I have reviewed episodes from a few different anthology series for the Terror TV section. To be fair it has been mostly “Tales from the Crypt” but you know my love for that series. However the one series I never got around to was Showtime’s “Masters of Horror.” It’s time to change that and what better episode to do that with then The Black Cat. Directed by Stuart Gordon of “Re-Animator” and “From Beyond” fame it is hands down the best episode from the second season.
The episode takes its title from the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name. For those unfamiliar it’s about a man who is haunted by a black cat. The haunting is so bad he accidentally murders his wife, hides the body in a stone wall and is driven made with guilt. However this episode is not just a cut and paste adaptation of the story. Edgar Allan Poe is now the main character and many of his real life issues are incorporated into the plot: such as his alcoholism, his editors favoring his horror stories instead of his love poetry and underpaying him to the point of poverty as well as the ailing health of his beloved wife driving him into depression. As much as we take a look into Poe’s life we also slowly see him driven mad by the titular feline.
What you find in this episode is a perfect mix of docudrama and horror. If you are a fan of Poe’s work then you will be head over heels in love with how accurate to his life it is. It also portrays Poe’s descent into madness really well. While there is only one really gory moment in the film it is one of the nastiest, goriest death scenes I have ever seen. If you have read the Poe story then you know what scene I am talking about and Stuart Gordon does not pull any punches with this sequence. Gordon’s use of color in the episode is worth praising as well, the almost but not quite sepia tone look to the whole thing combined with the brightness of the blood and the darkness of the cats eyes. Lastly, you have veteran genre actor Jeffry Combs playing Poe. He plays the role with such believability that you will be convinced that any movie about Poe should have him in the role. He blows John Cusack from “The Raven” out of the water.
If you are looking to get into “Masters of Horror” this would be a great place to start. Check this episode out.
-James J. Coker