Prince of Darkness

Prince of Darkness is currently available on instant Netflix.

Prince of Darkness (1987) – Rated R

“A cylinder of mysterious, green liquid is found in an abandoned church. It may contain the ultimate evil: an ancient iniquity that longs to escape. Several physicists try to comprehend what’s happening and race to save the world, even as they’re being turned into zombies one by one. Director John Carpenter fills Prince of Darkness with his trademark mix of horror and humor.”

“I’ve got a message for you, and you’re not going to like it. “

John Carpenter loves to destroy the world. Prince of Darkness is the second film in his loose apocalypse trilogy, following The Thing (1982) and before his ode to Lovecraft, In the Mouth of Madness (1994).

In a reversal of The Fog, the first half of Prince of Darkness is riveting as the mystery slowly unravels. The religious scenes without dialogue that take place during the credits are particularly well done. The book, the key, and the container of liquid are very creepy. The second half is enjoyable but fails to live up to the potential provided by the first half.

One of the things I love about Carpenter is his constant, excellent use of the 2.35:1 widescreen format and his great eye for the blocking of scenes. His electronic score adds to the suspense. Unfortunately Carpenter is not an actor’s director. He has an eye for choosing talent but not always getting the proper performance.

Jameson Parker (Simon of Simon & Simon, or was that Simon?) is woefully wooden here as our lead, Brian Marsh. Equally wooden and lacking any chemistry with Parker is Lisa Blount as female lead Catherine Danforth. It doesn’t help that some of their dialogue is pretty clunky. Dennis Dun provides some comic relief as Walter, though some others have found him irksome.

Thankfully Donald Pleasance does a wonderful turn as Father Loomis, a play on his character of Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween. Pleasance was an amazing character actor that seldom got to lead, presumably because of his balding, portly physique. Returning for Carpenter from playing Egg Shen in Big Trouble in Little China, Victor Wong has a blast here as our Quatermass-like scientist, Professor Howard Birack. Also fun here is Peter Jason as Dr. Leahy. Jason would go on to appear in Carpenter’s They Live, In the Mouth of Madness, Escape from L.A. and Village of the Damned.

A side note: I understand this is grad school but Jameson Parker is 40, Lisa Blount is 30, Dennis Dun (Walter) is 35, Jessie Ferguson (Calder) is 46 and Dirk Blocker (Mullins) is 30. Yes, grad students are older but not by that much. Were there no bright young students in the class?

Prince of Darkness is a favorite horror of mine but it is definitely a flawed masterpiece. Watch it for the plot, theme, atmosphere, Victor Wong, Alice Cooper, and Donald Pleasance. Just try and overlook some of the poor dialogue and acting.

People Watch: Joanna Merlin, who plays the bag lady, would go on to be a regular on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Judge Lena Petrovsky. Alice Cooper not only plays ‘Street Schizo’ but also contributes the title song Prince of Darkness to the soundtrack.

The Fog

The Fog is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The Fog (1980) – Rated R

“While an old, weather-beaten fisherman tells a ghost story to fascinated children huddled by a campfire, a piece of driftwood in a child’s hands begins to glow, and an eerie fog envelops the seaside community of Antonio Bay. From its midst emerges demonic victims of a century-old shipwreck seeking revenge on the small town. Director John Carpenter’s follow-up to his breakout film, Halloween, stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh.”

“Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream.”

“There’s no fog bank out there.” – ” Hey there’s a fog bank out there.”

One of the things I love about John Carpenter is that he does not beat ideas to death. After Halloween, he could have made a sequel but instead made The Fog. In spite of also being horror and also starring Jamie Lee Curtis, The Fog is very different from Halloween. Both of those films are quite different from his next two films, Escape from New York and The Thing.

John Houseman puts in a special appearance long enough to tell a wonderful campfire ghost story to a group of children. Naturally that serves as a prologue relating the story of the Elizabeth Dane, a ship that sank a hundred years ago.

John Carpenter assembles a wonderful ensemble cast here. In addition to Jamie Lee Curtis, he also brings Charles Cyphers and Nancy Loomis over from Halloween. Cyphers, Sheriff Brackett in Halloween, plays Dan O’ Bannon, the weatherman. Loomis, Annie Brackett in Halloween, is Sandy here.

John Carpenter cast his wife Adrienne Barbeau as Stevie Wayne, the local disc jockey and lighthouse keeper. Hal Holbrook is absolutely wonderful as the tortured, alcoholic Father Malone. Tough Tom Atkins gets leading man status as Nick Castle playing opposite Jamie Lee Curtis’ hitchhiker Elizabeth Solley. Finally Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother, Janet Leigh (yes Psycho), plays town matriarch Kathy Williams.

The beginning of the film where all the cars start honking, jars fall off shelves, gas pumps start themselves, etc. seems a little pointless. The first two acts are uneven – the campfire story, the attack on the boat, the discovery of the journal in the church, the coin turning into a piece of wood are all great scenes but many other scenes are just filler to pad time until we get to the siege of the town.

Carpenter’s use of the 2.35:1 widescreen format is wonderful. He has a great eye for composition and both of those set his horror films apart from those of this era. The visuals of the fog, the undead sailors, and the ship are amazing. The siege of the town takes up the last third of the film and is where The Fog really shines. It is good enough to make you forget the early flaws and is quite memorable. I try my best not to spoil endings so I will just say that The Fog has one of the best endings of any horror movie.

While not nearly as iconic as Halloween, John Carpenter’s electronic music for The Fog, mostly heard during the third act, helps raise the tension. His music stings are good as well. The sound effects are chilling particularly those in the early attack on the boat.

People Watch: Look for writer/director John Carpenter in a cameo as Bennett. Darwin Joston, the star of Carpenter’s low-budget Assault on Precinct 13, has a cameo as Dr. Phibes. Carpenter loves joke character names.

Sequel-itis: The Fog was remade by Rupert Wainwright in 2005 using state of the art CGI. The film is filled with young actors such as Tom Welling and is not very good. With Carpenter’s The Fog having a perfect ending, it is surprising that the remake blows that too.

Mars Attacks! Earth and Hollywood Lose!

What is it about Mars that sucks so bad? Disney’s John Carter (formerly John Carter of Mars) has now been termed a megabomb. The advertising for this film was abysmal – the romantic angle was completely ignored. For that matter the romantic interest, Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) was barely shown, the ‘dog’ sidekick wasn’t featured, etc. The funny thing is that not only is John Carter not a bad film but it has taken in quite a bit of money ($184 million worldwide). Unfortunately between the enormous budget and the misguided marketing, over $350 million was spent. Disney is preparing to eat almost $200 million.

That means that John Carter would have had to be a blockbuster just to break even and clearly Disney felt they didn’t have one on their hands as it was released in March. There go my hopes of seeing the other Edgar Rice Burroughs stories adapted. Maybe Disney will dump some direct-to-video sequels on us if the John Carter Blu-Rays sell well.

* Last year Disney lost $70 million on Mars Needs Moms, which only made $38.9 million at the box office. Shortly after this the “of Mars” was removed from John Carter’s title.

Ghosts of Mars (2001) – Rated R

“Two hundred years in the future, a squad of tough-as-nails cops led by Natasha Henstridge and Pam Grier are dispatched to a remote mining outpost on Mars to bring back a deadly criminal named Desolation Williams (Ice Cube). But they get more than they bargained for when they have to fight off an army of miners who’ve been possessed by an unspeakable, ancient evil in this sci-fi thriller directed by John Carpenter. Jason Statham co-stars.”

Ghosts of Mars is currently available on instant Netflix. It certainly follows the Mars curse. After directing the classics Halloween, Escape from New York, The Fog, The Thing, and many other wonderful if flawed films, Carpenter directed this – easily his worst picture.

* Brian de Palma made the classics Carrie, Scarface, The Untouchables, and Carlito’s Way. In 2000, he made Mission to Mars which barely garnered $60 million and wasn’t very good.

* Also in 2000, we had Red Planet directed by Antony Hoffman. What’s that? You haven’t heard of Antony Hoffman? That’s because Red Planet is the only film he has made. Nuff Said.

* 2005, the video game Doom was adapted as a major motion picture. Yes you guessed it – it is terrible. In video game parlance, it was a ba-bomb!

* Mars Attacks!, Tim Burton’s lowest-grossing film of the last decade and a half, is a real mixed bag. The Martians are hysterical but most of the human roles are simply dreadful. This is still worth watching simply for the visuals.

* Speaking of Tim Burton, the trailer for Dark Shadows just came out and it looks absolutely awful. What a waste of Johnny Depp, Chloe Grace Moretz, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Christopher Lee. I had really been looking forward to this until I saw the trailer.

