When I first heard about the idea behind "Masters Of Horror", one hour segments put together by some of the premiere names in horror, I must admit I was pretty stoked. Looking at some of those involved: Stuart Gordon, Argento, Carpenter, Landis, Takashi Miike, reads like a who's who of horror elites. This could have easily been one of the greatest shows, horror themed or otherwise, ever made. But alas, with any series of it's kind there are bound to be some weak spots. Granted, there is certainly a lot to love here, especially in the first season, and when the idea works it gives us some of the best horror programming television has ever seen. For every mediocre entry, there are two or three good ones and even a few of pure genius. Episodes like "Dream Cruise" and "The V Word" fall well short of greatness and may have you looking for the remote to find something else to watch, but others will have your eyes glued to the screen and your fingers dug tightly into the armrests!
"Cigarette Burns" (John Carpenter), "The Fair Haired Child" (William Malone), and "Incident On And Off A Mountain Road" (Don Coscarelli) all work extremely well, especially given the alotted time. One of my favorites, "Pick Me Up" (Larry Cohen), features a brilliantly funny pair of serial killers jockeying for dibs on an "innocent" victim. It's horror/comdey at it's finest.
But the episode that's truly noteworthy of mention, both for it's content and for the controversy it created, is "Imprint". The master of making audiences squirm, Takashi Miike ("Audition"), has the distinction of being the only filmmaker of the series to not have his episode shown on American TV. That's quite an accomplishment considering that that the network refusing to air it was "Showtime"! But indeed if you've seen "Imprint" you can easily understand why it was shelved. It is decidedly not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. Featuring one of the most horrifyingly realistic torture scenes ever put to celluloid (Seriously! "Hostel" ain't got nothing on this film!), it stays true to it's title and is guaranteed to permanently leave a strong one on your psyche. An "Imprint", that is. It's worth a look, if anything just to see for yourself what kind of material is so outrageous that a pay-cable station won't run it!
All in all, "Masters Of Horror" isn't for everybody. But fans of gore and frights should gladly sit through the weaker material just to get to those golden nuggets like "Imprint". And while it may not deserve to be considered among the greatest shows in television history, it definitely deserves to be included in a talk of the best horror shows ever made.