JUNE 5, 2008
Tonight is the premiere of Fear Itself, a semi-sequel to Masters of Horror that is airing on NBC. Like MoH, each week will have a different director/writer, and is billed as a ‘new movie every week’. Of course, even if one considered an hour to be a movie, that’s not even the case here, with commercials we are talking less than 45 minutes, and with some obvious restrictions (while the gore seems intact, there is no nudity or profanity to speak of here). Tonight’s is called The Sacrifice and is written by Mick Garris (based on a short story by Del Howison) and directed by Breck Eisner.
Wait what? Breck “Sahara” Eisner? Why NBC chose to lead off their horror director-themed show with an episode by a guy who has only made one (non horror, or even successful) movie is beyond me, especially since it’s not even supposed to be the first (it’s listed as episode 4), but whatever. But what’s more troubling is that, if they are going out of order, they must think this is a stronger episode than the real episode 1, which is by Stuart Gordon. Which sucks, because this is hardly a home run.
The setup is fine (an isolated, borderline Amish town with a vampire problem), and the makeup on the vampires is good, but the way everything plays out is just so by the numbers, and I was hoping for a twist or two to the proceedings. Even for a TV show, the entire thing feels very generic, from the carefully laid out revelations (our female “villains” aren’t really the villains after all!), the downer ending, the horny guy whose desire to nail a broad he literally met 10 minutes before leads to his doom, etc. There is nothing we haven’t seen before in a regular, unrestricted film. And yes, the gore is there, but gore does not make a horror film – good ideas do. Whether Garris/Eisner just botched Howison’s original story or it was simply bland to begin with, I do not know, but either way it’s not exactly a strong start for the series.
It’s not a total loss though. The three girls are all hot, and Friday Night Lights’ Jesse Plemons is amusing as the talkative and nervous sidekick to our hero (Jeffrey Pierce). And the pacing is good – the heroes end up at the vampire infested compound in the first five minutes, and folks begin being attacked in the first 15. Not too shabby. There's also some great lines here and there, like "If this is luck I hate to see misfortune." - again, I don't know if this is Howison's doing or Garris' (and I am really sort of peeved that Howison's credit is buried in the end credits - it should be up front with Garris and Eisner. If it was based on Stephen King or Edgar Allan Poe, you can bet your ass it would be more prominently credited), but either way it's one of more than a couple instances where the talent behind the scenes really shone through. And honestly, for all its shortcomings, it’s still better than say, the MoH episodes Dance of the Dead or Cigarette Burns, but it’s nothing worth setting up a new Tivo recording for either. The very first MoH to air was also one of its all time best (Don Coscarelli’s Incident On And Off A Mountain Road); if that’s the case here, yikes.
And that is a shame, because there are a lot of great directors on board (Gordon, Brad Anderson, Darren Bousman) and NBC is certainly not against canning a show before giving it a chance. They aren’t as bad as FOX in this regard, but if the next couple episodes are as bland as this, I can’t imagine this thing lasting all 13 planned episodes, because hardcore horror fans will just watch their unrated DVDs and non-horror fans won't find much to win them over. Luckily, due to their ties with Sci-Fi and USA, it’s not like the episodes will be lost forever, but since horror is so rare on the major networks (with Moonlight canned, it’s basically just Supernatural), I want the show to be a success.
So uh, ignore my review and watch tonight’s episode!
What say you?