 

John Carpenter Thrills Me! – Horror Movie Month

Okay yesterday I covered two disappointing movies from John Carpenter so today I’m going to cover why I love him.

The Thing (1982) – Rated R

Scientists working in Antarctica are forced to abandon their research after a helicopter crashes near their camp, bringing a lone dog into their midst. But the plot thickens when the otherworldly canine changes form in the middle of the night. As it turns out, the dog is a shape-shifting alien that can attack animals — and unsuspecting humans. Kurt Russell stars in this creepy John Carpenter-directed remake of the 1950s classic.

John Carpenter’s The Thing was released in 1982 against Spielberg’s E.T. juggernaut. The Thing bombed at the box office but is now regarded (rightfully) as a modern classic.

Rob Bottin’s effects are simply amazing and may represent the height of physical effects. I’m not looking forward to what I imagine will be lazy CGI in The Thing prequel currently at theaters. Having said that, Bottin’s effects also detract a bit from the tense nature of the story.

Carpenter assembled an excellent ensemble cast with Kurt Russell being the only big name. All of the characters have individual personalities and it is actually a huge boon that the cast is all male. This allows there to be no romantic lead or love story getting in the way (although Ridley Scott was able to pull the same trick off with a mixed cast in Alien). None of the cast is glamorous – they all appear to be people on a station doing a job (hmm also done in Ridley Scott’s Alien).

I mentioned that some of Bottin’s work undercuts the tension. This is because The Thing is one of the best film examples of paranoia ever – the characters even go so far as to question whether they would know if they were an alien. The special effects are showy and heighten the weirdness of an alien encounter but detract from the marvelous atmosphere of paranoia.

My other favorite ‘thing’ is the ending. I won’t spoil it of course but in my mind the final scene of The Thing is one of the best movie endings ever.

The Fog (1980) – Rated R

While an old, weather-beaten fisherman tells a ghost story to fascinated children huddled by a campfire, a piece of driftwood in a child’s hands begins to glow, and an eerie fog envelops the seaside community of Antonio Bay. From its midst emerges demonic victims of a century-old shipwreck seeking revenge on the small town. Director John Carpenter’s follow-up to his breakout film, Halloween, stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh.

The Fog is certainly not the classic that Halloween or The Thing are but is an excellent film. The first half of the film is uneven but the last half, with the town besieged by the fog and the creatures therein is very atmospheric and quite thrilling.

The ensemble cast is great. John Houseman opens the film by telling a spooky story around a campfire. Hal Holbrook is fabulous as a tortured priest. Carpenter’s then wife Adrienne Barbeau plays the lead and Jamie Lee Curtis and her mom Janet Leigh are reunited in film. Carpenter regulars Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers, and Nancy Loomis round out the cast and Carpenter himself has a cameo.

In the Mouth of Madness (1994) – Rated R

When popular horror writer Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow) goes missing, his publisher hires investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) to find him. Trent tracks Cane to a small New England town, which is filled with nightmare scenes right out of the author’s books. Encountering one gruesome scene after another, Trent wonders if Cane’s fans have gone psychotic and begun imitating his writings, or his “novels” are really nonfiction. John Carpenter directs.

Okay clearly putting all of these together makes me realize that one of the things the wonderful Carpenter films share is atmosphere. In the Mouth of Madness has that in spades along with a nifty mobius strip of a story. I did find that the movie went on just a smidge too long – the final scene could easily have been cut.

This movie does not fit the standard Hollywood mold or even the standard horror mold. In the Mouth is not a Lovecraft adaptation but it captures the mood of H.P. better than any of the movie adaptations of his work. The slowly creeping madness is palpable here as is the gloom and desperation.

John Carpenter Disappoints Me! – Horror Movie Month

John Carpenter is one of my favorite directors and not just because I was lucky enough to meet him in 2002. During his heyday he created several masterpieces and many unique films. I like that he didn’t revisit stories for the most part. The Fog is not like The Thing is not like Halloween is not like Prince of Darkness…and most of his films were untold stories. The exceptions were Escape From L.A. and Village of the Damned and those were easily his worst two films. I’ve previously covered Prince of Darkness and his two Masters of Horror episodes, Pro-Life and Cigarette Burns so I’ll skip those even though they are still available.

