A lot of people have taken to calling the Masters of Horror series a Showtime production, but the truth is that the experiment was born over at AnchorBay. Series creator Mick Garris had the idea to snag a bunch of the finest horror-makers under the sun, have each one direct an hour-long mini-movie, and then let the Gorehounds devour the goods through the magic of DVD. But then Showtime got involved, and they aired 12 of the 13 episodes between last December and March of this year. (The 13th episode, Takashi Miike's Imprint, was deemed too harsh by the Showtime folks, which means you won't be able to see it till the DVD hits shelves.)

Unfortunately, AnchorBay has taken a fairly money-hungry approach to releasing Masters on DVD: Two episodes hit stores yesterday, available individually or as part of a 2-pack. But with a list price of $16.98 apiece (which means a retail cost of about 11 bucks each), it seems that the horror faithful are expected to dole out about $150 if they want the entire season. (By comparison, my 13-episode collection of the brilliant Firefly set me back only about 40 bucks!) But hey, nobody's saying you have to buy 'em all, right? We horror geeks aren't ravenous completists and ferocious collectors ... are we? (To be fair, if the first 2 DVDs are any indication, each release promises to come stocked with loads of extra goodies, so at least we're getting some value for our money.)

Anyway, to commemorate the DVD debut of the series (well, the first two episodes) I thought it might be helpful to give our readers a Masters Guide -- despite the fact that I've seen precisely ONE episode of the show so far! Click below for a list of all the actors, the Masters, the release dates, all 13 plot synopses, and a variety of trivial hoo-hah intended mainly for the hardcore horror freaks.

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Episode 1
: Incident On and Off a Mountain Road -- Based upon a tale by Bubba-Ho tep author Joe Lansdale, it's about a seemingly helpless lass who manages to turn the tables on a serial killer called "Moonface."

Air date: Oct. 28, 2005  // DVD release: May 9th, 2006

The Cast: Bree Turner, Ethan Embry, John DeSantis, Angus Scrimm
The Master: Don Coscarelli, director of Bubba Ho-tep, The Beastmaster, and the wholecrazyPhantasmseries

Episode 2: Dreams in the Witch-House -- Based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, this one deals with a busy grad student who moves into a grungy boarding house, and wouldn't you know it? The place is haunted by a freaky witch!

Air date: Nov. 4th, 2005 // DVD release: March 28th, 2006

The Cast: Ezra Godden, Chelah Horsdal, Jay Brazeau
The Master: Stuart Gordon, director of Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dolls, The Pit and the Pendulum, Fortress, Castle Freak, and Dagon

Episode 3: Dance of the Dead -- Based on a short story by genre favorite Richard Matheson, it's about a futuristic dystopia in which zombies perform a nasty variety of cabaret acts, while "humanity" fills the theater to enjoy the crazy carnage.

Air date: Nov. 11th, 2005 // DVD release: TBA

The Cast: Jessica Lowndes, Jonathan Tucker, Robert Englund
The Master: Tobe Hooper, director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Eaten Alive, Salem's Lot, The Funhouse, Poltergeist, Lifeforce, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Mangler, Crocodile, Toolbox Murders, and Mortuary

Episode 4: Jenifer -- A policeman befriends a deformed survivor of a serial killer attack, only to invite her home and discover that she's ... not all that friendly.

Air date: Nov. 18th, 2005 // DVD release: TBA

The Cast: Carrie Fleming, Steven Weber, Julia Arkos
The Master: Dario Argento, director of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, Deep Red, Suspiria, Inferno, Tenebre, Creepers, Opera, Trauma, The Stendhal Syndrome, and The Card Player

Episode 5: Chocolate -- A young divorcee who spends his days concocting new artificial flavors becomes obsessed with a far-away woman whom he's never even met.

Air date: Nov. 25th, 2005 // DVD release: May 9th, 2006

The Cast: Henry Thomas, Matt Frewer, Stacy Grant
The Master: Mick Garris, director of Critters 2: The Main Course, Sleepwalkers, The Stand, The Shining, Quicksilver Highway, Riding the Bullet, and Desperation

Episode 6: Homecoming -- Based on Dale Bailey's short story Death & Suffrage, this one covers a Presidential election thrown into disarray when it's discovered that, yes, the teeming undead have cast their votes.
Air date: Dec. 2nd, 2005 // DVD release: July 18th, 2006

The Cast: Jon Tenney, Robert Picardo, Sean Carey
The Master: Joe Dante, director of Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins,Explorers, Twlight Zone: The Movie, InnerspaceThe 'burbs, Gremlins 2: The New BatchMatinee,Small Soldiers, and Looney Tunes: Back in Action

Episode 7
: Deer Woman -- An ancient Native American mythological she-creature comes to life ... and she's not happy.

Air date: Dec. 9th, 2005 // DVD release: June 27th, 2006

The Cast: Brian Benben, Sonja Bennett, Julian Christopher
The Master: John Landis, director of Schlock, The Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, Trading Places, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Spies Like Us, Three Amigos, Coming to America, and Innocent Blood

Episode 8: Cigarette Burns -- An infamous "lost movie," one believed to be responsible for hundreds of deaths, is unearthed by a modern movie geek.

