Masters of Horror was a Genre Anthology on Showtime, created by horror film director Mick Garris.The idea sprung from a series of dinners that Garris had held with other horror film directors, and the satisfying experience and the directors' admiration of each other's works lead Garris to create this series in 2005. The basic idea was a series of one-hour films, each directed by a well-known horror director. The series featured contributions from directors as diverse as Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter and Takashi Miike, and received wide critical acclaim.The series ran for two seasons on Showtime. Fear Itself, another Genre Anthology in the same format and created by the same team, premiered on NBC in 2008, and was cancelled after its first season. Another similar show called Masters of Science Fiction (again from the same creators) premiered on ABC in 2007, but only ran six episodes before being cancelled. Masters of Italian Horror is also in the works, focusing solely on Italian directors. IDW Publishing is also adapting several of the episodes as comic books.The episodes, in order of broadcast, and the tropes they contained were as follows:
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Incident On and Off a Mountain Road
Directed by Don Coscarelli and based on a short story by Joe R. Lansdale. While driving in the night by a lonely mountain road, young Ellen (Bree Turner) suffers a car crash and comes across a deranged, monster-like Serial Killer nicknamed "Moonface" (John deSantis). In order to survive, Ellen must put in practice the lessons she received from her Crazy Survivalist husband Bruce (Ethan Embry).
Directed by Stuart Gordon and based on a short story by H. P. Lovecraft. College student Walter Gillman (Ezra Godden) rents a room in a colonial house looking for a quiet environment wherein to study his grade on Quantum Mechanics. However, he soon begins to experience some weird and very vivid dreams till he is convinced that a 17th century witch wants him to sacrifice the baby of the woman next door (Chelah Horsdal).
Phlebotinum Dependence: In order to "dance", the Doom Room's zombie dancers need to be regularly injected with fresh blood — preferably from older people who are unlikely to have ever done drugs or have an STD. Additionally, the MC keeps a private stash of blood for his own purposes.
Shout Out: The bouncers at the Doom Room are dressed in the "droog" style (derby hats, white jumpsuits, etc.) featured in the film A Clockwork Orange.
The Reveal: Kate, fed up with Anna's hard-partying lifestyle, allowed her to die of a drug overdose and sold her corpse to the MC. Trouble was, she wasn't quite dead when her mother sold her.
Wretched Hive: Cruising down the main drag of Muskeet at night makes Dodge City look like Disneyland.
Directed by Dario Argento and based on a comic by Bruce Jones and Bernie Wrightson. While out on assignment, Detective Frank Spivey (Steven Weber) shoots a deranged homeless man as he is attempting to kill a gorgeous, but hideously disfigured and apparently mentally retarded woman, Jenifer (Carrie Fleming). When informed that she will be interned in a mental asylum, Frank takes pity of Jenifer and brings her home instead, something that his family doesn't take very well. It only gets worse after that, as Frank becomes obsessed with Jenifer's body while she begins to show her true colors.
Adaptation Expansion: The last act of the episode includes a Hope Spot where Frank seems to be getting his life back on track only for Jenifer to ruin it again.
Boy Meets Ghoul: A quite brutal deconstruction. Boy warms to Ghoul first out of pity, then becomes sexually obsessed with it. Ghoul pretends to love Boy to provide for it while Ghoul keeps murdering people.
Butterface: The eponymous Jenifer, possibly to the point of exaggeration, in that her face looks downright monstrous while still having a model's body.
Evil Detecting Cat: A clear indication that Jenifer is evil is Frank's cat being terrified of her.
Good People Have Good Sex: The first indication that Frank is becoming obsessed with Jenifer is when he can't stop fantasizing about her while having a bout of rough sex with his wife, which she clearly isn't enjoying.
Directed by Mick Garris and based on his own short story. Jamie (Henry Thomas) works in a laboratory that develops flavors for a food company. One day, he begins to suffer a series of apparent hallucinations until he realizes that he's actually living the experiences of a woman in another city as if they were his own.
