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DVD Review

Masters of Horror
Series 2 - Volume 2


Directors: Tom Holland, Brad Anderson, Peter Medak, Tobe Hooper, Norio Tsuruta and Ernest R Dickerson
Anchor Bay Entertainment UK
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 18
Available 18 February 2008

I have followed the Masters of Horror series with some interest from the start. The idea of well-known directors of the genre being approached to contribute one-hour pieces is one I'm surprised hasn't happened to this extent previously. The DVD box sets are lovingly constructed by Anchor Bay, who have a reputation now for putting some thought and effort into their releases. In this case, each of the two series are split across two sets each. Volume 1 of Series 2 contained seven discs, and the remaining six discs appear here on Volume 2. The set opens out, with film-poster-like pictures under each DVD, a full description of each story on the back, and a booklet offering additional information with relevant references.

These packages normally retail at around £25.00, but I was surprised to pick-up Series 2 - Volume 1 for just £12.00 in a high street shop, so if you can find Volume 2 for anywhere near that price, you'll be getting a bargain. This is amazingly good value for money for the huge amount of material on offer here. The main features running time is 360 minutes, with 652 minutes of special features on top consisting of commentaries, behind the scenes making of documentaries, and featurettes for each episode.

Now to the crux of the matter, the main material itself. Tom Holland, director of the excellent dark comedy horrors Child's Play and Fright Night, takes on the John Farris short story We All Scream For Ice Cream, a Freddy Kruger-like tale of revenge. However, in this format the clown starts off friendly and benign, and is twisted into an evil creature of retribution after a single malicious act. A good but somewhat predictable tale which loosely follows the structure of Stephen King's It. Make no mistake, clowns are creepy, and the tale works well.

In Sounds Like, written and directed by Brad Anderson (who helmed the structurally brilliant The Machinist, starring a spot-on Christian Bale), this anthology series proves just how versatile it can be with an almost entirely psychological horror. After his son dies, an I.T. call centre supervisor finds his hearing becoming increasingly acute, destroying his life and plunging him into slowly into madness. A special mention must go to Chris Bauer who pulls off this difficult acting part with aplomb. Although I guessed the outcome, I enjoyed this tale immensely.

Peter Medak's The Washingtonian is the weakest of the bunch on offer here. A man uncovers a conspiracy dating back to the time of George Washington. An artefact seems to prove that the president, far from being the great founder of American society, was actually a flesh-eating cannibal fiend. Members of a modern day cult society are determined to protect the secret at all costs. This is not a bad story by any means, but the staid direction makes it pretty much horror by numbers.

The Damned Thing, directed by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre maestro Tobe Hooper, from a script by Richard Christian Matheson (not to be confused with the master storyteller Richard Matheson), sees a young boy narrowly escape from his possessed father, after his mother is brutally killed and an unseen force tears the man apart. Years later, the boy becomes sheriff of the small town, only to have the evil return, settling people against each other in gristly fashion. This is easily the most visceral of the six episodes on offer here. It runs rather like an episode of the American series Supernatural. The opening scenes are edgy and atmospheric, but it runs out of ideas towards the end, so that it abruptly finishes with no real resolution to the plot. Only the conclusion lets this one down.

In Dream Cruise, directed by Norio Tsuruta and based on a story by The Ring and Dark Water author Koji Suzuki, an American working for a large corporation begins an illicit affair with the wife of their most valued client. When problems arise he is instructed to put things right at all costs by his boss. He is invited aboard a boat, along with the client's wife and is obliged to go, even though he has terrifying fear of the water ever since he saw his little brother drown years before. Mind games ensue, but more is at stake here than adultery. Ryo Ishibashi, who was in Audition and The Grudge 2, is great as the betrayed husband. Koji Suzuki seems to having a way with watery tales, and this is a good example of an East Asian supernatural tale. There are no Masters of Horror opening titles on this segment, so it will be interesting to check out the special features to discover why that is the case. This is a creepy feature-length story which will entertain horror fans and help bring Japanese ghost stories to the masses.

The V Word is written and directed by Masters of Horror creator Mick Garris, who is perhaps best known for his Stephen King mini-serial adaptations. Two computer geeks break into a local mortuary to see a real dead body, but instead unwittingly unleash a vampire ghoul. This one starts off solidly enough, and there is a fair amount of tension present in places, but Michael Ironside doesn't really convince as the main villain. Eerie at times, but destroyed by moments of silliness, this one is difficult to quantify.

This DVD set doesn't contain the instantly recognisable names that Volume 1 does (John Carpenter [hurray!], John Landis, Dario Argento, Joe Dante, etc.), but over all it's pretty near to being top-notch stuff, and is diverse enough to contain something for everyone.


Ty Power

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