Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Season 1 Episode 1
“Incident On and Off A Mountain Road”
Teleplay by Don Coscarelli and Stephen Romano; based on the short story by Joe R. Lansdale
Directed by Don Coscarelli

If there was one ‘70’s horror film that scared the beejeezus out of me, it was Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm. More than The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, more than The Hills Have Eyes, this was the movie that made me scared to shut my eyes at night (as well as stand in front of a mirror).
I imagine it must have been because in Phantasm, all the terror was happening in bedrooms and houses and funeral parlors, not out in the far-flung wilderness or the boondocks.
There was that shiny metal ball of death, the freaky dwarves, and of course, there was The Tall Man. Angus Scrimm scared the frak outta me.
So when I found out that the maiden voyage of Masters of Horror would be brought to my TV by Coscarelli and The Tall Man (based on a Lansdale short, to boot!), well, I was pretty psyched.
And truth be told, Scrimm is just about the best thing in “Incident”…

On the surface, “Incident” is about Ellen (Bree Turner), who encounters a mad, monstrous lunatic (you know the sort) on the titular mountain road. But as soon as the chase begins, we realize Ellen isn’t your usual female in peril. And even as the narrative seeks to subvert the tired slash and stalk formula, it also switches back and forth between the peril-fraught present, and Ellen’s past, as we see, a) how she came to be so resourceful in a pinch, and b) how she came to be on that mountain road.
Now, to be fair, “Incident” isn’t a complete loss.
The performances are effective, particularly Scrimm’s (as crazy old coot Buddy) and Ethan Embry’s.
Embry sticks out in my film geek brain as dopey stoner Mark in Empire Records, and just-graduated Preston Meyers, who moons after Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Golden Globes (and professes his love for her to the strains of Yazoo’s “Only You”) in Can’t Hardly Wait.
Embry’s turn as Bruce, Ellen’s survivalist hubby, pretty much negates all the nice guy goodwill Embry earned from his past film work…

Where “Incident” falters though, is in its pacing, which, forced to labour under the script’s structure, isn’t as taut as it should be.
Honestly, it only really came alive for me when Scrimm makes his entrance.
And though I do appreciate the ultimate cost of survival (suitably weighty, given the extreme circumstances), things don’t fall into place as neatly as I’d hoped.

As the first episode out of the gate, I wasn’t that crazy about “Incident,” though in retrospect, after seeing some of the season’s subsequent episodes, it actually stands as one of the better installments.
Though all that McGyvering traps in the dark while being chased by the crazy did seem a tad incredulous…

(Incident On and Off A Mountain Road DVD cover art courtesy of

No comments: