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Masters of Horror: Season One, Volume II(TV) (2005)
1. "Jenifer" (Dario Argento)
2. "Sick Girl" (Lucky McKee)
3. "Deer Woman" (John Landis)
For more about Masters of Horror: Season One, Volume II and the Masters of Horror: Season One, Volume II Blu-ray release, see Masters of Horror: Season One, Volume II Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 23, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Directors: Dario Argento, Lucky McKee, John Landis (I)
» See full cast & crew
Masters of Horror: Season One, Volume II Blu-ray Review
Volume II of the series delivers improved video quality and programming content
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 23, 2007
Volume II of the Showtime series Masters of Horror features one of the all-time greats--a true master of horror in Dario Argento. His Jenifer is the standout episode on this disc, which also includes Lucky McKee's Sick Girl and John Landis' Deer Woman. I didn't really enjoy Volume I, but I am very happy that two of the three episodes on Volume II caught my attention, drew me in, and left me with a favorable impression. Like Volume I, these episodes are not compiled by original air date; they are episodes 4, 10, and 7, respectively. Below is my synopsis of each episode.
Dario Argento is one of the definitive icons of horror movie history and a great influence on the genre as we know it today. One of my favorite horror films ever, Suspiria, is perhaps his best work. He also supervised the European release of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (known as Zombi in Europe). He has the credentials to be called a true "master of horror" and he has delivered Jenifer for Showtime's Masters of Horror series. Easily the best episode of the four I have screened so far (including the three from Volume I), Jenifer stars Steven Weber (who wrote the teleplay based on a short story by Bruce Jones) as Frank, a detective who, while on stakeout, saves a hideously deformed woman, Jenifer (Carrie Anne Fleming) from being brutally murdered. Frank feels for her and rather than see her in an asylum, he brings her into his home to the disgust of his wife. After Jennifer eats the family cat, Frank's wife and son leave. Frank becomes obsessed even further with protecting and providing for Jenifer, so much so that he tolerates her inhuman, malicious actions. The only question that remains is how far Jenifer will go, and how far Frank will allow her to go before turning on her?
Be forewarned, this is a disturbing and very graphic entry into the Masters of Horror series. More brutal than Cigarette Burns but infinitely better in terms of story, character development, and, most importantly, sheer terror. At first I thought Argento was aiming more for a shock fest, but we get a well-crafted story with solid acting, direction, and writing. One element that greatly adds to the horror of the story is the unknown. Argento leaves so many questions unanswered, but I felt that was as scary as anything seen on-screen. What has happened to Jenifer? Why does she do what she does? Best to watch the episode and try to figure it out for yourself.
Sick Girl, directed by Lucky McKee (2002's May), stars Angela Bettis and Erin Brown as Ida and Misty, two girls who have fallen in love and moved in together. Ida is an entomologist with an apartment full of bugs she keeps as pets, much to the dismay of her landlord. She is a hopeless romantic and finally meets Misty, an artist who draws pictures of fairies in the lobby of Ida's workplace. Ida has received a rare bug in the mail from Brazil. The bug manages to get loose at the same time that Ida and Misty's relationship begins to undergo "changes." We soon learn a secret from Misty's past, why the bug was delivered to Ida, and who sent it to her.
I can't begin to tell you how much I disliked this episode. For everything that Jenifer got right, Sick Girl got horribly wrong. The story was ludicrous, the acting terrible (Ida's character was downright painful to watch and listen to), and there is absolutely nothing scary about this episode, except how bad it is. Gore fans will be disappointed too with this installment. There is practically no gore and only one splattering of blood near the end. No scares, no gore, no redeeming quality at all. This is easily the worst episode of Masters of Horror and I am glad I don't have to ever watch it again.
Deer Woman is an enjoyable, hour long romp that is a parody of schlock horror and buddy cop movies. It is directed by John Landis who has brought horror fans An American Werewolf in London, as well as some of the greatest comedies of all time, including Animal House and The Blues Brothers. This episode stars Brian Benben as Dwight Faraday, a once respected detective that has been demoted to investigating animal attacks after an unfortunate incident while in the line of duty. A series of brutal murders that leave victims mutilated almost beyond recognition leads Faraday and his sidekick, Officer Jacob Reed (Anthony Griffith) to believe that the killer may be a real-life Native American legend, that of the "Deer Woman," a beautiful woman with the legs of a deer.
