- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

Oh, the “Horror”

Showtime’s “Masters of Horror” anthology series purports to let horror’s brightest stars scare us anew.

The fact is, the horror genre has precious few stars in its galaxy.

The series’ second season premiere, alas, is a case in point.

Tobe Hooper, whose “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” created the template for modern slasher films, gives us a tale as incoherent as something lensed by a hack weaned on “Munsters” reruns. His mini-movie, “The Damned Thing,” kicks off the anthology series tonight, to be followed in weeks to come by offerings from horror contemporaries like Stuart Gordon (“Re-Animator”), Joe Dante (“Gremlins”) and Tom Holland (“Fright Night”).

The episode (airing tonight at 10) concerns a boy who, minutes after watching his dad kill his mother, is turned inside out — literally — by some unseen force.

That boy becomes his hometown sheriff (Sean Patrick Flanery, who matured from “Young Indiana Jones” to become Michael Madsen 2.0). But the murders still haunt him… and they may not be over. The town is in the grip of an undisclosed mania, the source of which is awkwardly revealed in the fading moments.

Mr. Hooper’s camera work is as frenzied as that of any neophyte, and the installment is a frightless way to start the new season.

Next week’s episode, “The Family,” fares better. It begins with a jarring set piece as good as anything you’ll find at the movies. We’re soon breaking bread with an avuncular neighbor (“Cheers’ ” George Wendt) who has ghastly designs on the newlyweds next door. “An American Werewolf in London’s” John Landis directs.

What “Horror” may do best is serve as a cudgel against conservative viewers. Last season, an army of undead soldiers rose from their grave in “Homecoming” to vote out the president who sent them to war in a veil-free swipe at President George W. Bush. This season’s first episodes feature a serial killer with a weakness for Vice President Dick Cheney and casts Big Oil in an unflattering light.

Future tales promise assaults on pro-lifers and a horror version of the Terri Schiavo case.

Zombie auteur George A. Romero (“Dawn of the Dead”) routinely uses horror as a medium for social criticism, so these “Masters” are merely following in his footsteps.

Let’s hope they remember to bring the goosebumps along with the polemics.

Christian Toto

More fright nights

If it’s real horror you want, cable’s AMC has it in abundance as its annual weeklong Monsterfest enters the final stretch.

Tomorrow’s bill features three installments in “The Exorcist” franchise, beginning with the original 1973 film — starring a youthful Linda Blair as demon-possessed, head spinning Regan MacNeil — at 8 p.m. “Exorcist II: The Heretic” (1977) follows at 10:30 p.m., and “The Exorcist III: The Legion” (1990) caps the trilogy with an overnight broadcast at 1 a.m. Sunday.

On Tuesday, though, Monsterfest pulls out all the stops with — what else? — back-to-back installments of the “Halloween” film series (6:45 a.m. to 11:45 p.m.) and its murderous protagonist, Michael Myers.

For true fans of the series and those willing to get up before dawn, there’s “Backstory: Halloween” at 5:45 a.m. The 2002 documentary features director John Carpenter, who helmed the original 1978 film, plus his cast and crew discussing the tumultuous production of the indie chiller.

Together again

Look for more trash talking and catfights when the losing contestants gather for the “Flavor of Love 2 Reunion Special” Sunday evening at 8 on VH1.

More than 7 million viewers tuned in Oct. 15 when the rap star chose Detroit native London Charles (nicknamed Deelishis by Flav on the series) as his boo du jour.

Compiled by Robyn Denise Yourse from staff and wire reports.

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