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Harris Telemacher Reviews JENIFER, Dario Argento's MASTERS OF HORROR Episode!!

Published at: Nov. 5, 2005, 11:22 a.m. CST

I am – Hercules!!

The wacky weatherman calls the plot silly, but it doesn’t matter “because the approach to the material is so good and so unexpected.”

Hello, saw the interest in Masters of Horror at Coax and thought I'd share my thoughts on the Dario Argento episode "Jenifer", which I saw tonight instead of the Gordon piece (which i really wanted to see). I was out when it aired, so I watched it On Demand when I got home. Somehow, I didn't get Witch House unlocked, I got Jenifer. I don't know if everyone with On Demand can watch it as well, or for how long, or what the deal is. For all I know, the Gordon one didn't air and everyone saw the Argento piece, but it feels like a mistake, so I thought I'd run the risk of being redundant and give you my opinion.

I am a big horror movie fan, and it therefore pains me to admit I have ony seen the second half of Suspiria and no other Argento anything. I know his reputation, but despite knowing I would probably really dig him, I haven't taken the initiative to watch anything he made. I see now I am pretty much gonna have to watch as much as I can find, becase, goddamn, he made one fucked up little film here.

On the Showtime website, the description makes it sound like some sort of Body Heat/femme fatale thing, with a supernatural twist. Not quite. It's more like the Jodie Foster movie Nell directed by Satan. The basic plot is this: A cop played by Steven Weber sees a man dragging a woman in the woods by rope while brandishing a butcher knife. Weber saves her by shooting the killer (who lingers, and gets to scream "You don't know what she is!" before expiring), only to discover she is hideously deformed, and mute. Argento doesn't let us see what's wrong with her face for a little while, giving just tantalizing glimpses off eyes that are too big and too deep, or fucked up teeth, and this is effective. It sets up some pretty high expectations. The makeup, when you finally see it, looks kind of like makeup, but this is not to say it isn't a creepy and unsettling design. I'm getting ahead of myself. Weber becomes fixated on this "poor retarded woman" and allows his desire to protect (and fuck) her control (and ruin) his life.

That's the short version. The truth is, the plot is fairly silly, with a weak narrative that kind of fails with one central conceit. The woman looks like a fucking demon, and yet the Weber character is obsessed with her above all other things. Some attention is given to a cut she gives him at the rescue, and I guess the inference is that he is now cursed to protect her or something, but that is inconsistant as well. The alternative is that he's simply the stupidest idiot on the face of the earth. I mean, she is CLEARLY not just retarded. She has enormous black demon eyes, for christ's sake. She looks about as human as Pumpkinhead. Eventually, we kind of just assume he's cursed, as the alternative would be a deal breaker. That's about the twenty-five minute mark.

However--none of that matters ultimately, because the approach to the material is so good and so unexpected. It's scary. It's very unpleasant. Horrific violence springs forth out of nowhere. Every time you think Argento wouldn't do something, he does, as graphically as possible. It may be the recent glut of PG-13 horror films out there, but the willingness to just pour the buckets of blood really stands out here. There are lots of intestines. There's about six or so red money shots. I think I know where the excised penis bit referred to in your recent MoH coverage would have gone, and if it was meant to go where I think it was, it would have been quite the coup-de-gras, making an already horrific moment damn nea unbearable. Speaking of which, there is also a whole lot of sex, shot graphically, like you might see in porn. Except the nudity is that unsettling and uncomfortable kind, like Jennifer Connelly in Requiem For a Dream, perhaps, in that Jenifer might have a killer body, but she retains her retarded gargoyle's face. And worse. The actress playing Jenifer is pretty good too, creating a fairly believable feral creature, and Weber is surpisingly decent, especially considering the character's lack of development. The score is great, with a scary singing child theme song, and weird electronica in some scenes. And even though the plot is odd and meandering, it isn't predictable.

