (Batman, Batman Returns) based on a short story (Death and Suffrage) by Dale Bailey which tells of a world gone mad. A world where the President of the United States sends innocent soldiers to their deaths in a foreign country, only to find them return from the dead, and wreak havoc on the living, all brought on by a political spin doctor who, on live television, wishes a war-mother's son could return so it could be explained to him why he had to die while on duty.

Combining George A. Romero's conventions with an anti–George B. storyline makes for a thought provoking flick, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Dante's keen eye and 'nudge nudge wink wink' properties are abundant in this film.

Jenifer: Truly Argento at his most miserable! Policeman Frank Spivey (Steven Weber) saves a deformed girl, Jenifer (Carrie Ann Fleming) from being executed by a man who has clearly lost his marbles. He takes her under his care, but is soon obsessed by her, even though she brings about the demise of his marriage…and his pets. The tale comes to its obvious from the start Twilight Zone styled ending, and will not shock even the newest of horror fans.

This episode is written by Steven Weber, based on a comic by Bruce Jones (seek it out, it is tops), and foully directed by Dario Argento. This episode seems at times to not even be directed by Argento, but by someone who thinks they can direct LIKE Argento, and it seems ham-fisted and lazy. The only thing that saves this episode is the gore and the abundance of female nudity, even if most of that nudity is from a chick with a face that not even a blind mother could love.

Fair Haired Child: William Malone, the director responsible for the House on Haunted Hill remake, tries his hand at an unusual story about parental obsession. Lori Petty (Tank Girl) and William Samples (Watchers) star as parents who will stop at nothing to bring their son back from the dead, even if it means abducting and sacrificing a schoolgirl (Lindsey Pulsipher).

A great episode this one, with an incredibly unusual performance from the normal 'riot grrl' style that Lori Petty has us accustomed to, but tragically some of the other actors are a letdown. I will say this though, this episode has one of the most shocking 'accident' scenes I have ever witnessed, and it comes out of nowhere!!
The picture is flawless on each and every one of these features. Each episode is presented in 1.78: 1 aspect ratio with 16x9 enhancement.
Each episode is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and is top notch!
Extra Features
The special features on these discs kick ass. All of the 'Working With A Master' shorts are fascinating insights into co-workers and colleagues who deal with these directors 'at work' and their thoughts on them and the commentaries have all been fascinating. Some of these extras are throwaway: some of the on set interviews with actors are ho-hum, and the 'making of' sections are really just montages of behind the scenes footage.

Pick Me Up: The extras include a commentary by Cohen himself, interviews with Cohen, Michael Moriarty, Fairuza Balk and Warren Cole. The Working with a Master includes comments from David Carradine, Rick Baker, Karen Black, Tony Lo Bianco and the mighty Fred Williamson.

Haeckel's Tale: This disc has a commentary by John McNaughton, and interviews with McNaughton, actors Derek Cecil, Jon Polito and Leeva Savasta. The Working with a Master doco features comments from Tom Towles, Michael Rooker, Howard Cecil, Howard Berger and Leeva Savista.

Dance of the Dead: The extras on this disc include a commentary by Tobe Hooper and a separate commentary by Richard Christian Matheson. There are also interviews with Hooper, Matheson, Jessica Lowndes, Jonathan Tucker and Robert Englund. This disc does NOT contain one of the Masters of Horror documentaries.

Homecoming: The extras include a commentary by Sam Hamm, interviews with Joe Dante, Jon Tenney, Robert PiCardo and Thea Gill. The Working with a Master featurette features comments by Roger Corman, Kevin McCarthy, Dee Wallace Stone, Robert PiCardo, John Tenney, Thea Gill and Corey Feldman. There is also one of Mick Garris' Channel Z interviews with Paul Bartel, Barbara Steel and Joe Dante.

Jenifer: The extras include a commentary by Steven Weber, interviews with Dario Argento, Steven Weber, Carrie Anne Fleming and Make up effects guy Howard Berger. The Working with a Master doco features Howard Berger, Steven Weber, Carrie Anne Fleming, Tony Musante and composer Cludio Simonetti

Fair Haired Child: This disc has a commentary by Malone and featurettes which include interviews with director William Malone, and actors Lori Petty, Jesse Haddock, Lindsey Pulsipher and William Samples. Also it has, of course the Working with a Master doco, including interviews with actor Jeffrey Combs, horror legend Bob Burns, cinematographer Christian Selbaldt and screenwriter Matt Greenberg.

This box set also contains an 8 page booklet with a mini biography of each director within.
The Verdict
To me, horror movies are all about a strange tale, blood and guts…and tits: Masters of Horror delivers on all accounts. Hit and miss for sure, but there is so much to watch, of a variety of tastes (all within the horror umbrella though) that you cannot give this disc anything but full marks. Essential for horror fans, for sure. This collection can be best described as a top watch at a reasonable price.
Movie Score
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