Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Masters of Horror | Catacombs

By Steve Anderson
April 1st, 2008

Masters of Horror Season OneMasters of Horror Season One box set
Directed by various
Written by various
Starring various
Produced by various

Now, I recently got my hands on the Masters of Horror Season One box set, in the Mausoleum Pack, no less. Now that by itself is exciting news, but what's even better is that the stuff that's in it is pure-T gold.

Okay, granted...some of it is better than others. But still, let's face facts--by and large this was the top season of Masters of Horror. Which wasn't hard considering what a total shit heap the second (and last) season was.

Just to give you some rundown, the Masters of Horror series was an absolutely brilliant idea that just couldn't last. You take the greatest names in horror--Takashi Miike, John Carpenter, Joe Dante, among others--and you let them make an hour-long movie on Showtime without any kind of cowardice-driven content restriction. You know, like the kind you get on network television. And like the kind poor Mick Garris, the show's creator, is going to face with his next project, "Fear Itself".

I liked most of the Masters of Horror first season, but there are some that less than entertaining, so let me give you the rundown on the three least entertaining ones. That way you'll know what to start with and what to consider watching later on. Even the worst Masters of Horror title is still better than a lot of what you'll find on the shelves, so you won't be getting short-changed even with the bad ones.

Deer Woman--This one was a kind of metaphysical Indian-legend stuff, the kind of thing we were getting away from back in the eighties. The fact that John Landis did it makes it feel even worse to not enjoy it.

Jenifer--It's hard to hate Dario Argento, but this kind of half-assed pseudo-horror rom-com is not worth of him. Seriously, it's not. Not even vaguely.

Chocolate--It's especially kind of a low blow, because this was Mick Garris' title and he was responsible for the whole concept, but this tale of do-you-taste-what-I-taste never really got off the ground with me.

Meanwhile, the rest are good in various levels, from the zombies with a political agenda of Homecoming all the way to Takashi Miike's Imprint, the movie that was, somehow, too freaky to be shown on Showtime. Now that alone is the case for this monster box set--how do you get banned from Showtime? I hadn't thought that was possible!

But this is it, folks...the top of the hill, the better half. It's all downhill from here, and it's called season two. That one was not nearly as good as season one, frankly, and if that was the way it was going, a season three would have sucked sour frog ass.

If you want the choicest in horror, kids, you're definitely going to want to get Masters of Horror season one, and if you can get the box set, get it. They'll even include a bonus disc in the pack stuffed with featurettes, trailers, commentaries, and DVD-ROM specific features like screenplays and screen savers.

I should have made it clear by now, but just in case--season one of Masters of Horror is strictly top of the line, and missing out on this is missing out on one of the high-water marks for the entire genre.

Directed by Tomm Coker, David Elliot
Written by Tomm Coker, David Elliot
Starring Shannyn Sossamon, Alecia Moore,
Produced by Gregg Hoffman, Oren Koules, Mark Burg
90 mins

Another stinker from the producers of Saw, folks...let's wade right into this sub-sewer and see what we've got.

Basically, a young woman goes to Paris for the first time and winds up at a party in the Catacombs, a labyrinthine mass of burial chambers and assorted morbid French inscriptions. After she becomes separated from the rest of the party, she finds herself believing a horror story told earlier about a goat-masked monster of a man who kills people in a grotesque and horrifying fashion.

There are so many things wrong with Catacombs, even from the earliest beginning, that it's very, very hard to like it. The Twisted Pictures apparent philosophy of "casual brutality for casual brutality's sake" is well in place and in full swing even from the first five minutes. And worse yet, when it's not being gratuitously graphic it's being unsettlingly pedantic. People drink ABSINTHE, for crying out loud. Who drinks fucking ABSINTHE any more? Yeah, sure, it was all the rage back when Poe was still writing but damn, this is just ridiculous. Discussions of philosophy will also abound, and they're wildly out of place. Oh, and the absolutely godawful cinematography--with all the jump cuts and non-sequiturs and constant blood-spraying ridiculousness that seem to be more and more the hallmarks of Twisted Pictures--is also back in full display. Frequently, the movie will be lit by flashing lights so intense you'll think Catacombs is trying to be a replacement for the Litton Light Test. Before the first third of the movie is over you'll be both revolted AND bored. Either by itself is bad enough--both at once is downright unthinkable. The second third, sadly, will not get much better. Though there will be plenty of blood and screaming and running around in corridors that all look vaguely similar, this won't translate into much fun for the viewers. The ending is too much of a Saw knockoff to believe without seeing it. The sheer precision of it is just astonishing. If they ripped it off any harder someone would say "Game over" before the credits rolled. It's that bad. The special features include a making-of featurette, commentaries, English and Spanish subtitles, audio options, and trailers for "The Eye", "Saw IV", "Wristcutters: A Love Story", "Killer Pad", "Born Killers", "Boy Eats Girl", and a commercial for Which, parenthetically, is one of the scariest things on the disk. It's a pretty well-made commercial--chances are you've seen it. It's the one with the little girl with the screwed-up face in the apartment where things go flying around.

All in all, this was a pretty lousy foray from the guys who brought you Saw, and if this is the kind of crap they're churning out these days then they can count me out of any future forays.

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at

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