Air date: Dec. 16th, 2005 // DVD release: March 28th, 2006

The Cast: Norman Reedus, Udo Kier, Julius Chapple
The Master: John Carpenter, director of Dark Star, Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, The Fog, Escape from New York, The Thing, Christine, Starman, Big Trouble in Little China, Prince of Darkness, They Live, In the Mouth of Madness, Vampires, and Ghosts of Mars

Episode 9: The Fair-Haired Child -- A teenage girl is nailed with a van, kidnapped, tossed into a basement, and forced to deal with "Johnny," a kid with more than his own share of misery.

Air date: Dec. 23rd, 2005 // DVD release: TBA

The Cast: Lori Petty, Lindsay Pulsipher, Jesse Haddock
The Master: William Malone, director of Scared to Death, Creature, House on Haunted Hill, and FearDotCom

Episode 10: Sick Girl -- All I know is that it's about two lesbians, a giant insect, and the beautiful Angela Bettis.

Air date: Jan 13th, 2006 // DVD release: June 27th, 2006

The Cast: Angela Bettis, Marcia Bennett, Erin Brown (aka Misty Mundae)
The Master: Lucky McKee, director of May and The Woods

Episode 11: Pick Me Up -- Wheeler, a stalker who preys on hitchhikers, picks up Walker, a hitchhiker who kills motorists. Who will be the last one standing?

Air date: Jan 20th, 2006 // DVD release: July 18th, 2006

The Cast: Michael Moriarty, Warren Kole, Fairuza Balk
The Master: Larry Cohen, director of It's Alive, God Told Me To, It Lives Again, Q, Special Effects, The Stuff, It's Alive 3: Island of the Alive, A Return to Salem's Lot, and The Ambulance

Episode 12: Haeckel's Tale -- Based on a short story by Clive Barker, it's about a guy who's allowed to take refuge in an isolated cabin, but only if he promises to never step outside ... no matter what horrific activities he might overhear.

Air date: Jan 27th, 2006 // DVD release: July 18th, 2006

The Cast: Derek Cecil, Jon Polito, Jill Morrison
The Master: John McNaughton, director of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, The Borrower, Mad Dog and Glory, and Wild Things

Episode 13: Imprint -- A journalist on a search for his long lost love comes across a 19th-century Japanese brothel, and (unwisely) decides to sample some of the delicacies.

Air date: Did not air on Showtime // DVD release: Fall, 2006

The Cast: Billy Drago, Youki Kudoh, Toshie Negishi
The Master: Takashi Miike, director of Audition, Dead or Alive, Ichi the Killer, Gozu, One Missed Call, Three Extremes, and Izo

DVD release date pattern broken down:
3/28/06 -- John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon
5/9/06 -- Don Coscarelli, Mick Garris
6/27/06 -- John Landis, Lucky McKee
7/18/06 -- Larry Cohen, Joe Dante, John McNaughton
Autumn '06 TBD -- Takashi Miike
TBA -- Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper, William Malone

Oh, and apparently there's a 2-disc Masters of Horror soundtrack CD available, which features tunes from the likes of Mudvayne, Death By Stereo, Avenged Sevenfold, and about 27 other bands my old ass has never heard of.

So if all of the above information is old news to you, I'll ask for your input: Which episodes were the best? Which were the lamest? Are you excited to see the "banned" Miike episode? What's your take on the series as a whole? Do you think 12 bucks per episode is way too much to be asking for the series?

And here's a fun one: Looking forward (yes, there will be a second season of Masters of Horror), what horror-makers would YOU want to see invited to participate? My roster would be full of pretty obvious choices, with a few small favorites tucked in there: Alexandre Aja, Brad Anderson, Danny Boyle, Clive Barker, Tim Burton, Roger Corman, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Brian De Palma, John Dahl, Guillermo del Toro, Fred Dekker, Frank Henenlotter, Peter Jackson, Neil Marshall, Vincenzo Natali, Steve Miner, Bill Paxton, Sam Raimi, Robert Rodroguez, George Romero, Eli Roth, Chuck Russell, Paul Schrader, Jack Sholder, and Brian Yuzna. (Hell, that's enough for two more seasons!)

(Credit where it's due department: Thanks to the following websites for delivering both information and inspiration: FilmFreakCentral, TVShowsonDVD.com, the official Masters of Horror website, and (as always) the indispensable IMDb.)

SEASON 2 UPDATE:Fango reports that the following directors have been added to the MoH S2 roster: Ernest Dickerson (Demon Knight, Bones), Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child's Play, The Temp, Thinner), and Brad Anderson (Session 9, The Machinist). Returning for a second visit will be Dario Argento and John Carpenter.  There's also a Mick Garris interview at About.com in which the producer names John Landis as another returnee. (3/30)
categories Features, Cinematical