It’s baaaaack. Showtime’s generally popular horror series from 2005 returns with a whole new batch of episodes in its second season. For those unfamiliar with the MASTERS OF HORROR conceit – essentially Showtime gathers together a mix of established and up-and-coming horror directors and tells them they can make whatever they want, without any censorship from the network, as long as it fits within an hour and comes in on budget. Season 1’s record was largely hit-or-miss, but the highpoints (John Carpenter’s CIGARETTE BURNS in particular) were genuinely horrific and delivered the goods. Season 2 kicks off with THE DAMNED THING, Tobe Hooper’s seriously bloody, but not particularly thrilling take on demons in a small town.
The episode kicks off with a nice family of three gathered around the dinner table. The son of the family is clearly precocious and well-educated, and all-in-all the family seems quite content. There have been some mysterious deaths in the area, but nothing to get too worked up about. That is, until daddy takes a shotgun to mommy for no reason whatsoever. He then chases the little boy through the woods, SHINING-style, but the boy evades his crazed dad. Instead, he watches from up in a tree as his father gets quite literally disemboweled by some “unknown force.” Clearly, this kid is going to have to go through some serious therapy after seeing both his parents killed.
And he does, apparently. But when we seem him next, he is all grown up and transformed into Young Indiana Jones himself, Sean Patrick Flanery. Now Sheriff of the town, Kevin Reddle, as we come to know him, is going through some issues. Not only is he still haunted by his past, but there are some marital problems he has with his (very attractive) wife. They have separated, the wife taking their kid with them, but I have to say, this was the most loving and kind couple with marital problems I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately the drama there wasn’t too convincing, as their relationship seemed quite cordial.
As you might have guessed, the mysterious force that took out Reddle’s parents and others so many years ago returns with a vengeance. One by one, citizens of the small town start dropping like flies and dying particularly gruesome deaths. My favorite among them was the carpenter who starts hitting himself in the face with a hammer – both sides of the hammer. Hooper isn’t afraid to let the blood fly, and it does in one gruesome killing after another.
The killings are the high point of THE DAMNED THING – and there’s a lot to be said for them. But the drama and tension of the story isn’t really substantial enough to make us through its short running time. By the end, Hooper falls prey to the lure of special effects and the “damned thing” itself is revealed to take shape out of water in the form of a large monster. Better left unseen, I say.
But, hey, when horror delivers the blood and guts on the
level of this one, who’s to quibble too much? It’s not the high point of the series, but it’s far from
the low-point and at least on some levels, it delivers the goods.
RATING: ** and a half (out of four)