Masters of Horror: Damned Thing, The (DVD)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Distributed by Anchor Bay
We’re almost at the final release for Masters of Horror’s second season on DVD. It has been a fun ride for the most part, but we must admit that the first outing was much more fun. That is even more palpable when we look at Season Two's very first episode that aired on television, The Damned Thing.
As a young man, Kevin Reddle (Flanery) witnessed a horrible act of violence. His father snapped one stormy night and brutally murdered Kevin’s mother. Without provocation, warning or warrant the head of the household was transformed into a cold hearted killer. Daddy’s gun was soon turned on Kevin and the young Reddle’s life would have drawn to a very early end if it wasn’t for some invisible damned thing that tore his once loving father to bits.
A number of years later Kevin is now the Sheriff of the sleepy town he grew up in. His mind is still haunted and paranoia has left its mark on not only his sanity, but the relationship with his wife and child. Maybe things could be worked out. Everyone deserves a second chance at redemption. It is just unfortunate that the Damned Thing doesn’t feel the same way.
We all know what Tobe Hooper is capable of on a small budget. This man redesigned the horror industry with a chainsaw and a van full of young Americans. So, where is that spark now? What happened to that attitude that could transform a lack of monetary backing into a balls out great piece of horror entertainment?
That’s the question some of us were asking when this episode first aired. While it certainly doesn't disappoint in terms of gore, the story that was built around the great splatter effects was A) confusing --and-- B) boring. That’s not a good combination when the actual amount of on screen grue amounts to maybe two to three minutes.
Said confusion boils down to what the unseen evil force is. We’re never given a clear cut answer as to why or what the Damned Thing is. We know from a very short plot point that it may be a vengeful force built by Mother Earth herself to dispatch justice on those who abuse her, but why is it after a man who never did anything wrong aside from being part of the wrong heritage? Sure, give us a kick ass oil monster, but don’t make its purpose be so vague.
The vague plot/back story of The Damned Thing doesn’t bore us as much as the lack of action that takes place once the sleepy Texas town goes totally ape shit thanks to the Thing’s mind control power. The problem here is that we don’t get to see the carnage the Thing’s fury brings to life. If an entire down his killing itself, we want to fucking see it. Sigh, at least we had Ted Raimi to keep us company.
Ted was the real star of this episode. His role of the slightly creepy man of God who loses all his marbles when society collapses is what you should stay to see. Fast forward to the gore, but stay through all of Raimi’s scenes. The man is a brilliant underused talent. Only he could make a killing a cop in a confession booth look both sexy and cool. We only get a hint of what he could have brought to the character, because the entire budget was likely spent on the Oil Monster at the show’s conclusion.
The episode ends on a whimper. Our hero is eaten up and so is his wife and child, though the last two are assumed because the episode just ends when they are attacked. Maybe this wouldn’t have felt like such a let down if the audience wasn’t told that a much grander finale was in store while listening to writer R.C. Matheson’s commentary track. Much had to be changed due to time and budget. R.C. goes on and on about what was planned, what could have been and that leads to depression.
But, hey, the rest of the special features almost make up for Tobe’s misfiring. The Damned Thing: Building the Oil Monster is a short, but detailed look into how the CGI Oil Monster was made. This is a very helpful supplement because the Damned Thing was too hard to make out with the way the final scenes were shot. Half the time the monster looked like a melting black garbage bag that ate a few too many toothpicks. Here we can finally see what it really looked like.
Texas Terror: The Making of the Damned Thing is your basic featurette found on most of the MoH releases this year. Watching and listening to Ted Raimi discuss his role is a treat, but oddly we never hear much from director Tobe Hooper. Come to think of it, Tobe felt absent during the whole experience of The Damned Thing. For being a story based in Texas, with a low budget and a good chance to show some apocalyptic stuff … the whole affair doesn’t even feel like Hooper was involved at all. Image that: a Texas horror film made by Tobe that doesn’t feel like he was even directing it. Now that is scary.
2 1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5