MOH Review: EP 2.6: Dario Argento’s ‘Pelts’

Inside we’ve posted our third review from this year’s Masters of Horror: Season 2 (all reviews), which airs every Friday on Showtime. Inside you’ll find Tex Massacre’s review of “Pelts”, which was directed by Dario Argento. The film is an erotic tale about stolen raccoon pelts that violently turn against those that covet them in this Giallo-style adaptation of F. Paul Wilson’s short story.

Pelts (MoH 2.6)
Reviewed By: Tex Massacre
5/10 or 2 ½ Skulls

Obsession—Director Dario Argento has patterned an immense amount of his film career on this singular focus. On this week’s episode of Masters of Horror, Argento takes author F. Paul Wilson’s anti-fur bloodbath PELTS and squeezes every bit of obsessive detail out of it, turning what could have been a campy parable into a gorefest worthy of a PETA protest.

Jake Feldman (Meatloaf) is a man who loves the ladies and one lady in particular. Shanna (Ellen Ewusie), a stripper at a local dive, is one of Jake’s objects of desire. But, Shanna couldn’t care less for the degenerate slob that frequents her services, forcing his sweaty body on her and begging for her touch. Jake’s other fixation is fur—soft, silky smooth skins—and a backwoods trapper (John Saxon) is about to make him an offer that he won’t be able to refuse—a fresh glistening pile of raccoon skins. But these furs are not like anything Jake Feldman has ever seen. These mesmerizing pelts are worth their weight in gold. And it doesn’t take long for Jake to realize that his two passions are about to collide, promising that all his dreams will come true.

PELTS could have been a colossal disaster, as it stands it’s only a minor fiasco and certainly better than last season’s soft-core shocker JENIFER. Meatloaf hasn’t got a great deal of work to do here. In fact, none of the cast are as shiny as those fantastical furs, and John Saxon manages to overshadow the whole lot of them with only 5 minutes of screen time. Argento fans know that character nuance is hardly the master’s strong suit. Indeed in most of his past projects the assembled thespians rarely even spoke the same language, so action and reaction become precarious mistresses to the visual image.

In a Dario Argento world, image is everything and unfortunately that is where PELTS, and JENIFER before it, fail. Watching those two episodes, one cannot help but be struck with how consistently lacking they are in Argento’s visual flair. Although the filmmaker employs a few of his signature shots (the reflection in the eye) both projects ultimately feel like “gun for hire” filmmaking.

As the master began his career as a writer, there has never been a directorial project before JENIFER that Argento has not had a hand in writing. The disconnect that exists between the Masters of Horror series and Argento’s feature film career is palpable in every frame of film that fills the screen. A prime example of this can be witnessed simply by looking at the director’s last release—DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK. That production—shot for Italian television—feels, in every tense moment, like a Dario Argento film. PELTS could have been directed by anyone, and JENIFER looked like Zalman King directed it, after watching a David Lynch marathon.

The problem with PELTS is not in the source material—Wilson’s scathing short was nominated for a Bram Stoker award when it was published in 1991—the problem lies in the execution. Even though the film is saturated in some pretty horrendous effects, the sanguine story feels drab, like everyone is going through the motions and packing it in at the end of the day. But, if you’re looking for a bloodbath, gorehounds are bound to find something gruesome to love in the project. It’s just a shame that fans of Argento Grand Guignol Giallo’s will be left once again disappointed by a bloody mess of an episode.

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