Well, until the end. The end is disappointing, as it is EXACTLY, down to the last word, what I guessed it would be from the beginning. And in addition, it's completely at logical odds with the entire episode up until that point. It's a typical Tales From the Crypt ending, and if you are even a slight fan of the genre, you'll see it coming. So know now that Argento isn't going to blow your minds with the last 60 seconds and enjoy the weird and nonsensical turns, the sex, the gore, and the craftsmanship, because what this episode ultimately does is display a director doing everything he can to get under your skin, and in this, he succeeds. What I remember of Suspiria-from the blood to the performances to the music, feels very much like the same artist. I'm loving MoH so far. Can't wait for the next one (and Witch House, damn it).

Call me Harris K Telemacher, if you use this.







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Readers Talkback

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  • Nov. 5, 2005, 11:40 a.m. CST

    ..

    by jaxnnux

    First suckers. HAHAHA. Greatest. Day . Ever.

  • Nov. 5, 2005, 11:55 a.m. CST

    Disturbing

    by Brendon

    I would like a look at this makeup. Sounds hideous.

  • Nov. 5, 2005, 11:56 a.m. CST

    i think the episode last night was well done, but not at all sca

    by Holodigm

    my friend wouldn't stop laughing at the rat. as for jenifer, i'm eager to see it, but my money on the ending is that someone kills weber as he's trying to kill her, just like the beginning. we already saw that in the coscarelli one, so here's to me being so so wrong.

  • Nov. 5, 2005, 12:01 p.m. CST

    But does it have TITTIES?!?!?!?!

    by Nate Champion

    Don't hold back now... give it to me straight!

  • Nov. 5, 2005, 12:07 p.m. CST

    I LOVED the Coscarelli ep.

    by white owl

    When the chick finally gets away from Moonface and is into the free, and she pops open her trunk and POW comes to twist. I loved it, drilling the eyeballs out and everything. It's the only MoH ep. I've seen so far, but I can already say it's one of my favorites. IF that counts for anything.

  • Nov. 5, 2005, 12:25 p.m. CST

    A typical Tales From The Crypt ending?

    by DerLanghaarige

    I remember that most of the TFTC episodes had a great and mostly unexpected ending. Or at least it was evil enough to make you grin.

  • Nov. 5, 2005, 12:34 p.m. CST

    Suspiria

    by The_Bat

    Can anyone tell me why this movie is considered a masterpiece? I saw it during my Horror movie marathon and was puzzeled. The music and the look of the film is cool, but it is really dull. Or am I missing something.

  • Nov. 5, 2005, 12:36 p.m. CST

    I guess it depends on whether it takes itself too seriously or n

    by Citizen Arcane

    Tales From the Crypt was usually silly but it meant to be. There's nothing sadder than unintentional humor.

  • Nov. 5, 2005, 1:40 p.m. CST

    A warren Comics Story?

    by kaiju

    I'm almost 100% sure I read this story years ago in one of the Warren mags--CREEPY or EERIE, I think. I also have a distinct memory of it looking like a Bernie Wrightson story and being pretty damn disturbing. A pretty good anthology could be made from the very best of the Warren mags.

  • Nov. 5, 2005, 1:48 p.m. CST

    Funny how some things are the last to go

    by kaiju

    I can't remember the names of students I taught last semester but I can recal details from a decades old comic book story. Oh well. Thanks Prior Walter.

  • Nov. 5, 2005, 3:43 p.m. CST

    I remember the name of the little hottie with the big rack I tau

    by white owl

    she's my mistress now.

  • Nov. 5, 2005, 5:43 p.m. CST

    Creepy #63

    by Bald Evil

    The story 'Jenifer' first appeared in Creepy #63, written by Bruce Jones, illustrated by Bernie Wrightson. I have this in a reprint collection of many of Berni's older works. This story is very eerie, very unsettling to read, and it was drawn by Wrightson at his best; I remember it vividly today even though I haven't read it in at least 15 years. I'm interested to see how closely the makeup in the filmed version matches the visage of the comic book Jenifer. The combination of her grotesque face and shapely body is unforgettable. In the story, it is made clear that Jenifer exerts some sort of power over the narrator, although he doesn't understand this fully until the very end. My own take on it was that she's a peculiar sort of psychic vampire. One way or another, it is a spooky story, and well worth getting hold of if you can find it.

