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Masters of Horror!
For the sake of Halloween, please enjoy this article that's almost an endorsement. It's not a real article, but it might entertain. Who knows?
Whenever they decide to bring back classic directors for something special, I'm fairly skeptical. Projects for directors past their prime (no offense to the folks I'm about to mention, as some are NOT past their prime at all) often are films that are only produced because they convinced a big name to attach his prestige to it. So with hesitant footsteps, I walked into Videodrom and rented the entire first season on DVD. For the love of God, the show is actually both very good and honestly scary, something I was NOT expecting. The series, apparently originally intended to be sent directly to the home theater market but later picked up by Showtime, pretty much rocks my socks. Or R0x0rz m3 s0x0rz, depending on what kind of internet group you hang out with these days. The premise of the show is that each episode (pretty much an hour in length) is the work of an established horror director and they're free to do whatever the heck they want. Think of it as a cross between a feature film and Tales from the Crypt...so it's good horror with an actual budget.
In case you haven't noticed, I'm actually talking about something that I think is AWESOME for a change. I'm still going to walk you through a few of the plots, as some of the lessons the show teaches us are...seriously screwed up at best. While I'm only going to really give you the rundown in detail of a few of the episodes, you really need to understand this series is, with a few exceptions, as good as horror gets these days. We've got Takashi Miike (The Great Yokai War, Zebraman) next to Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling, Small Soldiers) next to Dario Argento (Italian master of Zombies and postmodern slashers) followed by an episode by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond). Hell, Stuart Gordon was originally why I checked out the series, as anyone who's been reading for more than two years knows this site originally started as a geeky tribute to the man. But enough chat. Let's do this.
Warning: Some of the images below are going to be a little spooky. So let's just consider this article to have a rating of 15. If you can't see a movie rated 15, then it's time for you to stop reading. Or at least close your eyes when the pictures show up. There's no nudity, but man...there's a bit of fake gore that's pretty....gory. You were warned.
While Masters of Horror is scary at parts and has actually given me chills...something a jaded horror fan like myself isn't always used to...there is one severely messed up thing that the series will teach you. And that lesson is what I'm going to talk about today.
Never have sex. Ever. Sex is bad. So very, very bad.
This isn't a new theme in the world of horror, but I have to say that Masters of Horror really, really takes that premise to a horrible extreme. I didn't think it could be done, I was wrong. So very wrong. Let's start gently and build up to the brain-melting, shall we?
From John Landis, director of The Blues Brothers and An American Werewolf in London (as well as a French Vampire in America), we have an episode called "Deer Woman." There's a mystery. Somehow men are being clobbered to death by deer hooves. The fantasy solution is rather awesome, as we are blessed by a joke sequence featuring a "were-deer" kidnapping a bar trollop.
That's not really part of the plot, but damn if it doesn't amuse me. So why does this episode tell me to never have sex?
Wow. She's beautiful, isn't she? The down side is that she has the crotch and legs of a deer and after you have sex with her (implied deer parts?) she stomps the crap out of you. Apparently, this is a creature from Native American folklore. While no culture is free of totally stupid monsters, the American Deer-Legged Groin-Stomper is...special.
From the underappreciated director with the awesome name of Lucky McKee (Director of May and All Cheerleaders Die), we have a story (Sick Girl) of sweet lesbian love that's not a goofy porn fest. You know what I mean. Why is it that most lesbian love stories involve crazy monkey sex and a weird fulfillment of MALE sexual fantasies. Don't answer that...I already know the answer. Point is, Lucky made an almost sweet horror that's much more twisted if you break it down step by step.
Girl loves bugs. Girl loves Girl who loves Bugs. Girl who loves bugs meets Girl who loves Girl who loves bugs. Girl who loves Girl who loves bugs gets bitten by the Bug who loves to turn animals into bugs so they'll have its babies. Girl who loves Girl who loves bugs but got bitten by the Bug mutates into a half human, half Bug who still loves the Girl who loves bugs but sort of looks like a member of the band KISS now that she's a mutant.
Girl who loves bugs get bitten by the Bug who mutated the Girl who loves the Girl who loves bugs.
The two Girls who love Girls but were bitten by the Bug get big and pregnant with the Bugs babies....
...and the Girls live happily ever after with the Bug.
There's no way I can convince you that this episode is actually sweet and about relationships...but it definitely has some weird sexuality issues. All the other human antagonists are after the characters because they hate alternative sexuality, and the dream sequence where the bug rapes the young lesbian doesn't make things better.
See, that doesn't make me feel much better. But the story is sweet. However, it does remind me to never have sex, ever, ever again. Surely the next episode will have a mature and well-adjusted attitude towards a sexual relationship.
Or maybe not.
Great. Sex with Zombies. Thank you, director of Wild Things and Speaking of Sex. The episode titled "Haeckel's Tale" is a story of a mad scientist and how he falls for a woman who can't have an orgasm unless she's having sex with a rotting corpse. Seriously. The episode ends with an orgy of the undead. Gah.
Oh and there's a zombie baby that is used as a weapon...but that doesn't really make me want to have sex ever again either. Jesus, this has to get better. All these episodes can't be about turning me into a eunuch, can they?
From Dario Argento, we have an episode called "Jenifer." It's about a deformed girl that a detective saves from being killed by a madman. I'm already a little worried. This could totally go in a weird and horrible direction that will banish me from all things sexual forever. Cross your fingers...
Well, surely this episode won't be about sex. There's no way.
Jesus Christ, Jenifer is freaking scary. Jenifer is a feral girl that apparently likes to freak out and kill cats and children. So she's sort of a monster. So what's the story's hook? If this isn't about sex what IS it about?
Because you can't tell what's happening in the above picture, it's an image of my brain exploding. Jenifer ends up seducing the main character and scrumping his brains out in a car like a (very) wild animal. By the by, "scrumping" is the super sophisticated term combining "screwing" with the ever classic "humping". Just so you know. So yes, this episode may be the scariest thing ever...because it's a man's lust being blind to the monster and, well, it's sort of an erotic episode. I watched this episode with my love and we looked at each other and actually said: "Dear God, this would be sexy if I didn't know she had the head of a rotting shark on top of her body." So the horror is sort of a taboo sex-nightmare thing. Christ. Never sex again.
Ah, the final nail in the coffin has arrived. A monster with a super model's body eating a still-living boy's intestines and groin meat. Thank you Mr. Argento. I'll be sending you my therapy bills promptly.
Don't think that the episodes I haven't mentioned aren't about sex. There's naked zombie dancers and a guy who keeps being raped by a phantom Native American....and other random spookiness. I still stand by my endorsement of the series, though I recommend having as much sex as possible before watching a single episode. Trust me, you'll thank me later.
Bonus for the geeks: If you're the kind of person who might actually hunt down this series, let me suggest two episodes for you.
John Carpenter's episode is debatably the best thing he's done in a long time. Think of it as a pseudo-sequel to "In the Mouth of Madness." If that sounds like something you need to see, then by all means....do so.
Takashi Miike also made an episode called Imprint. It's mentioned on October 6th of this year's Strange Halloween, but it's the only episode that features something so inspirational that I had to paint it.
copyright 2006 jared von hindman, except for images used via Fair Use review purposes. Please don't sue. I'm too pretty.
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