51 mins. Color.
Masters of Horror DVD, 2005
I’ll start this off by saying I am not a huge fan of the Masters of Horror series. I think that first season with Dario Argento’s Jenifer and John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns was better than the later ones, but still not great. I think the real problem is the format. One hour micro-budget for “TV” that all had a digital look with that horrible new horror editing. (You know exactly what I’m saying. Super slick. Fast cuts. Lots of bad CGI.)
Coscarelli’s entry, Incident on and off a Mountain Road, was the first episode in the first season of Masters and doesn't start extremely strong, but ends well. It starts with Ellen (Bree Turner, known for lots of TV, looks a bit like Jennifer Love Hewitt...) driving down a deserted dark curvy road in the mountains. She is spacing out listening to music and comes upon a car that is parked in the middle of the road. She crashes into the car.
It then cuts to Ellen having lunch with Bruce (Ethan Embry of Can’t Hardly Wait, that Jennifer Love Hewitt movie that you loved as a thirteen year old because you got to look at JLW for 90 minutes) and their relationship is established as weird and awkward. Bruce says all kinds of weird crap like “I’d like to shoot those scumbags” and etc, but Ellen seems to find him charming (because he was in Can’t Hardly Wait, of course). The dialogue is also very strange. For instance:
E: “I just love the rain.”
B: “Well, you look really good in it.”
They then have a weird MTV style sex scene that seems strange in a Coscarelli movie. Otherwise when I’ve seen him approach sexuality it tends to involve Reggie Bannister and be funny. This one is done with flashes of lightning (which is a trope that portrays most of the chase shots as well).
It then cuts back to Bree on the dark road. She is unconscious at the wheel and when she comes to she tries to start her car. It won’t start and she heads out to look at the other car. No one is in the other car and blood covers the front seat. She sees that a trail of blood heads off the road and she follows it. At the other end she sees a dark hooded figure, and calls out to see if he’s okay. She then sees that the hooded figure is dragging a woman, she calls out for help. The hooded figure takes off his hood to show that he’s a hacked out bald giant with bad teeth. We will later find out that he’s called Moonface.
It then cuts back to Ellen and Bruce, now they are taking a run together. Bruce is going on like a weird creep talking about how Ellen needs to be ready to do the unexpected if someone attacks her. He describes how to shove a stick in someone’s eye if needed. It starts to become clear that this guy is obsessed with self-defense.
Moonface chases Ellen through the woods, and the style does not feel Coscarelli-esque. Here’s where the Masters of Horror production pushes in. They all feel and look like this. Pseudo slick and without soul. But, just as I was getting frustrated, it gets interesting. Ellen stops and makes a booby trap with a pair of scissors that stab Moonface in the eye. She then finds a six foot hole, and quickly breaks a branch, making a punji stick. She pulls herself out and then removes her underwear. She uses the elastic and fabric to make a slingshot type booby trap. She waits. The other woman who had been screaming for help comes down the hill, and Ellen tries to stop her but she falls onto the punji stick. It impales her leg. Moonface uses Ellen’s booby-trap against her.
In the midst of this action, the film keeps cutting to survival training Ellen has with Bruce. And, he keeps getting creepier. He is increasingly critical of her and she eventually tells him she is going to leave him.
Ellen is dragged to Moonface’s house. Its a very Texas Chainsaw-esque scene. Then, we get Angus Scrimm. Man, I love that guy. Here, he provides a much needed different character. He is tied up in the basement and explains to Ellen that she is one of many. He points out two other skeletons behind her. Ellen witnesses Moonface drilling out the eyes out of the other woman who was impaled by her punji booby-trap. She then sees that that all the bodies had their eyes drilled out.
Now, I’m going to ruin the end for you because it is the best part of the movie and made the movie worthwhile for me. Scrimm helps Ellen escape and she uses the skeleton of a baby as a weapon (!). She then kicks Moonface out a window and he falls into a waterfall. She heads up to her car, gets it started and then goes to the trunk. She opens it to reveal Bruce’s dead body. There is a flashback of Bruce beating and then raping Ellen, with her replying by strangling Bruce to death. It then comes back to the car, Ellen drags his body to Moonface’s house, and then drills out his eyes. She also kills Scrimm. (that seemed unnecessary to me)
I understand what Coscarelli saw in this story. The tough woman who makes booby-traps and ends up killing her creepy abusive husband and a serial killer is pretty awesome. The possibility to work within the same TV series as Argento, Tobe Hooper, Joe Dante, Takashii Miike and John Carpenter would definitely be attractive. Likewise, he had never really done a straight-forward horror film. Everything else he has done is much more genre-melding. He had wanted to work with Joe R. Lansdale’s short story after doing so well with Bubba Ho-Tep. It also plays into Coscarelli’s fear of the wilderness, ie: Survival Quest. All that being said, It doesn’t exactly work. But, there are great moments and it’s worth watching because of them.
- Shot in just 12 days
- Coscarelli says he wasn’t interested in the blood and mayhem (as is usual), but upped the ante on the drilling of the eye when he heard what Dante and Argento were doing in their episodes
Set Yourself Up:
- Set your expectations for a Masters of Horror episode. This isn’t a feature, and is probably best if considered a short and followed up by Bubba Ho-Tep.
- Buy some gummy eyeballs from www.orientaltrading.com
- It’s Coscarelli.
There are quite a few good features on the disk. There is a short documentary about Coscarelli’s career, a featurette with interviews about working with him, on the set interviews with John DeSantis (Moonface) and Ethan Embry. There are also trailers, commentaries, etc..