  • Nov. 5, 2005, 7:09 p.m. CST

    Jenifer and Tales from the Crypt

    by HarrisTelemacher

    I only mentioned Tales From the Crypt because I have been watching the Season 2 DVD just released and it's instantly pretty obvious they haven't aged well. Sure, some are still pretty cool-I have a real soft spot for the Morton Downey Jr. one in a haunted house-but for the majority, the final destination is painfully obvious. Almost every single one has some form of ironic punishment foreshadowed obviously early on. If you see something dangerous-a patch of quicksand, a crossbow, etc., you know it will play a role in the last five minutes. And a lot of the stories are variations on the same love triangle plot line. Granted, a couple endings are so incredibly out of the blue and goofy you wouldn't see them coming-the orphan boy turns into a werewolf and attacks his vampire parents ending comes to mind-but they are definately the exception rather than the rule. But just to be safe, I should have said a BAD Tales from the Crypt ending, not a typical one. Also, watching Crypt makes me aware of how strong MoH is so far. Even though it's pretty flawed, I found Jenifer effective as hell, and scarier than Coscarelli's piece, which I really liked. If they say at this level, here's hoping for more seasons.

  • Nov. 5, 2005, 11:48 p.m. CST

    Jenifer boring

    by Media Fiend

    Watched it on demand (Showtime knuckleheads) and the best thing I can say is that it was more coherent than most Argento. I realize strong storytelling is not what got Argento his fans, which is why I don't number among them, but even here with a straightforward tale to tell I see nothing exemplary about his work. Also I was really disappointed with the face makeup, very rubbery and cheap looking. Not up to the previous installments work, or Nicotero in general. All in all I could have skipped this one and not minded a bit.

  • Nov. 6, 2005, 3:41 a.m. CST

    Any torrent for Jenifer

    by Biko Salamar

    huge Argento fan needs your help!Please!

  • Nov. 6, 2005, 8:20 a.m. CST

    Biko Salamar

    by MunkiNutz

    Its at Mininova.org

  • Nov. 6, 2005, 8:21 a.m. CST

    Oops

    by MunkiNutz

    No its not. Only the 1st two are

  • Nov. 6, 2005, 11:07 a.m. CST

    WTF!

    by Josh Town

    They still haven't put up the second episode On Demand here in Philly....

  • Nov. 6, 2005, 12:56 p.m. CST

    The Stuart Gordon one was decent, better than last week's, b

    by chickychow

    The music ruined alot of it, so many scenes would've been creeppier if they had gotten rid of that shitty Richard Band score... but it was atmospheric and entertaining - I'm still waitin for a director I care about, like Carpenter, Dante, Romero, Argento...

  • Nov. 6, 2005, 5:34 p.m. CST

    It was a great episode, you're all just sugared up twentysom

    by matersuspiriorum

    The first MOH was pretty good, and the second one was even better. The pace of the story and the building of the weirdness was great. I was thorougly entertained, and a little creeped out, which is saying something because I am very rarely actually 'scared' by any movie or short. I saw the panel at the Fangoria convention in NJ and had a chance to talk with Mick Garris and John Landis after, and I'm happy that a group of great filmmakers got together to try and bring back what was good in horror - which doesn't necessarily mean ripping off anything or keeping up with the trends (thank god). No, it's about returning to some basic ideas and themes that have recurred in 'scary stories' through different cultures and throughout time. I can't wait to see D. Argento's piece. He is truly a master. I'm glad they're going ahead with a second season. And anyone who thinks it's lame, well, you don't have to watch it now, do you? You can simply retreat to your Buffy DVDs and bask in the pseudointellectual predictableness of M. Night's stuff. Have fun - the MOH series wasn't made for you anyway.