Directed by Joe Dante and based on a short story by Dale Bailey. America is fighting an unpopular war as the next presidential election is nearing. When confronted by the mother of a fallen soldier on live TV, David Murch (John Tenney), a publicity agent for the current government whose own brother was killed in The Vietnam War, declares his conviction that the fallen soldiers would support the war if given the choice to come back. Unfortunately for him, they're about to. And they don't.
Zombie Apocalypse: Averted. The undead soldiers make it pretty clear they aren't mindless bodies there to eat people. They're entirely civilized (though a little grumpy for obvious reasons) and the only people they are shown killing did something to deserve it.
In a hilarious turn, they settle for occupying Washington D.C. and forcing the re-elected Shelley to flee as a way to show their continuing discontent.
Directed by John Landis. In a small town, disgraced detective Dwight Faraday (Brian Benben) and his friend Officer Jacob Reed (Anthony Griffith) are given the opportunity to investigate a series of mysterious deaths where the victim was apparently trampled by an unknown animal. All the victims were male and were last seen while in company of a mysterious, beautiful, Native American woman (Cinthya Moura).
Bittersweet Ending: It's unclear whether it's either this or Downer Ending. Reed has been killed, the Deer Woman has claimed her victims, and vanishes when Faraday tracks her down. There's no indication that she won't come back in a few years, but at least won't kill any more people for the time being.
Fanservice: The Deer Woman always goes topless before she kills.
For the Evulz: Just like in the original legend, the Deer Woman kills horny men for absolutely no reason. This is lampshaded by Faraday when he is first introduced to the legend.
Gorn: The Deer Woman's victims, most notably when Faraday picks up what's left of the trucker's lower jaw at the beginning.
Half-Human Hybrid: The Deer Woman has the upper body of an attractive Native American woman, and the lower body of a deer.
Imagine Spot: In a particularly funny bit Faraday muses about the possible scenarios that could have resulted in the crime scene where the trucker got stamped into a bloody pile, one involving a skimpy girl beating the inexplicably helpless trucker to death with a fake deer leg ("...Stupid"), another the girl and the trucker being attacked by a Bambified deer ("...Retarded"), and the third the trucker being killed and the girl abducted by a humongous deer man ("...Fuck").
Magical Native American: Subverted. While the person that provides the clue to solving the mystery is a Native American, he's just a casino owner who thinks that the legend is stupid.
Too Dumb to Live: Reed, knowing full well that there might be a mythological monster woman running around killing hapless men, doesn't bat an eye when a gorgeous, mute, girl whose feet he hasn't seen swoons over him, and wants to come back to his place with him. When Faraday calls him up and points this out he finally realizes, but it's already too late.
For his fair, he was already a bit drunk when the Deer Woman shows around and then only get more wasted.
John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns
Directed byJohn Carpenter. Kirby (Norman Reedus) is the owner of a run-down cinema whose girlfriend Annie (Zara Taylor) recently committed suicide. In order to pay a debt he owns to Annie's hateful father Walter (Gary Hetherington), Kirby accepts the request of eccentric millionaire Bellinger (Udo Kier) to locate the only surviving copy of La Fin Absolue du Monde (The Absolute End of the World) for him, a film Shrouded in Myth that is said to be the ultimate Brown Note. It's sort of a contemporary version of Robert W. Chambers' anthology The King in Yellow.
Anti-Hero: Kirby, of the "brooding hero with a dark past" type. Formerly a drug junkie who got his girlfriend addicted and eventually drove her to suicide, he still has few heroic qualities in the present day, and is only doing the job for the money and his obsession with the film. He still cares for his dead girlfriend, though.
Artifact of Death: La Fin Absolue du Monde. Pretty much anyone involved in the production died because of it, as do people who go after it.
Annie is covered head to toe in blood when she emerges out of the theater screen at the end.
Downplayed with Dalibor after he decapitates the taxi driver.
Broken Angel: Kirby encounters a pale, gaunt, vaguely male figure with healed stumps at its shoulder blades. It is strongly implied that this was the angel that was mutilated in La fin absolue du monde, the short film that the protagonist seeks.
