A Look Back At “Masters Of Horror”

“Masters Of Horror” was an American anthology television series created by director Mick Garris.

Back in 2005 it was announced that a special TV show was being made that would feature mini Horror films directed by some of Horror’s biggest names, this was unbelievably huge news and Horror fans everywhere were so excited to see what this would all be about.

It actually all started in 2002, director Mick Garris invited some director friends to an informal dinner at a restaurant in Sherman Oaks, California. Attending were John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Don Coscarelli, Joe Dante, Guillermo Del Toro, Stuart Gordon, Tobe Hooper, John Landis, Bill Malone, and Garris himself.

The dinner was said to be an amazing experience for the directors: a night of camaraderie, fun and mutual admiration of one another’s work. It was Del Toro who coined the name of the group when as a joke he told a nearby diner celebrating their birthday that the “Masters of Horror” wished them a happy birthday.

Garris went on to organize regular dinners with the group and invited other horror and genre directors to attend, including Dario Argento, Eli Roth, David Cronenberg, Tim Sullivan, Rob Zombie, Fred Dekker, William Lustig, Katt Shea, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, James Gunn, Mary Lambert, Tom Holland, Ti West, Lloyd Kaufman, and others.

These dinners inevitably turned into discussions of work and that’s how “Masters Of Horror” came to be. It would be the American cable network company Showtime that would pick up the show and that’s when the news spread like wildfire amongst fans of the genre.

Apparently the show was already fully financed even before Showtime came along, originally the episodes were just going to be released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment. This would’ve been an interesting move and although Anchor Bay did distribute the DVD release I wonder whatever happened to that original deal for it to be changed.

According to creator Mick Garris, the directors involved were told they would be given free reign as to what stories they told, however they wanted to tell them. But when Showtime came on board, they laid out some rules, such as there could be no full frontal male nudity. Another was, there could be no violence committed on a child by another child (but violence by adults on children or children on adults was fine).

With thirteen episodes released for the first series fans were treated to some absolutely amazing stories wrote by the likes of John Landis, Clive Barker, Richard Matheson with directors such as Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper, Joe Dante, John Carpenter and more. What wasn’t there to be excited about?!

There were some absolutely fantastic stories, it reminded me a lot of the 80’s version of “The Twilight Zone”, just with more of an all star crew and I admittedly found this better. That’s not a bad comparison, the 80’s Twilight Zone is looked back on fondly by those who grew up with it and it featured a lot of future stars.

With the huge success of the first series a second series followed with a lot of Directors returning, once again we had some absolutely fantastic stories. Again fans were treated to some amazing stuff but sadly commercially things weren’t great and as a result a third series wasn’t funded.

NBC took on the show but it had to change it’s name, the title “Fear Itself” was chosen. Despite dealing with a lot of the same people such as Stuart Gordon, John Landis, Rob Schmidt and more something just wasn’t quite right, half the season went unaired and then it was cancelled. The unaired episodes were featured on the DVD release.

The only news since the show was cancelled has been that IDW Publishing produced a series of comic book adaptations of several episodes from the series. Unfortunately I haven’t read them (fingers crossed I get the chance to one day) but it’s good to see that there’s still interest there.

I’ve always felt that this show never got as much recognition as it deserved, even from it’s own genre. It still amazes me how many people don’t know about this show, even now it only seems to be known by more die hard fans of the genre. It truly boggles my mind.

I think that if this was a show that was released today it would be HUGE! The names involved in this project alone would be enough to market and advertise it. Can you just imagine if a network like Netflix or Amazon launched something like this, I think it would be a massive hit.

It’s only been just over fifteen years since the series was launched and sadly it just seems to have been forgotten by many. I just can’t understand why this doesn’t get talked about more, especially by fans of the genre. Here’s hoping it gets rediscovered by a new generation of fans.

I urge you to hunt this show down, it’s got some amazing stories and a great mixture of eclectic Directors to keep it fresh for viewers and keeps you interested. If you haven’t watched them then please give it a try!


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