Special Post: Ranking the “Masters of Horror” Entries

In Special Post: Ranking the "Masters of Horror" Entries by johnLeave a Comment

The “Masters of Horror” TV series shown on Showtime was a short-lived yet nice shout-out to horror fans that unfortunately only lasted two seasons, totaling 26 episodes, and only gave us 19 of horror’s best directors.  Nonetheless, this series was a positive experience that thankfully provided many awesome watches without the usual setbacks Hollywood producers place on these directors.  There was no strong need to censor any gore, allow test audiences to decide what taboo elements should be removed from final cut, and these directors were allowed to do as they please with storylines that could never survive the Hollywood atmosphere.  This series did what it could while it lasted, and below I have ranked each of the 26 films/entries according to several standards of mine: quality of work(direction), storyline(writing), and most importantly…the horror involved.  Below you will find each entry ranked from 26th(worst) to 1st(best) along with the director(“master” of horror) and his notable films that warranted his inclusion into this series.  Keep in mind though, by “Notable” films, I am not saying that they are great(although most are) but that the said films are the films that the director is most known for filming. Alright…let’s go.

26. The V Word

Director – Ernest R. Dickerson

Notable Films – Tales From the Crypt: Demon Night, Bones

This is one entry that I really tried to like but could not due to the storyline going from great to crap early on.  Right from the get-go I was hooked, but after the first act I was wishing I had popped in the Nicolas Cage-starring remake of “The Wicker Man”.  Ok, maybe this wasn’t THAT bad, but I sure was let down.  Honestly, Ernest R. Dickerson must have been one of the few directors available for the show’s time slot given in all reality he really has not done much for the genre.  Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “The V Word” – 4

25. Dance of the Dead

Director – Tobe Hooper

Notable Films – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist, Eaten Alive, The Funhouse

This being Tobe Hooper’s first entry into this series, I was afraid he still had not recovered from his recent slump in directing genius.  I tried very hard to find elements that I enjoyed about this film(Robert Englund’s blowjob scene was my favorite) and in the end was somewhat satisfied, but this was still a poor film from a very talented director.  I do not put all of the blame on Tobe Hooper for this one though, because he did a fantastic job with this film’s direction, a film that suffered from a poor script. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Dance of the Dead” – 6

24. Chocolate

Director – Mick Garris

Notable Films – Psycho IV: The Beginning, Sleepwalkers, The Stand(4 of the 6 episodes), The Shining(TV series), Riding The Bullet, Desperation

This entry surprised me, and no not the surprise when  saw that Mick Garris added himself into this series dedicated to “masters” of horror.  The film’s slow build was one I did not enjoy due to subject matter and execution, but in the end I was left with a satisfied smile that would have given this film a better rating had it not take so long to get interesting.  I can honestly say that this film has one of the more sensual and voyeuristic storylines I have seen in the genre, and that counts for something.  Right? Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Chocolate” – 6

23. The Washingtonians

Director – Peter Medak

Notable Films – The Changeling

While Peter Medak really has not made his career as a horror director, his 1980 haunted house masterpiece “The Changeling” was enough to warrant him inclusion into this series.  This flick was one of the cooler plots of any horror film I have seen because it involves a horrific twist regarding our founding father, George Washington himself.  According to this flick, he ate children and carved their bones into silverware!  Sound sweet?  Well, unfortunately the cool aspect of the plot ends there as the plot gets silly after the first act.  Instead of us getting the actual George Washington himself doing the damage, this takes place in current time and focuses on a sect of “Washingtonians’ looking to protect his righteous name.  Eh, I wanted Washington eating babies instead. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “The Washingtonians – 6

22. Dream Cruise

Director – Norio Tsuruta

Notable Films – Ringu O: Basudei, Kakashi, Yogen, Orochi

Norio Tsurata was the one director from this series that I was not familiar with.  After doing a bit of research on the guy it seems he really does have some great directing talent, but sadly this film suffers from the usual Asian horror cinema clichés.  Vengeful ghosts and supernatural occurrences have always been something that has appealed to me, but every now and then you get tired of the same old stuff and want a new element thrown in.  This flick did add a new element given it took place on a boat in the middle of the ocean(this has been done with American supernatural cinema, seldom in Asian horror cinema).  If you know me then you know I have a love for “nowhere to run” scenarios, and a boat in the middle of nowhere is a perfect example of that. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Dream Cruise” – 6

21. Valerie on the Stairs

Director – Mick Garris

Notable Films – Psycho IV: The Beginning, Sleepwalkers, The Stand(4 of the 6 episodes), The Shining(TV series), Riding The Bullet, Desperation