Brown Note: La Fin Absolue du Monde drives people crazy just from thinking too much about it.
Kirby later Ate His Gun under the effects of La Fin Absolue Du Monde.
Bellinger, who cuts out his small intestines and inserts them into a film projector. We don't see him breathe out his last breath, but not much else could have come of it.
Eye Scream: Bellinger's butler cuts out his own eyes after seeing the film.
Fan Disservice: In a hallucination, Annie is completely stark naked... and covered in blood.
Gorn: Quite possibly the most Carpenter has ever put into a single feature since The Thing.
I'm a Humanitarian: When the film is presented at the end, Annie emerges out of the theater screen. Her father comforts her, but she's "hungry", and takes a bite out of his neck. It's a hallucination.
Jerkass Has a Point: Annie's father. Kirby treats him like an unreasonable jerkass, but Kirby did get his daughter killed by indulging her drug habit, abysmally failed to get her on the right track despite agreeing with him to do so, is still massively in debt to him, and just evades him whenever the topic of repaying the loan comes up. It's only when he resolves to kill Kirby that he crosses the line into outright villainy.
Kill 'em All: The only characters to survive are Kirby's theatre assistant, Bakovic's widow and Henri, none of whom were present at the climax. The angel also survives.
Only in It for the Money: The search for La Fin Absolue du Monde starts out as this for Kirby, to pay off his enormous debts. Later on he becomes increasingly obsessed with the film itself.
Our Angels Are Different: In this case, angels are corporeal creatures and can be tortured, and the one seen in the episode is quite uglier than one would expect at first. It's heavily implied that the film's evil is the result of documenting the desecration of said angel.
Sanity Slippage: Anyone who watches or is involved with La Fin Absolue du Monde.
Snuff Film: Dalibor, one of the persons visited by Kirby while searching for the film is a Snuff director, while La Fin Absolue du Monde features the torture and mutilation of an angel.
Directed by William Malone. 13 year-old Tara (Lindsay Pulsipher) is kidnapped by a couple of retired musicians, Anton (William Samples) and Judith (Lori Petty), and imprisoned in their run-down basement. While in there, she learns that she is to be sacrificed as part of a Deal with the Devil in exchange of resuscitating the couple's teenage son, Johnny (Jesse Hadock).
Human Resources: The garden corridor used during the ritual to bring Johnny back to life is made of human bones.
Originally going to be directed by Roger Corman, who was later replaced by Lucky McKee, and based on the short story The Feather Pillow by Horacio Quiroga. Shy Dr. Ida Teeter (Angela Bettis) is a lesbian entomologist that can't find a companion that also shares (or merely tolerates) her love for bugs before she meets the weird artist Misty Falls (Erin Brown, a.k.a. Misty Mundae). That same day, Ida receives a package from Brazil containing a newly-discovered insect that is a parasite for warm-blooded animals. Hilarity Ensues.
Girl on Girl Is Hot: Ida's partner Max constantly pokes fun at his colleague's sexuality and begs her to tell him everything about her dates in time for the morning shower. He also keeps his hand in a "special place" while talking to her on the phone.
Nightmare Fetishist: Ida has a most unladylike fascination with insects and her apartment filled with various insectoid pets. It creates a lot of friction with her landlady and makes it downright impossible for her to land a date.
Directed by Larry Cohen and based on a short story by David J. Schow. A bus containing a small number of passengers breaks down in the middle of nowhere. They are soon visited by a trucker, Wheeler (Michael Moriarty) and a hitchhiker, Walker (Warren Kole). Both of them are serial killers. When the passengers are reduced to only one left, Stacia (Fairuza Balk), the hunt also becomes a feud between the two.
Diabolus ex Machina: Just after causing a road accident and getting rid of Walker and Wheeler, Stacia is picked up by two paramedics who turn out to also be serial killers themselves.
Evil Versus Evil: A serial killer versus another serial killer, perfectly fitting each other's M Os. Subverted later on when they decide to work together. Double subverted in the end, when they're both killed by a pair of killer ambulance drivers.
