First Transmitted - 11/11/2005
One has to admire the bravery (or possibly outright gall) of series creator Mick Garris in inviting several washed up has-beens to contribute direction to the first season of Masters of Horror. There is a certain amount of back slapping and arse kissing endemic in a project like this, because if one were to be entirely objective it about there is no way that in 2005 Tobe Hooper would qualify as a ‘Master of Horror’. Hooper has made lots of horror films yes, but he hasn’t made a single good one in my lifetime. In fact I would argue that Hooper has only made one creatively successful horror film and that was his astonishing debut picture The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Unlike his contemporaries in the 1970’s Hooper peaked instantly. His career since has been a pallid and depressingly dreary attempt to recapture the ferocity and creativity of his first film. In this respect Hooper’s later career must surely rank as the most disappointing in horror history. The promise of his first film was destroyed almost immediately with his lacklustre thematic follow up Eaten Alive (1977). Somewhat surprisingly though he did manage to direct an excellent television mini-series adaptation of Salem’s Lot (1979), proving that he could adapt to the strictures of television with aplomb. Unfortunately Salem’s Lot has proven an exception in Hooper’s career, and though some horror fanatics might cite The Funhouse (1981) (I’d prefer to watch the grass grow) and Poltergeist (1982) (Hooper pimping himself out to Spielberg whose themes dominate the film) the reality is that these films are largely inconsequential and bereft of ideas and intelligence. But based on thirty years of shocking mediocrity Mick Garris invited Hooper to take part in Masters of Horror. So we have thirty years of cinematic garbage from Hooper, what would his episode Dance of the Dead be like?…believe it or not its utter garbage!
Hooper does manage to create a number of nightmarish images. The sight of re-animated human corpses being dumped into a metal bin and set alight by a pair of mocking goons is one such troubling image. The sight of Robert Englund fondling twitching corpses, and the intimation that he is being fellated by one is another. But the general grotesquery of this episode (which extends almost without exception to every character) has the feel of Hooper trying on a bit of one-upmanship to the other directors in the series. Few episodes of Masters of Horror possess such a nihilistic, repugnant and irredeemable atmosphere as Dance of the Dead, but then I’d like to think the other episodes have ambitions beyond the type of mindless repulsion Hooper is after. In its favour is a sense of carnivalesque breakdown, a sense of disorder and disunity which is effectively conveyed. But Dance of the Dead never manages to escape the vanity and hubris of a director determined to show off what little talent he has.
© Shaun Anderson 2011