This film is an improvement over his first entry, “Chocolate”, and we can thank the author this storyline was adapted from, H.P. Lovecraft for that that.  I enjoyed this watch partly due to its subject matter, which should appeal to writers everywhere, but mainly because we were given cool actors Christopher Lloyd(Back to the Future flicks and Tony Todd(Candyman, Night of the Living Dead remake).  We get some cool gore at the hands of Tony Todd’s character, but that is about as awesome as this film gets. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Valerie on the Stairs” – 6

20. Dreams In The Witch House

Director – Stuart Gordon

Notable Films – Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dolls, The Pit and the Pendulum, Castle Freak, Dagon, King of the Ants

Continuing his awesome usage of H.P. Lovecraft’s ideas, he gave us the first in the series to incorporate a battered writer looking for a place to write his work.  This time it is a student, and I am sure many of you can relate to having to write big pieces that require a quiet atmosphere.  In this flick we get a sweet amount of fantasy and pagan horror that is sure to please those with an open mind to such things.  This was not amazing, but an OK watch in the end. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Dreams in the Witch House” – 6

19. Right To Die

Director – Rob Schmidt

Notable Films – Wrong Turn, The Alphabet Killer

I really have faith in Rob Schmidt that despite his mediocre film “The Alphabet Killer”, he can return to the directing excellence he portrayed in “Wrong Turn”.  This entry into the series gave us a Shaive-esque storyline tat I did find interesting and even reminiscent of Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser”.  The film is simple, and a positive watch that gets the job done in the end. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Right To Die” – 7

18. The Damned Thing

Director – Tobe Hooper

Notable Films – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist, Eaten Alive, The Funhouse

This being Tobe Hooper’s second entry into the series, I was really iffy on whether or not he would give us a positive film after a slew of mediocre works these past few years.  Thankfully, he pulled through and used his awesome direction to make the best out of a mediocre script.  We get a sweet antagonist that Texans should be proud of(Oil, yes, OIL!) and he displays the carnage to us in awesome fashion.  I really hope he continues this positive momentum into this next film, “From A Buick 8”. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “The Damned Thing” – 7

17. Sick Girl

Director – Lucky McKee

Notable Films – May, The Woods

Angela Bettis fans will be pleased with this entry given she portrays a character unlike her previous characters in films.  She is not the usual creepy girl in this flick by a shy and quirky scientist that bleeds innocence with a sense of hidden sensuality.  Turned on yet?  Yeah, and to make things even cooler those of us who enjoy biologically-inclined plots can marvel at the use of bugs and entomology in this flick.  Turned on even more?  Heh. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Sick Girl” – 7

16. Pro-Life

Director – John Carpenter

Notable Films – Halloween, Someone’s Watching Me!, The Fog, The Thing, Christine, Prince of Darkness, They Live, Body Bags(co-director), Vampires

This is John Carpenter’s second entry into the series and although it pales in comparison to his first entry, “Cigarette Burns“, this gives us one of the coolest uses of abortion in a horror film.  Usually when we get abortion in a horror film it is an Asian film regarding aborted fetuses used in some way or form, well not in the film.  This one attacks Roe vs. Wade had on and gives us a battle between both sides that in the end is fruitless.  Why fruitless?  Well, because in “Pro-Life”, both sides are doomed.  Hell(pun intended) yes! Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Pro-Life” – 7

15. Homecoming

Director – Joe Dante

Notable Films – Piranha, The Howling, Twilight Zone: The Movie(co-director), Gremlins, Gremlins 2: The New Batch

This flick is an interesting watch given it adds a strong political element to the film, told to us by none other than the undead themselves.  I am not a fan of politics in horror, but I will give respect  to af ilm that shows me something I have never seen before and this film does just that.  Dead soldiers returning from a war they do not believe in so that they can voice their opinion via voting in the Presidential Election is a plot I have yet to see, and I am sure you can agree with me on that one.  Plus, Joe Dante taking on the undead?  It is just plain awesome. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Homecoming” – 7

14. We All Scream For Ice Cream

Director – Tom Holland

Notable Films – Fright Night, Child’s Play, Thinner

This flick was a joy for me because it incorporates two of my favorite elements of horror: revenge and a killer clown.  Tom Holland turned this into the type of campy bet fairly serious type of horror he gave us with “Fright Night” and “Child’s Play”.  Example: the clown lure the victim’s children away from the home(the serious creepy part) by enticing them with an ice cream bar, an ice cream bar that when consumed turns the victim into a slop of blood and guts…just like melted ice cream.  The coolness does not stop there as we get horror vet William Forsyth as the clown himself. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “We All Scream For Ice Cream” – 7