I really enjoyed this episode, despite its ridiculous premise. Though it suffers from some of the same flaws as Sick Girl such as lousy acting and an absurd story that just isn't scary and doesn't live up to its "horror" billing, Deer Woman doesn't take itself seriously at all and allows us to go on the case with Faraday and Reed and revel in the fun and foolishness of the whole thing. More than once one of the great parodies in recent memory, Eight Legged Freaks, came to mind. This wasn't as good, but it had the same offbeat spirit that draws you in for the ride. There is a moderate amount of gore here, mostly of already mutilated bodies, and what's here is over the top and doesn't churn your stomach as much as gore in more serious, straightforward horror precisely because the episode is so much fun and isn't meant to shock you.
Masters of Horror: Season One, Volume II Blu-ray, Video Quality
Overall, video quality surpassed what we saw in the first volume of Masters of Horror. Again presented in 1080i, Volume II still comes nowhere close to being rated among the best of Blu-ray, but two of the three episodes in this set look pretty good overall. Sadly, the one that is lacking is the best episode, Jenifer. This episode has the same problems that plagued the episodes in Volume I, namely a soft, at times slightly blurred image with loads of speckles visible onscreen, especially in outdoor scenes. The image appears somewhat uneven. Flesh tones look very natural one minute, and display much less color or too much the next. They never get overly orange as what was seen in Cigarette Burns from Volume I, however, (which remains the worst looking episode of the six) but this isn't a marked improvement either. Sick Girl and Deer Woman fared the best on this disc and are certainly better than all three episodes from Volume I. I didn't notice any of the speckles from Jenifer in either episode. Everything, including black levels, was solid but not extraordinary. I didn't note any blemishes or anything to detract from the overall rating in these two episodes. It is still 1080i, but it doesn't look bad. If you like the show, you should be pleased enough with this transfer.
Masters of Horror: Season One, Volume II Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As with Volume I, Volume II of Masters of Horror features both a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and a PCM Uncompressed 5.1 track. And, as with Volume I, this is a less than stellar soundtrack. Again, surrounds were rarely used. Scenes where you would expect to be enveloped by multi-directional sound, like a scene featuring fast and heavy traffic in Jenifer, feature virtually nothing coming from the rear. We do get some great use of distinct multi-channel sound across the front soundstage, especially in Deer Woman and some decent low frequency effects. As I said in my previous review, the music overlapping the main menu and the show's title sequence sounds wonderful. It's a great theme that I have enjoyed every time I hear it. Overall, this track is adequate. Nothing more, nothing less.
Masters of Horror: Season One, Volume II Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Starz offers viewers three commentary tracks as the only bonus features on Volume II. They have again chosen to eschew all of the other supplements found on the standard DVD release. The track for Jenifer features Steven Weber and DVD producer Perry Martin. I really enjoyed this track, the highlight being a discussion about Carrie Anne Fleming's enthusiasm to play the role of Jenifer. Particularly of note was her initial reaction of doubt over the way she ended up looking and finally embracing the look and working in her raw emotions regarding the transformation into the role. The track for Sick Girl includes Lucky McKee, composer Jaye Barnes Luckett, and actors Angela Bettis and Jesse Hlubik. Discussions include themes and metaphors in the episode. It's a fun track and much better than the episode itself. Finally, Brian Benben and Anthony Griffith discuss life, Canada, corn bread, and some amusing behind-the-scenes anecdotes in the commentary track for Deer Woman. This was my favorite track of the three.
Masters of Horror: Season One, Volume II Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Volume II of the Masters of Horror series has given me renewed hope for future volumes. Although the worst episode of the series so far is included here, the two remaining more than make up for it. Technically, not much has changed from volume to volume, but that's to be expected. Image quality did appear to be slightly improved here, however. Unfortunately Starz has left out supplements that should be on the disc, but the commentary tracks are certainly great additions to each episode. I was going to recommend the disc on the strength of Jenifer alone, but Deer Woman is also a very worthy entry into the series.
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