The Ward (2011) – Rated R

Master of horror John Carpenter returns to form — and to the director’s chair — for this chilling thriller in which a young woman, Kristen (Amber Heard), is sent to a mental institution with a past as dark and haunted as her own. Terrorized by a ghost, each of the other patients in Kristen’s ward begin to disappear, and that’s just the beginning of her long nightmare. Jared Harris (“Mad Men”) and Danielle Panabaker (Friday the 13th) also star.

The triumphant return of a master horror director? Sadly no. I was really looking forward to this movie. After stating my love of Carpenter’s originality, I sat down and watched this carbon copy of <>. I’m omitting the film name because it is a major spoiler but if you have seen it, you’ll begin to realize what film this rips off at about the halfway point. Yes the setting is different and it plays out a bit differently but this is for the worse.

It reminds me of how perfect Dangerous Liaisons was in 1988 and then another studio quietly dropped Valmont on us in 1989. Valmont would have been an interesting albeit flawed film had Dangerous Liaisons not landed first. As it is Valmont comes across as quite dull if you have seen Dangerous Liaisons.

That said, The Ward isn’t bad – simply unnecessary.

Village of the Damned (1995) – Rated R

John Carpenter’s remake of the 1960 sci-fi thriller stars Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley as doctors who must try to stop a group of alien children from taking over the world. An alien force impregnates every woman in a small town, and the spawn — who grow at an incredible rate, and can read everyone’s thoughts — attempt to conquer the earthlings. Mark Hamill and Michael Paré co-star.

John Carpenter’s twist in re-imagining The Thing was fabulous. In Village of the Damned, Carpenter does not re-imagine so much as simply update. The film is now in color, a few oddities have been updated to make them more realistic, and there is a little R-rated mayhem tossed in.

The cast works against the film. Christopher Reeve is fine as the hero but George Sanders was much better in the original. It is good to see Mark Hamill post-Star Wars but he is over-the-top here and Kirstie Alley is just awful. Carpenter is a great visual director but he is not an actor’s director. Sometimes he gets great performances and sometimes he gets Village of the Damned.

If you can’t stand cerebral movies or if you hate black & white movies then go ahead and watch Carpenter’s version – otherwise stick with the far superior 1960 version.

Assault on Precinct 13 – Help! We are Surrounded week

This is Help! We are Surrounded week. Assault on Precinct 13 is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) – Rated R.

“This taut action flick from writer-director John Carpenter pits an understaffed police station against a bloodthirsty gangs angry horde gathering outside the precinct walls. Before Carpenter hit pay dirt with slasher and sci-fi fare (Halloween, Escape from New York), he directed several low-budget, suspenseful thrillers. Assault on Precinct 13, co-starring Austin Stoker and Darwin Joston, is among his best.”

“Look at that, two cops wishing me luck. I am doomed.”

Okay first a pet peeve. I understand that it is a rough job describing the eight billion movies on Netflix but many of them contain wildly inaccurate information. For example here they say that John Carpenter directed several suspenseful thrillers before Halloween. Umm actually just this one – the only other feature film he directed pre-Halloween was Dark Star, a science fiction comedy.

John Carpenter begins this film with his signature synth music. It works quite well here as in most of his films.

I am not going to comment much on the acting here. Carpenter, one of my favorite directors, has never been an actors director and here his cast are complete unknowns. They are serviceable enough for the story.

John Carpenter wrote the story and script. I really liked that even though the gang members are clearly the villains here, they have a real motive for their actions. In the beginning of the film, the police gun down a fair number of the gang (in a shocking act of brutality). This is just the first in an escalating series of events.

John Carpenter takes Rio Bravo and gives it an urban update. He also appears to take some inspiration from Night of the Living Dead (mindless hordes attacking the building) and throws in a bit of Once Upon a Time in the West.It is clear that he really wanted to make a western but the western was essentially a dead genre by the 70s.

Part of the reason I like John Carpenter is that almost all of his films are different from both Hollywood norms and his own films. His remake of The Thing is nothing like the original. The only two films of his that I did not find original were Village of the Damned and Escape from L.A. and those are probably his two worst films.

Assault on Precinct 13 itself would go on to inspire The Warriors from Walter Hill and Assault would be remade (but obviously uninspired) in 2005 with Laurence Fishburne and Ethan Hawke. The only thing the remake has on the original is the presence of several good name actors and strangely this did not make for a better picture.