13. Deer Woman

Director – John Landis

Notable Films – An American Werewolf in London, Schlock, Twilight Zone: The Movie(co-director), Innocent Blood

This flick shows us how well John Landis can take an absurd plot and turn it into a fun watch with just the right type of humor.  A plot like this would normally come off as a “Scary Movie” type of silly humor(which I do enjoy), but Landis is too good for that and gives us a whole hearted chucke-inducing watch that makes you think “wow, I did not think I would enjoy it this much”. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Deer Woman” – 7

12. The Screwfly Solution

Director – Joe Dante

Notable Films – Piranha, The Howling, Twilight Zone: The Movie(co-director), Gremlins, Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Joe Dante continued his subliminal commentary like he used in “Homecoming” and this time gave us not merely a political film, but one that incorporated both biology and sociology.  Biology and sociology in a horror film?  Yes, that is right, and I can honestly say that I wish we had more thought provoking and engaging storylines like this one.  Scientists, feminists, chauvinists…its all here in this film. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “The Screwfly Solution” – 7

11. Sounds Like

Director – Brad Anderson

Notable Films – Session 9, The Machinist, Transsiberian

Brad Anderson has made a name for himself in the horror realm by giving us films that are not outright horror in nature, but in the end amount to absolutely horrific horror films.  His slow yet masterful development is once again used with this film, and we are offered a plot that I can say has yet to be done in the horror realm.  Once again, this film’s plot is not horrific on the outside, but on the inside is one that would bring absolute horror to all those who put themselves in the shoes of this film’s protagonist. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Sounds Like” – 7

10. Fair Haired Child

Director – William Malone

Notable Films – House on Haunted Hill(1999 Remake), FeardotCom, Parasomnia

I have never been a big fan of William Malone, simply because even his most notable film, House on Haunted Hill, really is not that great.  Thankfully though, he showed he does have the potential to deliver a sweet horror film with this entry.  If you are a fan of creature films then this is an entry to watch.  The scenes involving the child are awesome and this flick’s twist and turns make this a very creepy and enjoyable watch.  I can honestly say that William Malone surprised me, congrats to him. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Fair Haired Child” – 7

9. Jenifer

Director – Dario Argento

Notable Films – Suspiria, Tenebre, The Bird With The Crystal Plummage, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, Phenomena, Inferno, Opera

It was a given that Dario Argento would be included in this series, and he excelled with both of his entries.  This entry gave Argento fans an interesting watch with this film’s high element of sensuality and sexual deviance.  We never got much of this from his other films(which I did not mind at all), but it was nice to see him embrace something he never touched much on.  Full of gore and nicely supplanted developments, this entry is a favorite of many fans for a very good reason. Read the full review for this film here: Masters of Horror: “Jenifer” – 7

8. Incidents on and Off of a Mountain Road

Director – Don Cascorelli

Notable Films – Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep, Phantasm II, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, Phantasm IV: Oblivion

I enjoyed this film mainly because of the survivalist aspect it takes when coming face to face with a sadistic backwoods menace of a killer.  To make this even more enjoyable was its female lead, who hated her overbearing survivalist boyfriend that vehemently forced her to learn these tactics.  Seeing her forced to use the tactics she hated so dearly(they gruelingly reminded her of him) was a nice touch, so character-wise this film is exemplary.  Oh, and did I mention this flick has a horrific ending you never see coming?   Heck yeah. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Incident on and Off of a Mountain Road” – 8

7. Pick Me Up

Director – Larry Cohen

Notable Films – It’s Alive, God Told Me To, Q: The Winged Serpent, The Stuff

If you enjoy films where the protagonists are thrown in between an antagonist vs. antagonist battle(ala “Freddy vs. Jason”) then  you should enjoy this one.  I personally feel these types of scenarios are not used often enough in the horror realm.  They get the job done, provide awesome conflict, and steal the attenion away from the weak protagonist and focus on the real stars of the film…the “bad guys”.  Heck yeah!  We get two awesome serial killers, polar opposites in killing style, who battle it out over who gets to kill the newest addition to a seedy motel in the middle of nowhere.  This is one of my favorite plots of the entire series. Read the full review for this film here: Masters of Horror: “Pick Me Up” – 8

6. Pelts

Director – Dario Argento

Notable Films – Suspiria, Tenebre, The Bird With The Crystal Plummage, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, Phenomena, Inferno, Opera

