Main cast: Bree Turner (Ellen), Angus Scrimm (Buddy), John DeSantis (Moonface), and Ethan Embry (Bruce)
Director: Don Coscarelli
Don Coscarelli is probably best known for his clumsy but adorable horror film Phantasm, and perhaps unsurprisingly, he invites Angus Scrimm, who played The Tall Man in that movie, to play in this episode too. Incident On and Off a Mountain Road is the first episode of the anthology horror series Masters of Horror, which will see some big names in the horror film business coming onboard to direct (and sometimes write) episodes for the series. As a horror fan, I’m excited to see what the show will bring, so poor Mr Coscarelli has some high expectations to meet.
This one is a fairly standard “woman versus psycho on one dark night” fare. Our heroine Ellen is driving on a lonely, deserted road one night when she spots a stalled vehicle ahead of her too late. Oops. Her car won’t start again, there is no line, and it seems like the person in the vehicle has been thrown out and down the mountainside. Wait, that isn’t an injured person, it’s a demented killer with a monstrous face, all ready to make a kebab out of her.
Well, hold the call to the funeral parlor: also presented in flashback is Ellen’s meeting and eventually marrying Bruce, who also teaches her some pugilistic and survival skills. “You act just as crazy as they are, and they don’t know what the fuck they’d do with you!” he tells her. So, who will win this match? Stay tuned!
Oh boy, this needs considerable suspension of disbelief, even for a slasher show. For example, Moonface, our killer, lives in a pretty big Scooby-Doo villain-style house located right at a ledge, overlooking a steep drop. Given its rather distinguished location, our killer nonetheless manages to use his victims to be made into scarecrows, and props them up all around his house without someone noticing his shenanigans. Coupled to his obligatory ability to teleport in front or behind his victims as well as to outrun them despite making slow, lumbering strides and Moonface becomes a pretty big campy joke of a villain. Alas, this episode is nowhere even close to being campy, so Moonface ends up being like a Scooby-Doo villain that somehow stumbled upon the wrong film set.
Furthermore, the 60-minute running time feels inadequate. Ellen’s flashback could have been a different movie altogether, and the whole “I Married a Sweet Guy Who Turned Out to Be a Nutcase” thing indeed has been done many times before. When that aspect is glued together with the whole her trying to elude Moonface plot, both aspects of the plot feel underdeveloped. The whole thing has a by-the-numbers feel to it, and this episode ticking off the checklist of overused tropes associated with this premise only reinforces the whole been there, done that aspect of this episode.
Still, there are some cool scenes of torture, so I suppose this episode has done its job. The cast is fine, the atmosphere is fine, and the episode could have been fine. Only, as a season-opener, it could have done more, surely.