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The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest

The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest
BEGINS (AGAIN)!

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

One year ago, I went mad.

One year ago, I bricked up my windows, bolted my doors, and set out to review one horror title a day for the entire month of October. I left strict instructions to all who knew me that under no circumstances, no matter what I might say or how terribly I might scream, should they let me out until I had completed my mission. I called the project the Hell Plaza Oktoberfest. When the month was over, I was a shambling husk of a half-man... pale, emaciated and unable to focus my twitchy, bloodshot eyes. I shook my fist and cursed the Hollywood sign and swore, "Never again!"

This year, I'm doing it again.

I'll be broadening the scope just a bit this year to make room for a documentary or two, some arthouse scares and maybe even one or two for the kiddies. But don't worry... there will still be plenty of monsters, psychos, and gallons and gallons of fake blood. So pour yourself a big dish of candy corn and to avoid fainting, keep repeating, "It's only a column... it's only a column... it's only a column..." as the Abominable Dr. Jahnke presents The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest II! (cue thunder and lightning effects)


Masters of Horror: Season Two

Masters of Horror: Season Two
2007-2007 (2008) - Anchor Bay

What better way to kick off a month-long horror fest than by cracking open a skull and scooping out what's inside? As they did with the first season of Masters of Horror, Anchor Bay has re-released all of the individual episodes in one very cool collectible package. Season One came in its own mausoleum. Season Two shows up in a durable plastic skull. Between myself and Todd Doogan, we've already reviewed most of the episodes as individual releases, so I won't spend a great deal of time on the mini-movies themselves. For the record, here's what you get:


The Damned Thing - Tobe Hooper directs this adaptation of the Ambrose Bierce short story about a Texas sheriff dealing with a malevolent force that drove his daddy nuts when he was a kid. Some really effective and gory moments in this one but they never really gel as a cohesive whole. C-

Family - George Wendt stars as your friendly neighborhood serial killer in this installment directed by John Landis. Doogan reviewed it here. I actually enjoyed this one more on my second viewing. It's fun and genuinely creepy. B

The V Word - Ernest Dickerson directs this one from a script by series creator Mick Garris about a couple of teenagers who turn into bloodsuckers. Yours truly reviewed this one a few months back. I continue to think it's a terrible episode. D+

Sounds Like - Brad Anderson writes and directs this very fine episode about a supervisor at a software call center with exceptionally good hearing who spirals into madness. This is a particularly good installment that reminded me of classic Twilight Zone episodes whose power lies in the central performance rather than in visual effects. Enjoy Doogan's thoughts on this episode here. A-

Pro-Life - John Carpenter directs Assault On Abortion Clinic 13 with elements of Rosemary's Baby and It's Alive tossed in for good measure. Doogan was too kind on this one. This is a lame, disappointing episode that left me longing for the days when Carpenter was hitting home runs on a regular basis. D

Pelts - Meat Loaf stars as a furrier who becomes obsessed with hides that cause people to commit grotesque acts of self-mutilation in this particularly wet episode from Dario Argento. I reviewed this episode awhile back. I still kind of dig it although, like a lot of Argento's recent work, it doesn't hold up to repeat viewings all that well. B-

The Screwfly Solution - Joe Dante helms this sci-fi/horror hybrid about a virus that causes men to brutally attack women. T. Doogan, Esq., reviewed it here. This is a solid, genuinely creepy episode that harkens back to the best installments of the original Outer Limits. A

Valerie On The Stairs - Mick Garris takes the director's chair for an adaptation of a Clive Barker story about a struggling writer who believes the hotel he's moved into may be haunted. Some interesting concepts here but not enough to sustain the episode. The show's biggest drawback is the weak performance of lead actor Tyron Leitso. Click your clicker for Doogan's take on this episode. C-

Right To Die - An entertaining Tales From The Crypt-style telling of the Terri Schiavo case from director Rob Schmidt. Doogan's ruling on the case is here. The episode is a lot of fun and not in the least bit subtle. B

We All Scream For Ice Cream - Tom Holland directs David J. Schow's adaptation of the John Farris short story about a revenge-seeking killer clown from beyond the grave. Doogan tastes this one here. Not too bad of an episode but it doesn't leave much of a lasting impression. C+

The Black Cat - Stuart Gordon directs Jeffrey Combs as Edgar Allan Poe. Nuff said. An ambitious and overall quite successful episode, this is one of the few episode of the series that I would like to have seen fleshed out and given the feature-film treatment. One of the highlights of the second season. The Black Cat also crossed Doogan's path... his review is here. A-

The Washingtonians - Not one of the highlights of the second season. Peter Medak directs this goofy tale that answers the burning question, "What if George Washington had been a cannibal?" Personally, I've always been more haunted by the question "What if Abe Lincoln had been a sasquatch?" Not funny enough to be enjoyed as camp and not scary enough to be successful horror, this is an odd duck of an episode that can't decide what it wants to be and ends up satisfying no one. Doogan came to much the same conclusion when he reviewed it. D

Dream Cruise - Season Two's Japanese entry is from Ring 0 director Norio Tsuruta. An American lawyer living in Tokyo is invited out for a day cruise by a client whose wife is having an affair with him. Think Dead Calm meets any Japanese horror movie with a long-haired female ghost. Dream Cruise has its moments but its languid pace works against it, draining suspense instead of adding to it. The version here is actually the 87-minute cut released theatrically in Japan. It would have been nice if Anchor Bay had also included the shorter TV version. The streamlined cut may play better than the longer one. C+

The 13 episodes are presented on 11 discs in the skull set (four of them have been put on opposite sides of two flipper discs). Audio and video quality is consistently good throughout. Every episode follows the same basic template of extras. Each episode gets a commentary, usually from the director although a few feature the screenwriters instead. There are two featurettes: one slightly longer, more general "making-of" and one that typically focuses on the creation of a key effects gag. There are exceptions: Family interviews composer Peter Bernstein, for example. Dream Cruise has just one longer "making-of" documentary. Every episode also includes a photo gallery and a PDF file of the script. As for the skull packaging, even if you're not crazy about the show, this is a pretty nifty little item. The discs fit into slots within the head itself and while it seems that they could easily come loose and get scratched, mine were all in perfect condition when I opened it. It's not necessarily the kind of thing anybody would buy for themselves but it would be a great gift for a horror-loving friend or family member.

Masters of Horror seems to have run its course with Showtime opting not to continue it after two seasons. Mick Garris has since taken the concept to NBC with Fear Itself. The show ran for eight episodes earlier this summer then ran into a little thing called the Olympics and went away. Who knows when or if NBC will air the remaining episodes but no doubt the series will turn up on disc sooner or later, most likely in uncut versions deemed unfit for network broadcast. Like all anthology series, Masters of Horror was always a mixed bag. But the idea and intent was undeniably terrific and well worth supporting. No matter what channel it happens to be on, I hope we haven't seen the last of Masters of Horror.

Program Rating (Average): B-
Disc Ratings (Average - Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/B-


Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


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