Masters of Horror - Don Coscarelli - Incident on and off a Mountain Road (2005) Review
(More customer reviews)Although it was the first episode of MASTERS OF HORROR to air on Showtime when the series debuted in October 2005, director Don Coscarelli's "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" is the fourth series segment to be released on DVD. And it is also one of the best of the series thus far (series one has ended, but the show is expected to continue for at least one more season). Longtime genre fans will recognize the name Coscarelli, of course, as he is the writer/director of the classic horror flick PHANTASM (1979) and its sequels, director and co-writer of the sword-and-sorcery fantasy THE BEASTMASTER (1982), and the writer/director of the more contemporary horror-comedy cult favorite BUBBA HO-TEP (2002).
An adaptation of the short story by genre author Joe R. Lansdale--who also wrote the story on which BUBBA HO-TEP was based--"Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" is an interesting, fresh take on the girl-chased-through-the-woods slasher-type flick, one with a very wry twist at the end. It stars cute actress Bree Turner (some genre fans my recognize her from 2005's JEKYLL + HYDE) as Ellen, a young woman who has an auto accident late one night while driving through the rural mountains of Oregon. After crawling from the wreckage and trying to assess the damage, Ellen quickly finds herself pursued by a hulking mountain-dwelling madman (John De Santis, familiar to horror fans from his role as Lurch in the short-lived late-1990s TV series THE NEW ADDAMS FAMILY). But Ellen is no ordinary damsel in distress. Through occasional flashbacks, it is revealed that her ex-husband was an obsessive survivalist and that he forced her to participate in his training sessions. And as a result, Ellen has a few tricks up her sleeve that just may help her outwit her brutish pursuer and survive the night.
As is, Lansdale's original story rises way above the cliche of its slasher roots, but the script by Coscarelli and his co-writer, Stephen Romano, ratchet it up even higher by adding some elements only hinted at by Lansdale. This enables Coscarelli, as director, to create a 60-minute visual ride that is dense with layers of thrills, suspense, and shocks that lesser directors would have trouble fitting into a two-hour flick. Of course, he is helped by the outstanding acting abilities of Turner, whose talent allows her to convincingly vacillate between vulnerability and strength, as well as the intense performance from Ethan Embry (who plays Ellen's ex-husband in flashback sequences) and the skills and menacing presence of De Santis. Even Coscarelli's old friend Angus Scrimm--who became a genre icon playing the Tall Man in the classic PHANTASM series--makes a delightfully quirky appearance.
The DVD edition of "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" offers a pristine digital transfer of the filmic series episode in anamorphic widescreen at its original aspect ratio of 1.77:1. And as is almost always the case with discs from the cool folks at Anchor Bay, the DVD is chockful with bonus features. This one has TWO commentaries--one featuring writer/director Coscarelli and co-writer Romano (moderated by Anchor Bay's Perry Martin); the other with Coscarelli and author Joe R. Lansdale--an interview with Coscarelli; a documentary on Coscarelli's genre career; a special-effects featurette (hidden in an "Easter egg"); and lots more! It's well worth amazon.com's reasonable price of admission.
All in all, "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" is a top-notch entry in Mick Garris' MASTERS OF HORROR series, and it leaves no doubt as to why Don Coscarelli was one of the first directors chosen to participate. But even apart from the series and despite its short runtime of 60 minutes, the episode itself easily stands alone as a masterpiece of horror film, and it is sure to become a genre classic. So even those rare horror fans not impressed by the overall TV series should seriously consider adding this flick to their collections.
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