Two Masters of Horror

I’m still in withdrawal from The Invaders. I need to know how ARCHITECT David Vincent is able to further his quest to expose the alien invasion. Note to CBS and Paramount: please hurry up with Season 2.

Now then.

Two big surprises in Anchor Bay’s Masters of Horror Season 3 cranium are the potent episodes directed by Tobe Hooper, and Stuart Gordon. Both filmmakers made a huge splash with their feature film debuts – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and Re-Animator (1985), respectively – but have had extremely differing career paths thereafter.

Gordon’s theatrical background with Chicago’s Organic Theater includes a David Mamet play (Sexual Perversity in Chicago), and along with a literary interest in writers like H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, his film work has explored the obsessions of these classic writers in some bloody, bawdy films – not to mention a recent return to Mamet with Edmond (2005) and the crime drama Stuck (2007).

Hooper had some success with Hollywood – Salem’s Lot (1979) – but it was arguably his three-picture deal with Cannon that harpooned a chance to work among the majors: the expensive flop Lifeforce (1985), the gory Texas Chainsaw Massacre II (1986) that was heavily recut to appease the censors, and the dull Invaders from Mars (1986). The first was a Hammer film riff with a disintegrating plot commensurate with the production’s cash flow problems; the second should’ve been a sure-fire cash-in, and was an answer to producers who beckoned for a sequel to a cult favourite and home video hit; and the third seemed like a dream project made by a director who perhaps forgot a Red Menace parable was not so relevant in 1985.

Gordon’s output has been comparatively smaller, but with the exception of Space Truckers (made in 1996, and literally about space truckers, as if Sam Peckinpah’s nutbar Convoy failed to illustrate the banality of the trucker genre) and Castle Freak (weird story, emotionally baroque, and containing one or two sequences that are just so wrong even since 1995), his career hasn’t been full of the ups and downs affecting a far more prolific Hooper.

That’s why it’s refreshing to see Hooper in such good form with his MOH episode, The Damned Thing, based on the Ambrose Bierce short story, and even more rewarding to see Gordon and longtime writing partner Dennis Paoli craft a clever version of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat.

Both are strong series entries, and worth a peek.

And if you happen to be in Toronto this weekend, Hooper can be seen at Rue Morgue’s Festival of Fear Sunday August 23rd, where he will participate in a panel that may shed light on a set of subjects of interest to me, and maybe a few others:

a) Will there ever be a soundtrack release of the score/sound design for the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

b) Will there ever be a true director’s cut of Lifeforce to make it suck less?

Coming right up: a review of La-La Land’s boxed set of Outer Limits music, composed by The Invaders’ Dominic Frontiere

And imminent: Peter Watkins' infamous BBC mockumentaries: The War Game, and Colloden (Project X/New Yorker Video); and a review of The Alchemists of Sound, the BBC's 2003 documentary on members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, including the brilliantly inventive Delia Derbyshire.


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