October 28, 2005

Masters of Horror Premiere: Incident On and Off a Mountain Road

The Masters of Horror is an amazing looking project that grew out of dinners that a number of horror directors would get together and have. Mick Garris is spearheading the project as the showrunner for the 13 one hour films that will be airing Friday's on Showtime.

Despite not having Showtime, I am excited for this project, and the presumed DVD release once it has completed. What we have are 13 directors, each using their unique abilities to bring a tale of horror to the small screen.

To give you an idea of the caliber of talent involved, take a look at the list of directors:
Don Coscarelli
John Carpenter
Larry Cohen
John McNaughton
William Malone
John Landis
Joe Dante
Dario Argento
Takashi Miike
Tobe Hooper
Stuart Gordon
Lucky McKee
Mick Garris
If that is not an impressive array of talent, you must be terribly hard to impress! How about some of the actors involved?
Jeffrey Combs
Robert Englund
Udo Kier
Angus Scrimm

Anyway, for you horror lovers out there, the first episode doesn't air until tonight. You don't have to wait to get a taste of what is in store. You see, I have had the opportunity to view the first episode, and I am here to give you a report on what to expect.

Read on, fearless ones!

Episode 1: "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road"
The first episode of the series was directed by Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep). The first thing that really struck me, while watching the movie was that it was fun. It was quite clear that Don was having fun with the material. You can tell that it was crafted by someone with the love of the genre. Not to say this is the best horror ever made, but it is definitely first rate television.

As the opening credits rolled, two names jumped out at me. The first was Angus Scrimm, he appeared in the Phantasm films as the mysterious Tall Man and more recently as an agent on Alias, the other was Gregory Nicotero, a special effects guy who has worked on a number of horror films. In addition to Coscarelli, we were already off to a good start.

We open on a young woman, Ellen, driving down a deserted road, it's dark, the roads are wet, mellow acoustic music is playing, then it happens. It could happen to anybody, perhaps even you. You take your attention away from the road, even for just a second to fiddle with the radio. Then, BANG, you're in an accident. But in this instance, that is merely the beginning.

The show is structured with a split focus. One focus is on present, the accident and the events that follow, the other is on a series of defining moments in a relationship with Bruce, played by Ethan Embrey. The interlocking segments give life to our heroine, giving a framework for her actions.

It is not long after the crash that she is confronted with a crisis. She is not alone, despite the other car being empty. Ellen finds herself in a fight for her life as she is pursued by the mysterious Moonface. The chase is great, we have a heroine who displays a sharp mind, she isn't just a damsel in distress. She keeps her wits about her and uses what she can while being pursued by this tall, pale beast of a man.

I don't want to give too much away, suffice to say the show was a blast. Especially the performance of Angus Scrimm. His character is not explained all that well, but his presence brings out a different mood. He has an impact. Bree Turner does a good job of portraying a deceptively prescient mind, seemingly vulnerable, but not to be underestimated woman. Joe De Santis brings life to Moonface, the psychotic killer of our feature presentation.

Incident On and Off a Mountain Road is a clever film that plays with the standards of the genre. Gleefully leading the viewer in a desperate race for survival. It was based on a shot story by Joe R. Lansdale, who also wrote Bubba Ho-Tep. It was adapted by Coscarelli and Stephen Romano.

Bottomline. The Masters of Horror are off to a great start. If the rest of the series is as entertaining as this debut, we may have a big winner on our hands. Good performances, music, cinematography, and story all combine to create a tense story that will keep you on the edge of your seat right to the very end. I'd like to see some more tales involving Moonface, give some more insight to the words of the enigmatic Buddy.

Visit the Masters of Horror online.


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