Thursday, January 19, 2006

TV REVIEW: Masters of Horror: "Deer Woman"

"You wanna see something really scary?" Dan Ackroyd's ghoulish character asked in Twilight Zone: The Movie (back in 1983), a movie with one segment directed by John Landis.

Why yes, sir. Please. I would like to see something scary...

Alas, I won't find it on Showtime....

For I've just seen the least effective installment thus far of the Showtime Original Series, Masters of Horror. Though I am thrilled to learn that the series will be back for a second season, I've detected an alarming trend here (this is the seventh episode I've watched). And that trend is this: the episodes purely and simply aren't scary.

So far, the only episode that made me jump out of my seat and my heart beat out of my chest was Don Coscarelli's brilliantly paced installment, "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road." Now, that's not to say that I haven't enjoyed other installments a great deal. I deeply respect Tobe Hooper's "Dance of the Dead." It was unrelenting, harrowing, difficult to watch, and disturbing. But it wasn't scary; at least not in the traditional, "I just pissed my pants" sense. The last episode I reviewed here on the blog, Joe Dante's "Homecoming" is also a worthwhile segment. It's a very funny, very astute political satire. But again, NOT SCARY.

And then comes this travesty. A nail in the coffin, if you will.

Listen, I appreciate the body of work created by John Landis. American Werewolf in London is - inarguably - one of the great horror movies of the 1980s. I got nothing against the guy (even after the famous Twilight Zone court case). But this episode of Masters of Horrors isn't funny, isn't thought- provoking, and sure as hell isn't scary.

Here's the story, a down-on-his-luck police detective (played by an unshaven Brian Benben) investigates the murder of a trucker outside a bar called Morgan's. The victim left the establishment with a gorgeous Native American woman, and was soon found trampled to death inside his truck. No sign of the woman.

When these strange trampling murders continue, and another crime scene turns up "deer DNA," the detective, Faraday, realizes he is dealing with a siren from Native American Mythology, "The Deer Woman." Yep, she's got deer legs, but a smokin' hot human torso. (And she's played by the luscious Cinthia Moura). And yes, you get to see her topless. It's glorious.

However, in the end, there's no explanation for the attacks, no motive behind the Deer Woman's murders (and not even any reasoning behind why she chooses the victims she does). Instead, the viewer is treated to a very long hour of silliness, with a little nudity and bad CGI thrown in for good measure.

Objectivity forces me to admit that there is a moment in the episode that I enjoyed (besides the aforementioned topless moments). Benben's character refers to an "animal sexual assault" that occurred in London in in 1981; a possible wolf attack. Of course, this was the finale of the director's American
Werewolf in London. So this is what? The unofficial sequel?

But really, shouldn't we expect more from Landis (and his co-writer, Max Landis) at this point than a director just paying homage to his own, superior work? That's a lot like resting on your laurels, if you ask me. Shouldn't "masters of horror" like these guys be expected - on more than one occasion out of six or seven - to actually scare us?

I don't know about you, but I hope the remaining episodes are really scary. I haven't seen Argento or Carpenter's offerings yet, so I'm hoping there'll be a turnaround here.

4 comments:

  1. have you heard the news that transgressive, brilliant, and prolific japanese director takashi miike's episode is apparently too shocking for even showtime to air and will not be seen until the dvd release?

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  2. Hey George!

    I did hear about that. I wonder if this is all a "publicity" stunt, a ruse to make people want to get the DVD set. I mean, because now, we have to buy it, right?

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  3. i can almost fairly believe it though. the miike work i've seen, audition, ichi the killer, visitor q, city of lost souls, and dead or alive, is always surprising and manages to show me something truly shocking i've never seen before that goes far beyond offensive. still, it does seem odd for a pay cable channel like showtime to decline to air something, especially on an anthology like masters of horror, where the promise of transgression would seem to be part of the appeal.

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  4. Yep. Color me suspicious. I think this is a great stunt to hawk the DVD set in a month or two. "See the episode too offensive for television!"

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