First, I'd like to open up this discussion of Don Coscarelli's Incident On and Off a Mountain Road by pointing out how much I like the Masters of Horror title sequence. It's been a while since I've watched any MoH episodes, so I had forgotten how much I missed that blood drop opening. Sure, it's full of some generic images of pain and anguish, but I dig the music and it's a nice reminder that this is an anthology horror television show. As for the actual episode, I still think it holds up as an energetic, slightly creepy tale even after having seen it several times over the years. I don't think it's flawless, though.

One of the reasons I find myself such a big fan of Coscarelli's adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale's short story of the same name isn't the actual story, but the method in which it is told. As a straight-forward narrative, this is just a familiar yarn about a damsel in distress (Bree Turner) in the mountains who fights back against the freak of nature (John DeSantis) who has kidnapped her. However, the heavy and consistent use of flashbacks is what really makes it work beyond that simple set up.

Sure, this format is hardly novel. The TV world is rife with episodes that construct themselves around flashbacks, but most of them use it as a "how did we get here?" gimmick and only flash back a day or so prior. Incident, on the other hand, uses it to A) tell two damsel in distress stories at the same time and B) efficiently convey that Ellen has the means and mindset (but not necessarily the experience) to be doing things like setting up booby traps.

Plus, the flashbacks give us a chance to see Ethan Embry playing creepy for once. I've always found him to be an interesting and underused actor, so it's nice to finally see him playing outside of the lighthearted, comedic roles he's usually confined to. Turns out, the dude from Can't Hardly Wait can be just as creepy as a muscular giant whose face is as pale as the moon. Who knew?

Not all of the roles in Incident are worthwhile, though. It pains me to say it, but I wish Angus Scrimm wasn't in the episode. Oh, he does a fine job in his role as the weird old man who lives in Moonface's basement, but I just can't stand the character. His presence is tonally incongruous with the rest of the story; no surprise there considering he wasn't in Lansdale's original story. Sure, it's not a super-serious, high drama to begin with, but its darker corners become a little too illuminated once Scrimm's old man starts dancing a jig and squealing with excitement; kind of robs the weight of such excellent use of that blood-coated drill press.

And then there's the revelation at the end of the episode, which I love. Not because I think it's actually a brilliant bit of twist scripting, but because it so snugly fits into what I like about anthology horror television. To me, an entry into a horror anthology should have a good hook, a good character, and a good twist. They're supposed to be the embodiment of the campfire story; fun, efficient and out with a bang.

Maybe I'm the only one feels that way, though, which is why I've got a few questions. If you've read Lansdale's story, do you think this is a good adaptation of it? Is Angus Scrimm's character as obnoxious to you as it is to me? How would you rank this episode among the other Masters of Horror episodes? And, lastly, would you watch a Moonface spin-off?
categories Features, Horror