Properly Paranoid: Marie's first thought about Walker and Wheeler is that they are serial killers. She's right. Ironically, both of them decide not to kill her... but leave her tied to a tree with barbed wire in the middle of nowhere instead.
Serial Killer: The drifter and the truck driver. And the ambulance crew.
Directed by John McNaughton and based on a short story by Clive Barker. At the end of the 19th century, a man who has just lost his wife comes to the house of Miss Carnation, the Necromancer (Micki Maunsell) and begs her to bring his love Back from the Dead. She hesitates, but when he insists she proposes to revive her if he still wants her to do so after he hears the tale of medical student Ernst Haeckel (Derek Cecil), that happened 50 years before.
Shout Out: In the beginning, Haeckel and his teacher discuss the experiments performed by some German doctor called Frankenstein. Haeckel tries to replicate then his attempt to revive a cadaver using electricity but only manages to burn it.
Directed by Takashi Miike and based on a novel by Shimako Iwai. In 19th century Japan, an American journalist named Christopher (Billy Drago) arrives at a remote island looking for Komomo (Michie), a woman he's in love with that was sold to a brothel by her adoptive family. While there he comes across a disfigured prostitute (Youki Kudoh) that tells him the story of her life. This episode was filmed in Japan by Kadokawa Pictures and was never broadcast unedited due to its ridiculously high Brain Bleach quotient.
Creator Cameo: Watch for Shimako Iwai, writer of the original novel. She plays the torturer.
Driven to Suicide: The disfigured prostitute claims first that this was what happened to Komomo. After Christopher says he doesn't believe her, she admits that she actually killed Komomo (and was also the one that committed the robbery and falsely accused Komomo in the first place).
Made a Slave: All the women (in particular, the disfigured prostitute was sold to a brothel by her mother).
No Name Given: The disfigured prostitute, who is credited as "woman".
Translation Convention: Unlike the second season's Dream Cruise, this episode was filmed in English but with all the characters presumed to be speaking Japanese the entire time. Christopher is first though to be Dutchnote The story is set shortly after the end of Japan's Sakoku period, when the only Western traders allowed were Dutch.
Wretched Hive: The remote island is "only inhabited by demons and whores".
You Gotta Have Blue Hair: a few scenes depicting the disfigured girl have her with dark blue hair, especially noticeable in her childhood.
The Damned Thing
Directed by Tobe Hooper and based on a short story by Ambrose Bierce. In 1981, a peaceful family man in a small Texas town went crazy the night of his 40th brithday and killed his wife before being killed himself by an invisible force. Twenty four years later, his still traumatized son Kevin (Sean Patrick Flannery) is sheriff of the same town and nearing 40 himself when the same unknown force seems to appear again and turn his fellow countrymen against each other.
Directed by John Landis. On the surface, Harold (George Wendt) is a friendly man that lives alone in a quiet Midwestern neighborhood. But underneath, he's a crazed Serial Killer obsessed with forming the perfect "family" and he has set his eyes on the new young couple, the Fullers (Meredith Monroe and Matt Kesslar) that have moved across the street.
Fate Worse Than Death: The Fullers keep Harold alive for two weeks, torturing him from beginning to end before they kill him.
Imagine Spot: Harold has several when he talks to Celia. He also has full conversations with his "family".
Fridge Brilliance: It's possible that he wasn't imagining the scenes with Celia. Think about it: the Fullers already knew Harold was a serial killer. They wanted to catch him in the act so they could find out what he had done with their daughter's body. So Celia was actually flirting with him, as a way of baiting him so that he'd try going after her next.
Replacement Goldfish: The Fullers argue if they should have another child, while Harold sees Celia as a better "wife" than the one he has now.
The Reveal: The Fuller's daughter didn't die of cancer. She was Sarah, the little girl that Harold "adopted". Everything they did was part of a plan to capture Harold and unleash their bloody vengeance.
Noodle Incident: We do learn a lot more of Mr. Chaney's backstory than we ever cared to know, but we never find out exactly how he became a vampire.
Justin: "How'd you get like this? You bite the wrong dick or something?"
Mr. Cheney: "Or something."
