Starz Home Entertainment // 2005 // 169 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // December 5th, 2007
"You got something ugly inside of you and it wants out. I don't want to be around when it starts hissing."
Starz Home Entertainment has been releasing episodes from the Masters of Horror television show onto Blu-ray for the last couple of months, and this volume appears to bring some more familiar and mainstream horror talent to the table. So are the goods considered delivered on this Blu-ray disc?
Enough of the small talk and let's get to which episodes are on the disc, shall we?
Incident on and Off a Mountain Road
Adapted from a short story from Joe Lansdale by Don Coscarelli (Phantasm), the piece focuses on Ellen (Bree Turner, Firehouse Dog), who is driving along a road late at night. She suddenly gets into an accident and is chased by something that is out for blood.
Dance of the Dead
Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) directed this effort, which follows Peggy (Jessica Lowndes, Kyle XY), who is working in a diner with her mom. She befriends a guy and goes out with his friends, to a club where the events that occur are a little, shall we say, odd.
Pick Me Up
David J. Schow (The Crow) wrote the teleplay that Larry Cohen (It's Alive) directed. This is a quaint enough story, with a well-mannered and young cowboy who's hitchhiking (played by Warren Kole, A Love Song For Bobby Long), and a charming older truck driver (Michael Moriarty, Bang the Drum Slowly). Oh yeah, they're both psychopathic murderers.
Well if nothing else, the folks that make the Masters of Horror episodes find themselves compensating a little bit. In the first release of the show's episodes on Blu-ray, I was pleasantly surprised by the episodes and how good or scary they were. I started out liking Volume Two before it started to fade. So in Volume Three, the quality seems to be a little bit better, although the "dud" of the bunch was from the group with the most recognizable horror pedigree.
Starting in the order on the disc, "Incident" turns out to be pretty suspenseful. Before Ellen finds and is chased by the mystery man known as "Moonface," her husband Bruce (Ethan Embry, Vacancy), basically tells her the world is going to hell in the proverbial hand basket, and shows her techniques designed to protect her if she's attacked. Techniques which might prove to be beneficial in her chase. And because it's a Don Coscarelli joint, there is an appearance by Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man himself. The violence is palpable and because it's all in the dark, with the basic fear of being chased alone in the woods, makes for some good moments. In "Pick Me Up," the same general component about things happening badly on a road trip return, even if it's hitchhiking and getting picked up by a killer. Fairuza Balk (American History X) plays the unwilling center of this attention as she is followed, however there's a twist here that winds up being pretty good and I don't want to reveal it, but suffice to say it's challenging, funny and I think revels in being somewhat unbelievable or over the top, but there are moments of this that remain chilling and gruesome as well.
The middle episode was the weak link, and considering Hooper directed it, and Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund appeared in it, you'd think that it would be good. But Englund is more of a supporting character, and the four kids that they focus on just were so stupid and meaningless that when they get to the destination that they do, I just lost interest and wasn't into it. Englund's performance in the film supports a contention I have that he's taken one role and made a cottage industry out of it. I remember him as Willie on V and found him as a novelty, but little else. The underlying concept for the horror in the episode is good, but the piece was marred by shoddy acting, if you want the honest truth.
In retrospect, I think I seemed to like the gore in the first volume of episodes, where the second was a little more matter of fact and those around would seem to be mildly nonplussed at what was going on. But in Volume Three, we get back to the gore and what was appealing to the first volume. Blood dripping off large drillbits from a drillpress, women getting tortured and skinned, you know, stuff that makes you cringe and feel entertained. Or maybe I was entertained by it and I should seek help, I don't know.
Technically things are as straightforward as they've been in other volumes, the 1.78:1 widescreen presentation uses the AVC MPEG-4 codec and things look good without being too great, black levels are a touch inconsistent, but things come straight from the presumable high definition broadcasts. And there's a PCM soundtrack to go with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and the PCM has a little more sound range as is no surprise, sometimes the dialogue seems a bit muted but one can't complain.
With three episodes again on disc, you'd be surprised to find that there are no less than five commentary tracks. The talent interviews and making of featurettes that accompany the standard definition releases have been excised. Coscarelli contributes two tracks, one with Lansdale and another with Stephen Romano, who adapted Lansdale's story. Both of which are full of information and well worth the time. Hooper's commentary was decent as well, though the separate track with writer Richard Christian Matheson I could have done without. The last track with Cohen was decent also.
Since we're past the point of no return on these discs, I continue to be mildly annoyed at Starz for continuing to release these volumes out of their broadcast order. If this is the true production order, fine, just say so and I'll be done with it. But "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" was the very first episode of the series run, "Dance of the Dead" was number three and "Pick Me Up" was number eleven, thanks to IMDb. I'm presuming Volume Four will complete the first season and hopefully Starz can get it done proper with Season Two.
All in all quality wise, this third Volume of Masters of Horror measures up with the first in terms of horror and suspense. I'd probably suggest skipping "Dance of the Dead" and watching the other two, but if you want the whole package of extras, don't get rid of your individual standard definition copies just yet.
The creative team is acquitted of their charges, though Starz is found guilty and here's hopes that they will rethink their plans going forward.
Review content copyright © 2007 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Starz Home Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 169 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary with Writer/Actor DonCoscarelli, Writer Stephen Romano and DVD Producer Perry Martin (Incident On and Off a Mountain Road)
* Commentary with Writer/Actor DonCoscarelli and Author Joe R. Lansdale (Incident On and Off a Mountain Road)
* Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper and DVD Producer Perry Martin (Dance of the Dead)
* Commentary with Actor Richard Christian Matheson (Dance of the Dead)
* Commentary with Director Larry Cohen (Pick Me Up)
* IMDb: Incident On and Off a Mountain Road
* IMDb: Dance of the Dead
* IMDb: Pick Me Up
* Original DVD Verdict Review: Incident On and Off a Mountain Road
* Original DVD Verdict Review: Dance of the Dead
* Original DVD Verdict Review: Pick Me Up
* Original DVD Verdict Review: Volume One
* Original DVD Verdict Review: Volume Two
* Official Site
* Official Site (Showtime)
* Official Tobe Hooper Site
* Official Robert Englund Site
* Official Fairuza Balk Site
* Jessica Lowndes Fan Site