Masters of Horror DVD Review: Carpenter & Gordon

Masters of Horror DVD Review: Carpenter & Gordon
Dreams in the Witch-House & Cigarette Burns come to DVD from Anchor Bay.
Updated: 03-27-2006

Coming to disc on March 28, 2006 is the first serving of hot, steaming terror from Showtime's Masters of Horror TV anthology (it aired from October 2005-January 2006). Available either separately or in a 2-pack are the episodes directed by John Carpenter, and Stuart Gordon. The DVDs come with collectible "baseball cards" for each auteur.


These two unrated shockers couldn't be more different from the other, but both are worth a look — and for diehard fans of real horror, you'll want to buy the discs for the commentaries alone.



Dreams in the Witch-House:


Stuart Gordon returns to the Lovecraft well (he's done several adaptations of the famous writers' works, most successfully in 1985 with Re-Animator) for Dreams in the Witch-House, a weird and absorbing story that follows physics student Walter Gilman (Ezra Godden), and his quest for quiet. All he needs is a place to work on his theories without interruption — but when he rents a room in a tumbledown boarding house, he gets anything but peace.


His room is little more than a rat-hole, to put it mildly his neighbors are peculiar, and the noise from rats never stops. Not long after banishing the vermin, poor Walter is suddenly plagued by completely insane and totally nightmarish dreams — namely, rats with human faces who have terrible things to tell him, and a wicked witch who can bend his will to do her evil bidding. Hypnotic, erotic, and bizarre, bloodiness follows and is sure to hook even the casual cthulhu fan (it got me, and I'm not in the least a Lovecraft enthusiast).


Presented in enhanced widescreen, the DVD looks fantastic. Kudos to Anchor Bay for pulling out all the stops in the extras department, too. Perry Martin hosts a commentary with Gordon and Godden, and he also directs the making-of documentary. Keeping the  focus on the director (i.e., the whole Masters of Horror concept), the other featurettes mostly pick his brain and present his take on everything from the history of horror to its incarnations in present day. There is also a mini-featurette on the evil rat, Jenkin Brown, and some behind-the-scenes face-time with the K.N.B. FX crew.


DVD-ROM features include the full screenplay, Lovecraft's entire original story, and a Dreams in the Witch-House screensaver.


  • Audio Commentary with Stuart Gordon and Ezra Godden
  • Behind the Scenes, The Making of Dreams in the Witch House
  • Stuart Gordon, Working with a Master
  • Dreams Darkness and Damnation, an Interview with Stuart Gordon
  • On-Set, Chelah Horsdal (actress)
  • SFX, Meet Brown Jenkin
  • Stuart Gordon Bio
  • Trailers
  • Still & storyboard gallery
  • DVD-ROM: Screenplay, original H.P. Lovecraft story, screensaver



Cigarette Burns:


This gory and creepy — and probably overall best-reviewed — entry in the series is directed by John Carpenter. Easily his best work since 1994's In the Mouth of Madness, this mini-movie does have a similar vibe to that freak-fest… but it's really its own animal.


In Cigarette Burns, a filthy rich cinephile named Bellinger (Udo Kier) is on the hunt for a legendary, lost 30-year-old movie called Le Fin Absolute du Monde; so he secures the services of the best procurer in the business, Kirby Sweetman (Norman Reedus) to find the elusive print.


Before long, both men are haunted by demons of their own the seductive power of Le Fin Absolute du Monde begins to corrupt their immortal souls and detonate bloodbaths that follow them everywhere they go. Through "cigarette burns" (the fleeting marks on film prints that tell a projectionist when it is time to change the reel) the portal to hell is opened.


Dark, deep, and gloriously atmospheric, Cigarette Burns is indeed one of the tops of the Masters of Horror series.


I've listened to several of Carpenter's movie commentary tracks over the years, and have never been disappointed. Direct and candid with a subtle sense of humor, he never fails to entertain and enlighten; this DVD is no exception. It's definitely the crown-jewel in an already rich and robust presentation.


  • Audio Commentary with John Carpenter
  • Audio Commentary with Writers Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan
  • Behind the Scenes, The Making Of Cigarette Burns
  • John Carpenter, Working with a Master
  • Celluloid Apocalypse, an Interview with John Carpenter
  • On-Set, Norman Reedus (actor)
  • John Carpenter Bio
  • Trailers
  • Still & storyboard gallery
  • DVD-ROM: Screenplay, screensaver



See much, much more on Masters of Horror by clicking here.


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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson


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