Our Vampires Are Different: These have black eyes and extremely pale skin, but normal looking teeth and do reflect on mirrors. Also, staking them in the heart does not kill them but decapitation and sunlight does.
Mr. Chaney: Anyway, he told me that your dad was a mean, evil, bastard, that he was a... (to Kerry) what'd you call him? Ah, a dickface! Yes, a dickface, how wonderful."
What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: Justin commits suicide by exposing himself to the sun while being strapped to a cross-shaped table. His last words are in fact "God, make it stop soon".
You Will Be Spared: Justin refuses to feed on his family, and makes Kerry promise he will stay away from them too.
Directed by Brad Anderson, the director of Session9 and The Machinist, and based on a short story by Mike O'Driscoll. Larry Pearce (Chris Bauer) is a supervisor in a tech support company that begins to descend into madness as his fine sense of hearing only gets better.
Blessed with Suck: Larry's superhearing makes him discover that his son has a cardiac affliction, but only too late to save him; it also makes him better at his job, but not good enough to meet his boss' expectations, while his subordinates hate him for it; and finally, it drives him crazy as it just keeps getting better, and better, and better...
Mistaken for Gay: In a total break with his usual character, Larry acts too friendly to one new employee that he sees as a Replacement Goldfish for his son. The employee is creeped and resigns the next day.
The Nothing After Death: Larry's main source of angst is that while he only keeps hearing better and better he never manages to hear his son's ghost
Workaholic: Larry, to the point of refusing a leave when his son dies. He also keeps mentioning stuff from work when talking to his wife.
John Carpenter's Pro-Life
Directed by John Carpenter. 15 year-old Angelique Burcell (Caitlin Wachs) arrives at a remote abortion clinic convinced that she is pregnant with the spawn of the Devil. Shortly after, her Christian fundamentalist father Dwayne (Ron Perlman) and three brothers come with the intention of getting her out and stopping the abortion at any cost.
Badass Normal: Dr. Kiefer faces the Burcells alone and wins the first two assaults against them.
Directed by Dario Argento and based on a short story by F. Paul Wilson. Sleazy small time fur trader Jake Feldman (Meat Loaf) gets his hands on some priceless raccoon pelts that might be his ticket to win a fortune and with it the attention of sexy stripper Shanna (Ellen Ewusie). Too bad the furs are not just priceless, but cursed.
Directed by Joe Dante and based on a short story by James Tiptree Jr.. A Michigan family tries to survive while a pandemic of unknown origin expands through the world turning the male population into woman-murdering psychopaths.
Alien Invasion: It is revealed in the end that the plague was engineered by glowing aliens presumably as part of a plan to take over Earth without actually having to fight for it.
All Men Are Perverts: The plague explicitely switches the men's sexual urges to violent ones. The only way for men to resist it is by different types of castration (chemical and actual, to be specific). Once all the women are dead they turn their attention to the younger boys with a man shrugging off the fact that he murdered his teenage son.
Daydream Surprise: Alan heads home on a flight, and arrives there at night. He and his wife Anne put their daughter to sleep, and then make love to each other. Alan becomes violent, starts strangling Anne, and pulls a knife on her. Then he wakes up back on the plane.
Hate Plague: A male-centered one, engineered by aliens.
Human Resources: Anne, disguised as a man, reveals herself to the male clients of a hunting shop when she can't hide her horror at looking at a bag made out of a woman's breast. This prompts the men to go after her.
Ignored Expert: Alan and Barney have a meeting in Washington D.C. with members of the government and the military. They explain that the ongoing gendercide is a concerted attempt to exterminate the human race, that the women in the infected areas need to be evacuated, and that the men, especially those in important positions, need to take medication that will lead to chemical castration to prevent them from turning into murderers. All their advice is ignored.
Shout Out: In one scene, a group of test subjects is shown different types of porn to investigate the development of the disease. The violent porn movie is actually footage from season one's Imprint, an episode that was censored from broadcast in the US.
Sweet Polly Oliver: Anne disguises herself as a man to prevent being murdered on sight by the next infected man.