  • I guess I don't mind waiting a few days for it to turn up!

  • Nov. 6, 2005, 8:37 p.m. CST

    Prior...

    by matersuspiriorum

    I was talking about episode 2...jumping ahead in my anticipation to Dario's later on.

  • Nov. 6, 2005, 10:44 p.m. CST

    matersuspiriorum you rule dude...

    by indiephantom

    agree with you on this fantastic show and I'm thrilled it's already confirmed for a second season. Looking forward to the Tobe Hooper episode this week.

  • I love Stuart Gordon but his ep didn't do jack for me (but then again I thought Dagon was pretty weak too). The Phantasm guy hasn't done anything in 2 and a half decades I've cared for, so here's hoping later eps will be better. I'm still rooting for Mori and JC's episode.

  • Nov. 7, 2005, 6:36 a.m. CST

    Wash, why are you surprised?

    by Trazadone

    When was the last time any of these guys did anything of quality/value? We flock to their names like the guy who keeps re-living his high school football glory days.

  • Nov. 7, 2005, 7:51 a.m. CST

    We just wish that they'd show the bloody thing here in the U

    by Charlie & Tex

    ...as it would be cool to see more Argento, even if (cinematically speaking) his best years are behind him. Whatever his next project is, it WON'T be The Third Mother, as we had it this confirmed recently by a VERY reliable source. To spill the beans would mean a gruesome death...

  • Nov. 7, 2005, 8:45 a.m. CST

    "The Phantasm guy"...!!!!!!!!!

    by matersuspiriorum

    1. His name is Don Coscarelli. 2. Two and a half decades? I think not. Don't tell me you didn't care for a little flick called Bubba Ho-tep?!?!?!? And that you're not anticipating Bubba Nosferatu? Come on guys!

  • Nov. 7, 2005, 10:12 a.m. CST

    Hey Charlie & Tex...

    by mikewilliamson

    The Third Mother is his next project. Script is being written right now. It shoots early 2006. Your source is misinformed.

  • Nov. 7, 2005, 1:17 p.m. CST

    Sorry, but Coscarelli ain't no master of horror...

    by chickychow

    Bubba Ho Tep was funny here and there but was it "good?" No, pretty shoddily made for the most part. Could care less about the sequel. None of the Phantasm movies are worth much of a damn, if anything the 3rd one was the best... ish... So i didn't have much invested in his ep and wasn't surprised when it stunk. Can't really base the series on these past two eps since I'm not a fan of either director, but I am lookin forward to more than a few future eps, and am still happy as hell the series exists. (heard they're already planning season 2.)

  • Nov. 7, 2005, 2:22 p.m. CST

    matersuspiriorum

    by wash

    Bubba Ho-Tep blew. And I love Bruce Campbell as much as anyone. It was a great idea, but the execution was just poor. <-> "Phantasm" guy because I can&#39;t really think of anything else worthwhile (IMO) he&#39;s done. <-> Trazadone, I hear ya. The Golden Years of 80&#39;s horror is long gone, and "the old masters" aren&#39;t really capable anymore. At least Cronenberg can make a decent flick these days.

  • Nov. 7, 2005, 5:59 p.m. CST

    Plot is everything?? What about character, atmosphere, style??

    by indiephantom

    I understand what you&#39;re saying that a good story can supercede bad effects. But fuck Josh Whedon. I was a Buffy fan, and to be honest, his episodes were often the worst...and there is absolutely no excuse for the boredom induced by "Firefly" and "Angel"...they were all PLOT and no personality. Oh, and "Masters of Horror" is going to a second season. Take that Browncoat!

