William Malone’s The Fair Haired Child

William Malone’s The Fair Haired Child is part of Showtime’s Masters Of Horror series from the early 2000’s, a brilliant compendium of voices in the genre gathering to spin spooky yarns in a fashion that feels episodic yet still standalone, the best form of horror anthology. Malone is a severely underrated horror filmmaker whose praises I have been singing for a long time; most know him as the dude who directed the House On Haunted Hill remake and FearDotCom, two films not held in high regard (I deeply love them both). Yet if you examine his career and really pay attention to the level of visual artistry and stark surrealism in those two films as well as two episodes of Tales From The Crypt he helmed in the 90’s, it becomes clear that he is a horror filmmaker and visual poet who is as much in control of a specific vision, style and tone as are the best atmospheric wizards in the genre like Argento and Lynch. I’m pleased he was included in the Masters Of Horror run and his effort here is terrific, a pitch dark, nightmarish fairytale that accommodates all his stylistic flourishes and hallmarks including pale, subconsciously influenced dream sequences and ghosts with horrifyingly staccato, eerily displaced body movement. His story here concerns a creepy couple (William Samples & the always awesome Lori Petty) who kidnap a high school girl (Lindsay Pulsipher) from a nearby county to use her in a sacrificial ritual they are performing with dark magic, offering up souls to a strange demon to bring back their son who drowned years earlier. Locked in a spooky basement, she finds she’s not alone down there as the couple’s half resurrected kid (Jesse Haddock) does his best to help her when he’s normal and becomes a terrifying otherworldly creature when he’s not. It’s a great setup for some hair raising suspense, punctuated nicely with flashbacks and dreams that tell the rest of their collective backstory. Now this has a runtime of 55 minutes and is part of the tv series so it doesn’t feel as singular or immersive a vision as Malone’s features, but the off kilter style and bizarre visual abstraction are still present, making for quite the unnerving experience. I’d recommend checking out his filmography overall if you like straightforward horror stories told by someone whose artistic methods and visual sensibilities are anything but routine or straightforward, and I’d recommend Masters Of Horror on the whole, if you can find each episode’s standalone dvd release which is how they distributed them.

-Nate Hill

John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns

What if there was a film out there that was so destructively evil that it had the power to end the world? (And no it’s not The Master Of Disguise). John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns explores this in grisly, eerie fashion for one of the many varied and interesting horror features produced by Showtime’s limited Masters Of Horror run.

Norman Reedus plays a moody private investigator with a dark past hired by Udo Kier’s sinister rare film collector to track down and bring him ‘La Fin Absolut du Monde’, a fabled piece of celluloid that is apparently so disturbing to watch it sends audiences into homicidal mania and subsequently causes the end of all things. Cool, huh? It’s wicked great with two creepy central performances from Norman and Udo who just ooze cult charisma and fit well into Carpenter’s spooky palette.

I particularly enjoyed the skin crawling appearance of a ‘willowy being’ (Christopher Redman) who is supposedly some sort of celestial creature that was tortured to bring about some of the film’s cursed imagery. Reedus’s character is given a ne’er do well aura and practically radiates bad luck as we see ongoing flashbacks to a tragic relationship and sense that he’s headed purely in the wrong karmic direction in looking for this film. Kier has demented fun as the weirdo film aficionado and if you think you’ve seen everything just wait for the sight of him feeding his own bloody intestines through a film projector with a satisfied smile on his face. Yeesh. You won’t find this brought up when discussing Carpenter’s usual stuff because it’s technically a TV episode but it is feature length and does have his trademark dark suspense and macabre inventiveness all over it, and is great fun. Oh and pay attention to what the titular cigarette burns refers to because it’ll come in handy for movie trivia at the pub.

-Nate Hill