I feel this entry has been overlooked by many, especially Argento lovers who saw “Jenifer” and though Dario could not top the entry with a plot like this one.  Why?  Well, how often have you seen a film about vengeful raccoons that exact vengeance on those who kill them for their beautiful pelts(furs)?  I cannot think of a single film, and if you HAVE seen one with this plot…was it good?  Doubtful.  Dario Argento however turned this silly sounding plot into an awesome entry full of great gore, awesome apcing, and most awesomely…it stars none other than Meatloaf himself! Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Pelts” – 8

5. Haeckel’s Tale

Director – John McNaughton

Notable Films – Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, The Borrower

While he had not tackled the genre in almost two decades, director John McNaughton gave us an awesome adaptation from Clive Barker’s short story(written for the screen by Nick Garris himself) that proved to be one of the most memorable watches in this series.  Fans of undead horror will be pleased at the awesome use of these brainless “Bubs” as they…fornicate, among other things.  Leave it to Clive Barker to come up with a plotline so sensually…and utterly horrific. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Haeckel’s Tale” – 8

4. The Black Cat

Director – Stuart Gordon

Notable Films – Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dolls, The Pit and the Pendulum, Castle Freak, Dagon, King of the Ants

Stuart Gordon took a break from adapting author H.P. Lovecraft’s stories and took on another renowned horror novelist…Edgar Allen Poe.  Staying true to the source material while adding new elements to the story, such as Poe himself as the protagonist/antagonist, this flick is a treat to watch for those familiar with the story to those who have no prior knowledge whatsoever and go into this one “blind”(as I like to call it).  The film moves perfectly and is shot in awesome fashion to really make this film seem as if it were shot in 1840s Philadelphia.  Even cooler is that horror icon and Stuart Gordon buddy Jeffrey Combes portrays Poe…with the performance of his life. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “The Black Cat” – 8

3. Imprint

Director – Takashi Miike

Notable Films – Audition, Visitor Q, Gozu, One Missed Call, Three…Extremes(co-director)

The Master of Taboo(as I call him, heh) was an obvious choice for inclusion into the series because whether you like his films or not…you will never forget them.  He shows no fear with this film in giving us rape, incest, abortion, aborted fetuses, torture, and gore, all with the utmost quality of filming and direction.  I do not know how he does it, but he has a way of turning taboo into a beautiful work of art, something you would never expect to happen.  This entry gives us an awesome storyline full of great developments(some of them quite macabre) and a climax horrific in all forms possible. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Imprint” – 8

2. Family

Director – John Landis

Notable Films – An American Werewolf in London, Schlock, Twilight Zone: The Movie(co-director), Innocent Blood

This one surprised me.  I love John Landis’s work, but the storyline did not seem like one to incorporate much horror, but I was wrong.  Told in a fun aspect with enjoyable atmosphere this flick was one similar to what I mentioned earlier about Brad Anderson; not horrific at first, but genuinely horrific when the film gets into the plot.  George Wendt did a fantastic job portraying the loveable Harold Thompson, who is really only loveable on the outside.  We watch his madness displayed as nonchalantly as a retired grandmother mending her garden on a Saturday morning.  Of course, as with all great horror films…the ending is horrific and one that I never saw coming. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Family” – 9

1. Cigarette Burns

Director – John Carpenter

Notable Films – Halloween, The Fog, The Thing, Christine, Prince of Darkness, They Live, Body Bags(co-director), In The Mouth of Madness, Village of the Damned, Vampires

Yes, THIS is hands down the best entry into the “Masters of Horror” series, and from a true master of horror.  This film wowed me with how captivating its storyline was, a storyline involving a film only shown once because it incited mad violence from the film’s one and only audience.  If you are a fan of film, as most of us horror fans are, then this is one that should interest you as much as it interested me.  The storyline moved perfectly thanks to great dialogue/writing, and an amazing performance from the ever-awesome Udo Kier.  John Carpenter’s direction is phenomenal, and he hit’s the viewer hard with his gore soaked ending sequence that reigns thanks to the extremely horrific nature behind the mayhem. Read the full review for this entry here: Masters of Horror: “Cigarette Burns” – 9

Fun Stats:

– Dario Argento is the only director with both of his films in the top 10.

– The top three directors according to entry ranking are Dario Argento(5th & 9th, total of 14), then John Landis(2nd and 13th, total of 15), and John Carpenter(1st and 16th, total of 17).  In the end though, John Carpenter had the best entry.

– Due to scheduling, some very big “MASTERS” of horror were not able to contribute entries into this series. They are:
George A. Romero:Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Creepshow, Martin, The Crazies, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, Survival of the Dead
Sam Raimi: Evil Dead, Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn, Army of Darkness, Drag Me To Hell, The Gift
David Cronenberg: The Fly, Videodrome, The Dead Zone, Scanners, Shivers, Rabid, Dead Ringers, eXistenZ.

Leave a Comment