  • Nov. 7, 2005, 9:06 p.m. CST

    right on indiephantom!

    by matersuspiriorum

    These kids nowadays, they just don&#39;t get it. *sigh*

  • Nov. 7, 2005, 10:28 p.m. CST

    Hey buddy, give me back my fucking name!

    by hktelemacher

    I know I only come around on the TBs once in a blue moon nowadays, but I was waxing the wiggy weekend weather on here while you were still doing something else with more alliterative W&#39;s in it. A little close for comfort there, pally. There are plenty of other classic Martin names - pillage the Navin Johnsons and Rigby Reardons if you must. That, and I&#39;m a big Argento-head. Name me one thing he&#39;s done where the plot isn&#39;t silly! I defy you! And that&#39;s the weather.

  • Nov. 7, 2005, 10:34 p.m. CST

    Joss vs all other artists

    by HarrisTelemacher

    OK, you&#39;re trolling, but I&#39;ll bite. By your own admission, it was scary and well made. That was all I said in my review. I said the plot was bad. Everyone who saw it agreed with me on the bad plot. Now, I happen to love Buffy, and I definately like Angel and Firefly. I&#39;ve seen all the episodes (on DVD, I grant you), because I like the characters and plot. In fact, THEY&#39;RE BETTER THAN JENIFER. But there isn&#39;t one episode scarier than Jenifer. Not even close. Not Hush. None of them. Cause it wasn&#39;t a horror show. None of them were scary. So what do they have to do with Masters of Horror? And plot is damn important, but if plot is the only important thing to you, read a book. Film is a visual medium and to ignore everything that isn&#39;t plot is to deny great works of art that weren&#39;t even coherent, like Brazil, for example. I contend that Jenifer, apparently like all other Argento works (which I haven&#39;t seen), is more concerned with being creepy and upsetting than telling a story. And if it succeeds in that, isn&#39;t that somehow worthwhile too?

  • Nov. 7, 2005, 10:39 p.m. CST

    Whoa, Sorry

    by HarrisTelemacher

    I had no idea there was another wacky weatherman here. I thought I alone knew how f&#39;n great that movie was. Maybe I will change, when I&#39;m not in this thread. Also, I ain&#39;t seen any other Argento, but I really liked the episode.

  • Nov. 8, 2005, 4:37 a.m. CST

    Jenifer

    by optimus122

    Where us this episode? Its not on showtime on demand yet though I see peeps saying its there..are you all bit torrenting it? I want to check it out.

  • Nov. 8, 2005, 11:56 a.m. CST

    HarrisTelemacher

    by hktelemacher

    It&#39;s no biggie, bro. Keep the handle. Do right by it. There&#39;s enough room on this site for two tributes to Steve&#39;s best. It&#39;s a refreshing relief to know there&#39;s someone else out there with taste as good as mine. Good review, by the way. Last month was really the one to get acquainted with Argento, it being Halloween and all. If you&#39;re interested: If you can get past the fact that the plots are paper thin, but the stories are cool (and there is a distinction) - Argento&#39;s visuals, mood, atmosphere - all top notch. Suspiria, Inferno, Deep Red, Opera, Phenomena (all uncut of course) are the cream of the crop. I&#39;ve always just found something special about Argento - his flicks have a vibe unlike anything else. If you can get past the dubbing and the dirty, chase your tail plotting there&#39;s a goldmine of pure surreal fairy tale greatness to be tapped. Cheers.

  • Nov. 8, 2005, 1:01 p.m. CST

    argento...

