MOH Review: EP 2.9: Rob Schmidt’s’ ‘Right to Die’

Inside we’ve posted our latest 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 “Right to Die”, which was directed by Robert Shmidt. Her flesh has been charred and her body remains comatose, but from a strict medical perspective, Abby is still alive. Beset by guilt, her conflicted husband Cliff is determined to get a court order to cease her pain. Her condition worsening, she repeatedly flat-lines and is revived. But each time Abby’s body dies, her apparition grows stronger, violently attacking those that have taken advantage of her plight. If Cliff pulls the plug, he’s next on the list. This topical horror story takes a supernatural stand on the right-to-life debate.Right to Die (MoH 2.9)
Reviewed By: Tex Massacre
7/10 or 3 ½ Skulls

“Ripped from the headlines” is not usually a term that is applied to the horror genre, although a great many horror films have been timely—addressing or even foreshadowing events across the globe. Masters of Horror has taken the opportunity that series television provides in using its forum to redefine some of these issues after the fact. Last season Joe Dante’s HOMECOMING took on the war in Iraq and this season we have already witnessed John Carpenter’s PRO-LIFE which indirectly wedges itself into the abortion rights campaign. This week filmmaker Rob Schmidt (WRONG TURN) tackles a topic that is rife with ideological standoffishness in RIGHT TO DIE.

Screenwriter John Esposito (GRAVEYARD SHIFT) clearly draws his inspiration directly from the 2005 Terry Schiavo case—wherein the family of an invalid brain-damaged woman waged a war of political and religious fervor on one another over the removal of her life sustaining feeding tube.

In this weeks episode a Dentist (Martin Donovan) and his beautiful wife (Julia Anderson) are caught in a terrible car crash—resulting in her near total immolation. With burns covering her almost her entire body and the prospects of recovery nearly non-existent, Donovan must decide if pulling the plug is the most humane thing to do. But the good doctor is about to discover that his weighty decision has supernatural repercussions that threaten to destroy everyone around him as his wife inches closer and closer to death.

Esposito and Schmidt, turn the tables on the assumed point-of-view with their first foray into the world of Masters of Horror. Instead of assuming that characters wish to keep Anderson alive for the sake of humanity, the film alters the perception of the situation by making Donovan’s desire to extend her life based on his own sense of self-preservation. The best thing about the project is that the politics—which are momentarily cringeworthy—are more often than not second fiddle to the plot points—an area that Dante’s HOMECOMING grievously misfired on.

It all could have been heavy handed and preachy, but Esposito’s script remembers first and foremost that his is an entry in a horror anthology series and not an episode of LAW & ORDER. The film has a nice bookend as Donovan speeds toward the hospital the means to save the life of his wife and himself strapped beside him in a bloody ice chest. It is in this moment that the film’s revelation occurs—a point that makes the ending so brilliantly satisfying.

The performances from Donovan, Anderson and Corbin Bernsen (nearly unrecognizable as Donovan’s devious lawyer) are spot on and lend an immeasurable air of quality to the films—in much the same way that the all-star casts so often made humdrum episodes of TALES FROM THE CRYPT so noteworthy.

All in all, the cast and crew deliver one of the better entries in this season’s teeter-totter roster of shows. But, that doesn’t make it perfect by a long shot. The film feels hurried and the protests and motivations of the family are only speculated on or glossed over. The episode could have benefited by an extended running time to clear up a barrage of loose strings. But for the most part Schmidt does his damndest with what he delivers.

Source: Showtime