Inside you’ll find a review for John Landis’ episode of Masters of Horror (all reviews) entitled “Deer Woman”. Written by Max and John Lanis, the episode follows a series of bizarre murders that leads cynical detective Dwight Faraday (Brian Benben) to suspect that an ancient Native American mythological creature is real in this sexually charged tale of seduction and death. Read on for the review…
Masters of Horror
Episode 1.7: John Landis’ ‘Deer Woman’
Reviewed By: Tex Massacre
4/10 or 2 Skulls
It would be almost impossible to critique this week’s episode of Masters of Horror without qualifying one simple fact. John Landis is not a horror filmmaker. Regardless of American Werewolf in London and Innocent Blood, both of which while brilliant films, were not the least bit terrifying. John Landis makes comedies. Specifically, some damn fine comedies, specifically An American Werewolf in London, and I dare you to deny it is comedy. But, over the past several years the well has begun to run a bit dry for “Dear John”. How many of you can really tell me that Oscar and The Stupids are quality works of cinematic art. Anyway, it seems that Masters of Horror isn’t fazed by John’s pedigree and so, Landis rings in with our latest installment of the increasingly erratic series with his film, Deer Woman.
Co-written with his son Max, Deer Woman recounts the Native American myth of a half-woman, half-deer that seduces men to their ultimate demise. Landis sets this story against the tale of Dwight Faraday (Brian Benben), a burnt out cop who spends his days jockeying a desk while working the uneventful “animal attacks beat”. Uneventful, until the day that Faraday gets a call about a strange murder. It seems that the body was crushed into an unrecognizable pulp by what may or may not have been an animal. As the strange cases continue and the beaten bloodied bodies begin to pile up, the only link between the victims appears to be the presence of a beautiful Native American woman that no once seems fully able to identify. With time running short, Faraday, using what’s left of his sanity, must find the woman and solve a mystery that has engulfed this small town for over 100 years.
Now with a premise like that, one would hardly imagine this episode to be a laugh riot, but in the deft hands of Landis this installment has more than its share of laugh out loud moments, specifically, several scenes where Faraday is theorizing in his mind as to how a trucker could be mauled by a deer while seducing a beautiful woman. This scene along with a side splitting attempted mugging, show what could have happened if this episode had more time to set up the plot.
The performances overall were fairly decent, including Benben’s go around as Detective Faraday. Landis and Benben worked previously on the short lived HBO sitcom Dream On, which much like the scene where Faraday conjures up the outcome of the Trucker, was filled with momentary lapses of narrative in order to check out the inner workings of Benben’s brain. The other notable performance comes from Sonja Bennett (The Fog), whose turn as a punky medical examiner trying to assist Faraday’s efforts in identifying the killer is both refreshing and fun.
Deer Woman illustrates one of the major pitfalls of a finite running time and Landis suffers from the truncation. Never having the opportunity to delve into the back-story, the actual myth of the Deer Woman is simple tossed off to the detective over drinks at one of the Reservation Casino’s. So, by default, the focus of the film is completely based inside the realm of Detective Faraday. This works against the nature of the horror, since it forsakes all sense of suspense and turns the entire show into low rent version of Law & Order, ultimately making for yet another unsatisfying episode of what at one time promised to be the savior of horror television.