    by havocSchultz

    one to add to the above mentioned argento classics... tenebrae... also - brilliantly done - and nice and excessive... i discovered argento a couple of years ago - i bought a couple of 2 disc "argento collection" dvd&#39;s that had inferno, phenomena, deep red, and tenebrae on them - then bought 2 disc suspiria and the opera disc... i spent a whole weekend watching all these for the first time with a nice lil baggie of canada&#39;s best herb and was completely and utterly blown away... it ends up being a little much to go through for an entire weekend... and alas... most i haven&#39;t watched since... in my opinion, the weakest of that bunch are phenoma and inferno... opera dragged a bit - but that could just be because it was the last one i watched of them (have to do them all chronologically of course) - but i do remember some amazing shots/visuals from opera - and the keyhole scene is just completely brilliant... no matter what argento has done since... these 6 movies make him a master of horror... and in my opinion... one of the greatest masters... plot and story-telling problems aside... he builds tension and atmosphere with the best of them... and his killer pov&#39;s are always compelling... especially for the fact that he always used his own hands for the murder scenes... sick bastard... :) gotta give props where props is due... and he is one of my biggest horror inspirations when it comes to writing/directing and trying to set up a scene just a "little differently"... and for the most part - is use of music is always interesting and compelling... goblin rocks in suspiria... suits that movie to a tee... cannot wait for jenifer... arguably - one of my most anticipated MoH episodes... whenever i can get the damn SCREAM network hooked here in the north... damn free cable - it never gives you the channels you really need... take care... wreak it well... havoc out...

  • Nov. 8, 2005, 5:24 p.m. CST

    ummm...yeah

    by havocSchultz

    ya... school of rock better than apocalypse now... did u choke on your browncoat and lose too much oxygen to the brain... and besides... the most frightening thing whedon ever did was the original buffy movie... but maybe that&#39;s just because anything with luke perry terrifies me... and don&#39;t get me wrong... i am a huge buffy fan... and i think the body was brilliant... but honestly... the only reason serenity will talked about 50 years from now is because people will still find it un-fathomable that a a small group of hardcore zealots think it is the second coming of movies... please... don&#39;t ruin an actually pretty good movie - like serenity - and quite a talented writer - like whedon - by saying it - and him - are the complete be all and end all of movies - cause unfortunately - it will just cause you to hate every other single thing that ever gets released... and besides - what&#39;s with the school of rock love - i didn&#39;t think whedon had anything to do with it... :) oh well... whatever... take care... wreak it well... havoc out...

  • Nov. 8, 2005, 7:50 p.m. CST

    ok, serenityfan, settle dawn nah!

    by matersuspiriorum

    Psychological horror=Argento. There is no need even for real dialogue to exist for horror to happen (see Nosferatu). Plot and dialogue are a good way to have your subconscious mind distracted by your everyday cognitive functions. Other aspects of a movie, including sight and sound, are far more important, IMO, in creating atmosphere and laying the groundwork for what horror is all about...which is you sitting there watching a movie realizing all of a sudden that your mind has been given over to the whim of the moviemaker - you are thinking things that he/she didn&#39;t put DIRECTLY into your head (such as plot, dialogue), but things that have stirred in your unconscious mind, long forgotten or perhaps just lurking under the surface. The seedy underbelly of the collective consciousness. True horror movie makers are Jungian carnival sideshow mirrors - they force us to see ourselves and confront our deepest selves in ways we don&#39;t normally consider possible. And that&#39;s what the experience should be all about. Forget distracting words and bothersome plot, give me a director who will pull at my mind like so much taffy and leave me feeling unsettled. But of course, you have to be open to this experience in the first place. Give it a try, you might like it!!

  • Nov. 8, 2005, 7:51 p.m. CST

    I meant "simmer dawn nah"

    by matersuspiriorum

  • Nov. 9, 2005, 12:04 a.m. CST

    School of Rock, eh?

    by HarrisTelemacher

    Now, to be fair, when I was young, say thirteen or so, and I first saw Apocalypse Now, I didn&#39;t truly appreciate what made it a piece of art. It requires a certain maturity. It&#39;s also a hell of a lot scarier than Buffy ever was, even the Body episode, which wasn&#39;t scary. I remember one time I tried to argue the remake of The Shining was scarier than the original, because the horrors of alcoholism hit closer to home than Kubrick&#39;s monsters. Man, do I feel stupid remembering that point of view. I was only fifteen or something. I was trying to be clever. Same thing here.