Masters of Horror made its debut in 2005 on Showtime. The gloriously gore filled series was the brainchild of Mick Garris. Garris has been dubbed the ‘King of T.V. Horror” after an illustrious horror-filled career and for the work he did on Stephen King’s The Stand as well as the made for T.V. adaptation of The Shining, Spielberg’s iconic Amazing Stories, and not to mention the magic he worked on Hocus Pocus.
Let’s recap some of the greatest moments in the series with a list celebrating the 10 greatest episodes of Masters of Horror. That is not to say that the other episodes that have gone unmentioned here are not any good, but today we focus on a handful the greatest moments within the Masters of Horror series.
Directed by Takashi Miike
Written by Daisuke Tengan
Season 1, 13th Episode/Unaired due to extreme content
Based on the novel by Shimako Iwai, Takashi Miike’s Imprint was arguably the most graphically opulent episode made for Masters of Horror. It was however shelved by Showtime over concerns of the episodes extremely graphic and highly disturbing content. It was later released to DVD on September 26, 2006. The episode follows an American journalist (Billy Drago) searching for the woman he had loved and lost. The whole dynamic of the tale maps the hellish descent of the Orphic journey. Classic paintings of hellish plateaus envisioned by the Japanese masters spring to life as demonic beings torture the weary traveler with agonizing tales of the twisted insidious tortures the woman he loved underwent before her death. His fate as he passes through the realms of the underworld mirror Orpheus in more ways than one. If he makes it out alive he still may be lost to his cursed journey.
Directed by Joe Dante
Written by Sam Hamm
Season 1, 6th Episode
Joe Dante’s (Fright Night) MOH episode Homecoming was pretty much ripped from the headlines making this horror story one of the most important pieces of political commentary ever, especially of its era. Based on a short story by Dale Bailey, and written by Sam Hamm, Homecoming took its inspiration from the soldiers who were losing their lives to the Iraq War, which was raging on when the episode premiered. This zombie film, unlike most others, centered on the young American soldiers coming back from the dead. These zombies are not bloodthirsty cannibals hungry for brains but instead want to use them and vote the current president out of office. These walking dead soldiers just want to vote in the next election. They cannot be killed or destroyed no matter how many bullets or parts get dismembered. These zombies cast off their mortal coils once and for all the moment their votes have been cast. The Presidential amalgam of Bill Clinton and President Bush even tries to thwart the dead soldier’s wishes by rigging the election, but that just causes the Earth to be filled with more dead soldiers from wars long since past.
8. Deer Woman
Directed by John Landis
Written by Max Landis, and John Landis
Season 1, 7th Episode
John Landis, the genius that brought us An American Werewolf in London brings us an intriguing story. The tale follows a disgraced police officer Dwight Faraday (Brian Benben), who seeks redemption during the course of an investigation that leads him along a series of highly unnatural murders. The once gifted detective’s job is to follow up on “weird calls” until one of those weird calls sends him on the trail of a dark-haired, brilliantly yellow-eyed woman (Cinthia Moura) who just might be an embodiment of an old Native America legend. This was Moura’s only film she appeared in but she still steals the show as a half-woman/half-deer creature that is a force of nature allowing nothing to stand in its way, not even a cop on the path to retribution.
7. Haeckel’s Tale
Directed by John McNaughton
Written by Mick Garris
Season 1, 12th episode
Haeckel’s Tale is based on a short story by the visionary horror writer Clive Barker himself. The screenplay was penned by creator and executive producer of MOH Mick Garris and directed by John McNaughton, who he tapped for the job after George Romero took leave of the project. Romero does however still receive an “In Association With” credit at the beginning of Haeckel’s Tale. The story wanders through Barker’s perverse nature of horror that both enthralls and repulses you at the same time. A woman (Leela Savasta) looks after her dead husband and the other occupants of the cemetery in the lewdest ways unimaginable and a man (Steve Bacic) passing by her cottage will get pulled into her dark delirium for keeps if he doesn’t make it out alive.
6. Dreams in the Witch House
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Written by Dennis Paoli, and Stuart Gordon
Season 1, 2nd episode
Faithful Lovecraftian fans have seen this tale come a long way from the pages of Weird Tales back in July 1933 to its faithful 2005 rendition in Masters of Horror. Walter Gilman (Ezra Godden), a student of folklore and mathematics at Miskatonic University, rents an attic room in what is believed to be a cursed Witch House by the local residents. The dimensions within Gilman’s attic rent space is that of an unearthly geometrical form that would drive Euclid himself mad. Gilman theorizes the bizarre architecture can enable travel from one dimension to another for him and things from beyond. Will the occupants and Walter get pulled into the dark schemes of the Outer Gods before he can escape with his sanity? Well, it’s Lovecraft so you probably already know that if his heroes live then they are usually in a looney bin yelling “I stopped them!” to the unamused orderly passing by.
