First, in honor of Tobe Hooper’s Masters of Horror: Season 2 episode, “The Damned Thing”, which aired on Friday night, we posted our exclusive one-on-one interview with the show creator Mick Garris. In addition, we’ve also posted our review of Hooper’s 60-minute episode, which can be found inside. The episode is the apocalyptic tale of a monstrous force that devastates Sheriff Kevin Reddle’s family and his small Texas town.
The Damned Thing (MoH 2.1)
Reviewed By: Tex Massacre
6/10 or 3 Skulls
I’ll be the first to admit that I was no fan of Director Tobe Hooper’s last episode of Masters of Horror. DANCE OF THE DEAD was painful – and not in that good Eli Roth/Alex Aja kinda way. So, I was pretty apprehensive at the prospect of leading off this season’s MoH with a Hooper directed adaptation of an Ambrose Bierce story. Bierce whose favored short is the often imitated – never duplicated – brilliance of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge – is a brilliant writer who, like H.P. Lovecraft, can relate tales from a first person perspective that are so captivating it is nearly akin to sitting in the room with the storyteller. The Damned Thing is one of Bierce’s shorter works and is presented with a combination of journal entries and jury testimony regarding an unseen force that has taken the life of local man. Hooper’s vision keeps the force but forsakes the rest of the details for a fresh perspective.
Twenty-four years ago, Sheriff Kevin Reddle (Sean Patrick Flannery) watched his father brutally murder his mother before turning the shotgun on young Kevin. In a moment – while running for his own life – Young Kevin witnessed the utter annihilation of his father – this time by an invisible monster violently thrashing the limp corpse and gutting the man against the side of his pick-up truck. Over the years, the town of Cloverdale has seen its past share of strange occurrences. Now, the winds are whistling again and the folks that make up this sleepy West Texas town are about to remember a long forgotten curse whose sole existence is to exact bloody vengeance.
I’ll give to screenwriter Richard Christian Matheson (also responsible for DANCE OF THE DEAD) this is a far cry from last years mess and heads above some of the second generation genre scribes other works. He takes little more than a plot point from Bierce’s short and transforms it into a fully fleshed out mythology in just under an hour. Hooper’s direction is pretty typical – although the opening chase sequence harkens almost directly to the most terrifying moments of the Masters original “massacre” reminding viewers that – although his career has been sporadic at best – the visceral moments are what make the best Tobe Hooper films that much more palatable. The cinematography from DP Jon Joffin looks great and the effects from the crew at KNB are possibly more graphic in the first 5-minutes of this film than throughout the entirety of last season – and that’s saying quite a bit, if you omit IMPRINT from the equation.
The standout point in this episode is the whole performance from Sean Patrick Flannery (BOONDOCK SAINTS) who makes his lived-in characterization of Reddle rife with tragedy and inner strength. In fact, the personification is so authentic that when his nerves are shaken to the very fringes of sanity, the actor recalls the very best moments of Jack Nicolson’s performance as the ill-fated Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING.
So, as Masters of Horror begins it’s second season, the premiere entry may not be as startling as last season’s INCIDENT ON AND OFF A MOUNTAIN ROAD, but fingers remain crossed that this new year will bring more improvements over the uneven nature of the last round. So far, chalk one up for the man from Texas, Hooper’s damned film is helluva lot better than the last thing he brought us, and that’s good enough for me.