Nancy Loomis who plays Julie here would go on to work with Carpenter on Halloween (as Annie Brackett) and The Fog (as Sandy Fadel).  Charles Cyphers who plays Starker here would go on to become a Carpenter stalwart appearing in Halloween I and II, The Fog, Elvis!, and Escape from New York for him.

There is a hilarious moment thirty minutes in where Carpenter breaks one of the cardinal Hollywood taboos. This scene caused the film to be threatened with an X rating so the film was submitted without the scene, got an R rating, and then released with the scene.

The siege is well-filmed and tense and takes up more than half the running time. John Carpenter keeps the action zipping along straight through to the ending.

I highly recommend this exciting low-budget action film.

People Watch: Look for John Carpenter as one of the gang members climbing through a window.

Christine – The King of Horror

This is the King of Horror week. That is right – all of the films this week will be based on works by noted horror author Stephen King. Christine is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Christine (1983) – Rated R for adult content, adult language, and violence.

“Geeky student Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) falls for Christine, a rusty 1958 Plymouth Fury, and becomes obsessed with restoring the classic automobile to her former glory. As the car changes, so does Arnie, whose newfound confidence turns to arrogance behind the wheel of his exotic beauty. Arnies girlfriend Leigh and best friend Dennis reach out to him, only to be met by a Fury like no other. Based on the chilling novel by Stephen King.”

“Let me tell you a little something about love, Dennis. It has a voracious appetite. It eats everything. Friendship. Family. It kills me how much it eats. But I will tell you something else. You feed it right, and it can be a beautiful thing, and thats what we have.”

John Carpenter begins the movie wonderfully as Christine rolls off the assembly line to the immortal strains of “Bad to the Bone”. This scene, one of the best in the movie, is not in the novel. The rest of the music choices in the film are quite inspired – Tarantino-esque before Tarantino.

This is a Stephen King love story. Make no mistake – this story may be about a murderous car but at heart, it is a love story of tragic proportions. As in Shakespeare, it is love at first sight.

While I did not notice any particular liberties taken with the book (other than cutting out several subplots), the focus is quite different. I remember the book being essentially a love story between friends Arnie and Dennis and what happens when Arnie buys the aforementioned car.

John Carpenter puts the focus more squarely on the relationship between Arnie and Christine. This is probably necessary to keep the film under two hours but at times it does seem a bit too streamlined.

The actors are serviceable. Strangely none of the regular actors that Carpenter uses make an appearance here.

Keith Gordon made a career out of playing the nerdy kid (Home Movies, Dressed to Kill) and as such plays Arnie, our lovable nerd who is transformed just as he transforms Christine.

John Stockwell (Cougar in Top Gun) plays Dennis, the jock friend to Arnie. Alexandra Paul plays Cabot, the human love interest they both share. William Ostrander plays the head bully, Buddy Repperton. Part of the problem is that the actors are all in their 20s and they look it as do many of the other high school “kids”.

The other part of the problem is Harry Dean Stanton. He has a brief role as Detective Junkins and he is so much better than the other actors that the rest seem somewhat dull in comparison.

The remaining “actor” of note is Christine herself. Carpenter makes Christine the star, her shade of red is gorgeous, and her headlights mesmerizing. The amount of damage done to her in various scenes is amazing. Every shot of Christine is lovingly framed or would be…

Annoyingly Netflix has presented this in a cropped for TV pan-and-scan format. This was actually the movie that convinced me decades ago that letterbox was preferable to full screen.

The first scene at the school lockers has Arnie in the background making fun of Roseanne while she flirts with Dennis. In the original pan-and-scan I saw on TV, Arnie is actually cut out of the frame – which completely ruins the scene.

This pan-and-scan version preserves a bit of the joke though it is cut badly. One of the strengths John Carpenter brings to the cinematic table are his lovely 2.35:1 shots. It is a real shame that this is shown “fool-screen”.

I still recommend this film from John Carpenter at the height of his career but I was tempted to rate this a pass because many of the beautiful shot compositions are ruined. This is neither the best of John Carpenter nor the best of Stephen King but is still enjoyable.

People Watch: Oh no it is the Scientology connection again. His wife Kelly Preston appears here as Roseanne.

