Masters Of Horror: Right To Die

AUGUST 27, 2008


Some folks might balk at the idea of giving Rob Schmidt a slot among the “Masters of Horror”, since he only has one film (the original Wrong Turn), but either way, he’s certainly made one of the better episodes with Right To Die. Essentially a gory version of the Terry Schiavo case (and some Scott Peterson for good measure), it’s not perfect, but it’s the rare modern horror story that actually has social commentary blended in with the bloody stuff, something that used to be the norm and is now all but completely abandoned.

It’s also got one of the better casts. Martin Donovan is always fun to watch, and it’s great to see Corbin Bernsen back in full on Arnie Becker mode. Plus, uber-hot Robin Sydney spends almost every minute of her screentime in some stage of undress; hardly a bad idea. However, there actually might be a bit too much nudity; in addition to Sydney, Donovan’s equally hot wife (Julia Anderson) has a nude scene herself. I’m not against excessive nudity, but since the story is actually pretty interesting, it could have done without, as it becomes a bit distracting.

I also loved the ending, silly as it may be. The moral of the story is, when you think about it, when you get married you’re pretty much doomed. Even after she dies, Donovan is under the control of his wife, destined for a life of groveling and endless requests for forgiveness (he was fucking Sydney’s character). The final shot is just perfect; Donovan wipes his feet on the mat and sulks inside as his wife (ghost or not, not sure) shuts the door behind him, giving him the evil eye the entire time. Let it be a lesson to all you unhappily married folks who are considering letting their spouse die so that they can rake in some dough and fuck their assistant without consequences.

Also I am almost positive this is the first horror movie in which our hero drives one of those ugly ass “Smart Cars”. I’m all for saving the environment, using alternatives to oil, all that stuff, but CHRIST those fucking things are ugly. I swear that Big Oil pays off the makers of these things to ensure that they will never be fully embraced by the public, because the average person wouldn’t be able to stop laughing at the sight of the thing long enough to sign the paperwork.

The only thing about the episode that really bothered me was how Schmidt staged an early scene that is missing crucial information. It’s sort of a cheat – it’s not like doing a flashback that takes on new meaning with new information that the film has given you, that’s OK. What Schmidt does is actually edit things out throughout the scene, and then play the “whole” thing later. As a result, both scenes are pretty awkward, and I wish they had spent some time reworking the scene(s) so that it would feel less forced. There’s also a ridiculous bit where Donovan walks around a hospital with a leaking cooler. Uh... where would the leak be coming from? It’s a goddamn cooler! Plus, no one seems to mind much that this citizen is carrying a bloody object around and leaving a trail of blood wherever he goes. The whole movie is kind of silly, but you got to ground it in reality for it to work properly.

The makeup effect for the burned up wife is amazing. Apparently, they simply hired a smaller actress than Anderson so the makeup could be applied and yet still give the idea that the woman is smaller as a result of her injuries (think about it – if you got no skin, you’re like 20 lbs lighter, yet in most movies, the actor will look BIGGER because of the prosthetics applied to his/her normal body). Say what you will about MoH, but KNB’s effects are just as good as their feature film work, something even more impressive when you consider the compressed time and budget they had to work with.

As usual, there’s a pair of featurettes (good stuff) and a commentary. Schmidt is OK to listen to; like on Wrong Turn, he’s kind of awkward, but provides some good trivia and discusses technical and creative things in equal measures, which is appreciated. He also discusses the “cheat” I mentioned earlier, and seems to think that the first time we saw the scene, it felt complete, something that’s not the case. Still, worth a listen (if you liked the movie anyway).

So far, of the 5-6 episodes of Season 2 I’ve watched, it’s a vast improvement over the first. With the exception of Carpenter, everyone that came back did a better episode, and the newcomers (Schmidt, Brad Anderson) contributed worthy movies as well. I don’t know why the show gets a bum rap among fans; sure none of the episodes are exactly classics (except for Joe Dante’s Homecoming from Season 1; I haven’t seen his 2nd season film yet), but they are rarely downright terrible, and since a lot of the directors never do horror anymore (John Landis), or films at all (Carpenter), I kind of like that the series gave them an opportunity to do something different and relatively unrestrained.

What say you?

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