Starz Home Entertainment // 2005 // 242 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // January 12th, 2008
Well, at least when it comes to baseball terms, I can safely cross the plate now that Masters of Horror: Season 1, Volume 4 has graced my Blu-ray player.
With the release of Volume 4 on Blu-ray, Starz has now ensured that the entire first season's run of thirteen shows is now available on high definition for the world to enjoy. And not to get a little maudlin, but did they really save the best for last?
The big difference in this disc compared to other volumes that there are four episodes on this disc whereas previous volume releases had three. The episode breakdown is as follows:
This one might be best known as the one that even pay cable didn't want to air, as this installment is directed by Takashi Miike of Ichi the Killer lore, which tells the tale of an American journalist (Billy Drago, The Untouchables) who goes back to 19th century Japan to try and find the woman he loved and left, and discovers a world of torture that he never knew existed.
Directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins), this installment focuses on two political pundits, one of whom works in the White House, as they discuss the current Iraq conflict. When the mother of a deceased soldier comes back from the dead, things become, shall we say, complicated.
Based on a short story by Clive Barker that was directed by John McNaughton (Wild Things), the episode follows a man who is trying to pursue the secret of reanimation, and as he goes to visit his ailing father, stops at the house of an older man and her young trophy wife, and in another piece set in the 18th or 19th century, we learn of the dark secrets of the undead.
Mick Garris (The Stand), who also wrote the story and is the creator of the show, directs this piece about a lonely guy (played by Henry Thomas, E.T.) who suddenly finds himself with an exclusive set of senses, so much so that he inhabits the body of a woman who murders her boyfriend.
This volume of Masters of Horror contains a couple of episodes that certainly will get a visceral reaction out of the viewer one way or another. To tackle the easier one first, "Homecoming" just comes off as annoying to me. The concept is interesting enough, with everyone discussing what the troops do or don't do when they lose their lives in combat, to see them emerge from the coffins and exhibit some sort of unspoken opinion is intriguing. However it starts to get a little on the dumb side when the main focus of the piece is on the pundits, and it's just another boring and trite piece on the Iraq war. "Blah blah, the war was built on lies," and there are even Ann Coulter and Cindy Sheehan caricatures to boot, though all were sanitized or unplanned for this episode. And the satirical pieces devolved to the point of being unfunny after awhile, as a zombie was "employed" by the government to talk for the war pulls out a pair of broken glasses in order to read a prepared statement. Hardy har har.
The other episode on this disc that is notable is "Imprint." I've not seen any Miike work before, and the only time I'd seen Hostel before was for a recent review of the Blu-ray disc for the Verdict. And now that I've seen Miike, I've got to say that with all love to Eli Roth aside, Miike is the king of this torture horror stuff. The stuff I saw in "Imprint" I've never seen in a feature before, film or TV, and he takes the things that you're afraid to watch and makes sure that you see it in its full blood and guts. I don't want to really get too involved in discussing the story in general, but Miike manages to scare and horrify the viewer quite effectively and use brutality and violence as seemingly "matter of fact" things in ancient Japan.
As far as the other episodes go, they were also somewhat interesting in terms of the story, though the execution from time to time would come off as silly. There's a sequence in "Chocolate" where Thomas is "possessed" by the woman's body that people apparently have said is unsettling, but I thought was a little bit goofy, and in "Haeckel's Tale" that story was also decent but the pacing seemed long to me.
Technically, Volume Four is just like the first three volumes, using a 1.78:1 AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer that's got a bit of detail behind it and in the case of "Imprint," the colors are reproduced accurately without a lot of bleed or oversaturation. The PCM soundtrack keeps dialogue firmly entrenched in the center channel for all episodes without any real panning or surround use to speak of, the action is in front of the viewer for most of the time.
Supplements wise, there are commentaries for each episode, and most of them are fairly underwhelming and lack any sort of real insight. "Imprint" has a track from Wyatt Dole, a writer, though not of this piece, and someone named Chris D., who is a programmer for the American Cinematheque. They discuss the differences in culture between us and the Japanese, and Miike's style and vision are covered as well. It would have been nice to actually have someone from the film provide a commentary, but oh well. On "Homecoming" a commentary with writer Sam Hamm is included. Quite frankly it bored me and was more of the same stuff I watched in the feature, so I skipped past the guy who has writing credits for the first two Batman films and Monkeybone. "Haeckel's Tale" includes a commentary by McNaughton, but quite frankly he is dry in his delivery and there are gaps of silence for a prolonged period of time, leading me to think he could have used another person on the track to bounce things off of. In "Chocolate," we get just that, as Garris and longtime Anchor Bay DVD producer Perry Martin discuss not only how the episode came together, but how the series did as a whole. Garris also talks aout various aspects of the production too and the occasional shot breakdown from time to time. Martin's participation in all commentaries should be a requirement if you ask me.
Especially in the case of "Imprint," this is another disc that could have been better if all of the bonus material was included, rather than just the commentaries. There are interviews with the cast and crew on most, if not all of the standard definition discs, and since this is essentially a television show, why not pack everything on here and not really sacrifice too much in quality?
Masters of Horror: Season 1, Volume 4 does contain a little bit of filler, but it also contains an episode only seen on video to this point. The audio and video qualities are solid and a presumable upgrade on the standard definition copies, and you know how practical I am when it comes to freeing up shelf space.
With the exception of Dante, the cast and crew are free to go. Dante is sentenced to spend some time with John Landis, another director who has contributed to the Masters of Horror series and whose time appears to have passed.
Review content copyright © 2008 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Starz Home Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 242 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary with Author Chris D. and Writer Wyatt Doyle (Imprint)
* Commentary with Writer Sam Hamm (Homecoming)
* Commentary with Director John McNaughton (Haeckel's Tale)
* Commentary with Writer/Director Mick Garris and DVD Producer Perry Martin (Chocolate)
* IMDb: Imprint
* IMDb: Homecoming
* IMDb: Haeckel's Tale
* IMDb: Chocolate
* Official Site
* Official Showtime Site
* Original Verdict Review: Imprint
* Original Verdict Review: Haeckel's Tale
* Original Verdict Review: Chocolate
* Original Verdict Review: Season 1, Volume 1
* Original Verdict Review: Season 1, Volume 2
* Original Verdict Review: Season 1, Volume 3