Masters of Horror: bringing big screen terror to the small screen

WOULD YOU INVITE HER TO YOUR HOUSE? The promotional poster of Masters of Horror Season 1.

Masters of Horror is a television anthology which features episodes written and directed by some of the biggest names in the horror genre, including John Carpenter (The Thing), Tobe Hooper (Toolbox Murders), and Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers), among others. The series aired over  cable television in the US from 2005-2006 but was syndicated in various countries due to the positive reviews it earned during its run.

Masters of Horror is a unique series that is devoted solely to creating hour-long thrillers that will please horror fans, and even those who simply appreciate the art of filmmaking. The cinematography and the pacing of the episodes could rival some of the biggest suspense blockbusters released in the mainstream. The opening credits alone leaves chills running down one’s spine. Yes, it’s that creepy.

Unlike other series that are in the business of scaring people, this one tackles a variety of horrors — from supernatural, to surreal, to demonic to man-made. Its approach is more indie — guerilla in the sense that the filmmakers know that they are making features for TV but have devoted their expertise in making big films to bring home viewers high caliber horror fests. Best of all, it does not forcibly hook audiences into the series with short to be continued episodes but rather presents them with complete standalones leaving them to decide whether or not to follow the show’s entire run or stop at one feature.

THE MASTERS WILL NOT STOP AT ONE. Apparently, the Masters of Horror had so much fun with the first set, they came back to serve up more scares in Season 2.

What I liked about the series is the quality of each feature presentation. The plots are complicated but approaches are simple and straightforward. The series manages to bring horror to a new level as it terrifies not only the senses but even the mind.  Some episodes, like Imprint, directed by Takashi Miike where an American man returns to Japan in search of a prostitute he fell in love with, had torture scenes that haunt my memory to this very day. Some episodes are more campy like I Scream for Ice Cream (my favorite episode) and are presented more lightly than most but it still has that layer of horror not ordinarily found in regular mainstream series. The differences in the styles of the filmmakers is also something to look forward to with every episode. Seeing their work and recognizing their approaches is a great way to understand the genre and the directors as well, and gives the viewers insight into why they are so effective in what they do. Some of the directors were not very familiar to me at first, but when I saw the episodes they directed, it got me interested in their other material.

I could compare some features to episodes of The Twilight Zone, but Masters of Horror caters to a more mature clientele. Most episodes have slight nudity which is common for horror movies (fair warning) and scenes of violence not suitable for young audiences (parental guidance is advised).

Horror is not an easy genre to master or execute for that matter. It does not only exist to thrill or scare audiences. In itself, in the right hands, they could be considered masterpieces that audiences can appreciate and admire, and I believe that on some level, this horror series managed to elevate itself against other series of the same classification as it succeeded in creating episodes that combines the campy with the elegant and balances the mainstream with the indie. Check out an episode or two and judge for yourself. Horror is an acquired taste for some but it grows on most people.