5. The Fair-Haired Child
Directed by William Malone
Written by Dennis Paoli, and Stuart Gordon
Season 1, 9th Episode
When people think of Feardotcom by director William Malone, the term Master of Horror doesn’t exactly spring to mind. That is certainly what makes this surreal Faustian nightmare fairy tale such a pleasant surprise. The story follows a girl named Tara (Lindsay Pulsipher) gets trapped in the basement of an elderly couple, Judith (Lori Petty) and Anton (William Sample). Judith and Anton have formed a dark pact with an evil entity in hopes of resurrecting their long-dead child. The Warlock couple has another captive in the basement as well and Tara will be its sacrifice if she can’t find a way out in time, beware the fair-haired child.
Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Matt Venne
Season 2, 6th Episode
Pelts is based on a short-story by F. Paul Wilson. The Master of Horror himself Dario Argento (Suspiria) perfectly weaves this gory delight balanced between lust and greed driving the main characters of this story. Jake Feldman (Meat Loaf) is a scumbag fur-trader that lives in a world brimming with lust. When it comes to fur sales, Mr. Feldman is a name with an outstanding reputation for quality that precedes him. Good furs don’t come without a hefty cost, and he is willing to cross whoever it takes to stay on top of his business empire. He mistreats his coworkers and everyone around him but the one thing he wants is a stripper named Shanna (Ellen Ewusie) and she won’t let him touch her the way he wants for any price. It seems he has made all the tough choices and just as what his object of desire seems to be almost in grasp, a witches curse upon some sacred animals pelt he has become obsessed over has another course for his destiny or the untimely horrific demise of him and everything around him. The episode ends in one of the most jaw-dropping special gore FX scenes ever shot so that alone is worth experiencing the episode if you haven’t yet in all its gory glory.
3. The Black Cat
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Written by Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli
Season 2, 11th episode
This charmingly morose tale follows the iconic master of the macabre Edgar Allan Poe (Jeffrey Combs). Poe has fallen on desperate times and locked in a struggle with writer’s block while his wife, Virginia Poe (Elyse Levesque) is slowly falling deathly ill. Amid all the turmoil a black cat that constantly seems like a cursed phantasm tearing away at his sanity. It could also be the breakthrough he needs to write a dark tale that will echo throughout ages to come. Jeffery Combs doesn’t just play Poe excellently but somehow channels his spirit from beyond the grave. Is this story worth revisiting? To that, I would answer Forevermore.
2. Incident On and Off a Mountain Road
Directed by Don Coscarelli
Written by Don Coscarelli and Stephen Romano
Season 1, 1st Episode
Based on a short story by the Bubba Ho-Tep author Joe R. Lansdale. The story ventures into the familiar grounds of the big killer in the woods with a blade known as Moonface (John De Santis). The story follows Ellen (Bree Turner) who has an edge of her own however due to her ex boyfriend (Ethan Embry) having aggressively drilled survival skills into her. Angus Scrimm, The Tall Man from Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm movies steals the show as the creepy simpleton Buddy who resides with Moonface. While reminiscent of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we later start to learn that Ellen is driven by the secrets she hides in the trunk of her car.
1. Cigarette Burns
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan
Season 1, 8th episode
John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns follows Kirby (Norman Reedus) as he continues forward with a new sober lifestyle from his checkered past of heroin abuse. He is haunted by the ghost of his dead wife Annie (Zara Taylor) lost her life in an overdose. Before her death, she talked her father into loaning Kirby enough money to buy an old theater. The theater only plays obscure genre films, so Kirby is not exactly raking in the cash to pay his father-in-law (Gary Hetherington) back. Sometimes Kirby pulls in some good money on the side as a ‘detective’, hunting down rare films. Carpenter seems to be revisiting the spin he put on the classic detective motif with 1994’s In The Mouth of Madness. Like Sutter Cane’s work, the film Kirby is hired to find “Le Fin Absolue du Monde”, is a dark sacrilege that drives people past the limits of insanity that view it, similar to Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow.
Those are our top ten picks for Masters of Horror! Did we miss your favorite? Got something to say? Sounds off in the Fiend Club Facebook group!