John Carpenter

John Carpenter is one of my favorite directors. I’ve been a horror junkie since I was a little kid watching the Universal classics on the Saturday TV matinee. My mother’s boyfriend took my sister, mom and I to see Halloween during its initial run and it was the first movie that ever scared the crap out of me. My friends Chuck, Mike, Calvin and I enjoyed Escape from New York and the Fog growing up

For my 18th birthday Mike and I went to see what I feel is Carpenter’s masterpiece, The Thing and it was the third film to ever really scare me (Alien was the 2nd). The effects were outlandish and completely over the top but what has really stuck with me through years of repeat viewings is how marvelous a portrait of paranoia this is. Other well-done paranoid films deal with the hero/heroine not being able to trust people/organizations/government. Carpenter took that a step further – while Kurt Russell is nominally the hero, the entire ensemble cast can’t trust each other and the film’s ending reflects that mindset.

I’ve really enjoyed John Carpenter’s films. He made some more really good films (Big Trouble in Little China, In the Mouth of Madness, Vampires) and even his not-as-good films are fascinating (Village of the Damned, Ghosts of Mars). 3 of John Carpenter’s films are available on instant Netflix as well as 2 episodes of Showtime’s Masters of Horror that he directed.

Assault on Precinct 13

1. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) – “This taut action flick from writer-director John Carpenter pits an understaffed police station against a bloodthirsty gang’s angry horde gathering outside the precinct’s walls… Assault on Precinct 13, co-starring Austin Stoker and Darwin Joston, is among his best”

This early effort is very tense and co-stars two of Carpenter’s regulars Charles Cyphers and Nancy Kyes. It is essentially an urban update of Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo. Carpenter would of course go on to remake Hawks’ The Thing from Another World. Look for the early scene in which John Carpenter breaks one of the Hollywood cardinal taboos.

Starman

2. Starman (1984) – “In this sci-fi love story from John Carpenter, Jeff Bridges — who received an Oscar nod for his work — plays Starman, an alien who crashes on Earth and takes the form of a recently deceased man in order to evade authorities. On seeing the image of her dead husband before her, widow Jenny (Karen Allen) is frightened. But eventually, Starman wins her trust — and her affection — and she agrees to help him return to his home planet”

A rare light-hearted film from Carpenter, this story really works because of Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen. A sweet romance with a science fiction background and a dollop of humor, this is a good date movie.

Prince of Darkness

3. Prince of Darkness (1987) – “A cylinder of mysterious, green liquid is found in an abandoned church. It may contain the ultimate evil: an ancient iniquity that longs to escape. Several physicists try to comprehend what’s happening and race to save the world, even as they’re being turned into zombies one by one. Director John Carpenter fills Prince of Darkness with his trademark mix of horror and humor.”

One of my favorite horror movies (I’m a sucker for apocalyptic movies), this one does suffer from the somewhat wooden performance of the two young lead actors but is redeemed by  wonderful performances from Donald Pleasence (Halloween) and Victor Wong (Big Trouble in Little China). Though the movie is serious horror, many of the names are in-jokes such as written by Martin Quatermass (actually written by Carpenter).

Cigarette Burns

4. Masters of Horror: Cigarette Burns (2006) – “Hired by a millionaire collector (Udo Kier) to retrieve the infamous Le Fin du Monde — a violent movie that reportedly causes viewers to turn into homicidal maniacs after they watch it — an unsuspecting theater owner (Norman Reedus) begins to fall under the film’s spell. John Carpenter directs this unsettling installment of the “Masters of Horror” series, following one man’s search for the holy grail of horror cinema.”

This is definitely one of the best Masters of Horror shows.  Sadly that isn’t saying much – many of the episodes feel like they paid the directors to put their name on the show. Cigarette Burns is disturbingly creepy and darkly funny.

Pro-Life

5. Masters of Horror: Pro-Life (2007) – “When a scared 15-year-old girl (Caitlin Wachs) goes to an isolated clinic to end her pregnancy, her anti-abortion activist father (Ron Perlman) and brothers arrive, heavily armed and determined to force their way in and stop the procedure. But there’ll be hell to pay when the baby’s unearthly father gets involved. Emmanuelle Vaugier and Mark Feuerstein co-star in this episode of the spine-chilling Showtime series, directed by John Carpenter.”

Wow talk about your wasted potential. Take one of my favorite directors, add an underrated genre actor (Ron Perlman) and top with an interesting premise – this should have been knocked out of the park. Unfortunately it feels like John Carpenter was just in it for the paycheck. It is watchable but nothing special.