Too Dumb to Live: Amy is oblivious to the situation from beginning to end, to the point of abandoning her mother in the forest to come back to her already deranged father, who promptly murders her.
Valerie on the Stairs
Directed by Mick Garris and based on a short story by Clive Barker. Rob Hanisey (Tyron Leitso) is a young man who has just gone through a terrible break up, and who is struggling to publish his first novel, when he is accepted in the Highberger House for aspiring writers. Soon after moving there he begins to have repeated encounters with a mysterious woman, Valerie (Clare Grant), who pleads him to save her from the demon-like creature known as The Beast (Tony Todd). However, none of the other residents believe him and think that he's just crazy, although a small group led by the oldest resident, Everett Neely (Christopher Lloyd), seems to know more than they say.
Author Appeal: In-universe example, since the story is set in a boarding-house for aspiring writers.
Cruel Twist Ending: Rob takes Valerie out of the house, upon which she vanishes. Rob realizes then that he is a fictional character and everything he did was written by the boarding house residents. He dissolves then in a pile of written papers, whose last line is "And so it came to pass that Rob Hanisey never became a published author".
Directed by Rob Schmidt. The marriage of Cliff Addison (Martin Donovan) and his wife Abbey (Julia Benson) is going through dire times when the couple suffers a dramatic car accident. Cliff only gets minor wounds but Abbey is burned alive completely, losing all her skin and senses and falling into a coma. Resolved to end his wife's suffering, Cliff disconnects Abbey's life support, only to discover that her ghost has come back with a vengeance.
Twist Ending: The car's combustion wasn't spontaneous. It was actually done by Cliff with the explicit purpose of murdering Abbey - who, to make things worse, was pregnant with his child at the time. This completely changes the viewer's opinion about Cliff and his early actions, as it is now obvious that his intention to disconnect Abbey wasn't because of her will, but his.
Directed by Tom Holland and based on a short story by John Farris. Layne (Lee Tergesen) returns to his childhood neighborhood just as his former friends begin to disappear one by one, leaving nothing but their clothes soaked in a milky substance. The reason seems to be linked to an ice cream delivery clown, Buster (William Forsythe), who died around that time.
Directed by Stuart Gordon and based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. Set in Philadelphia around 1840, Edgar Allan Poe (Jeffrey Combs) is going through a bad case of Writer's Block as he begins to hit the bottle more than usual and his young wife Virginia (Elyse Levesque) contracts tuberculosis. To make things worse, their pet black cat Pluto begins to act a lot meaner than usual.
Directed by Peter Medak and based on a short story by Bentley Little. Mike Franks (Johnathon Schaech) moves with his family into his late grandmother's house in rural Virginia. There he finds an ancient portrait of George Washington, and hiding behind it a fork made of human bone and a letter where the first president of the United States declares his love for eating children. Soon they are the target of The Washingtonians, a secret society devoted to keep alive and hidden the "tradition" set by their founding father.
I'm a Humanitarian: George Washington as well as several other founding fathers and their descendants. This was due to Washington and the founding fathers eating some of the troops (causing an acquired taste for human flesh) during the Valley Forge incident in 1777.
Directed by Norio Tsuruta and based on a short story by Koji Suzuki. Jack Miller (Daniel Gillies) is an American lawyer in Tokyo who is deathly afraid of water and has recurrent nightmares about the drowning death of his brother Sean when they were children. He's also having an affair with Yuri Saito (Yoshino Kimura), the wife of his colleague Eiji (Ryo Ishibashi). When Eiji invites Jack to a cruise on his yacht, he finds soon that Eiji already knows about the affair, but that's not the biggest of his and Yuri's problems.
Can You Hear Me Now?: One of the first signs that something's wrong is that the yacht's radio stops working.
Dark Is Not Evil: Jack's undead brother only wants to protect him from the actual vengeful ghost he stumbles upon later.
Drowning Pit: Yuri is trapped in the yacht's bathroom as it fills with water.
The Reveal: The vengeful female ghost was Eiji's first wife. He murdered her in that same spot of the sea, and she's been haunting it ever since.