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Friday, December 3, 2021

“Masters of Horror”: 5 Must-See Episodes to Stream on Screambox Now!

Almost every horror anthology, be it a movie or a TV series, has a gimmick. Some are attached to certain authors for their source material (Roald Dahl’s Tales of the UnexpectedThe Ray Bradbury Theater) while others are holiday-themed (Trick ‘r Treat, Into the Dark). The motifs are numerous. An anthology concept that stands out to this day is the one that defines Showtime’s Masters of Horror. This two-season collection of self-contained stories still haunts fans’ memories.

Masters of Horror, a Mick Garris passion project inspired by a dinner for him and his fellow horror auteurs, had a simple design; every episode was directed by a notable name in the horror genre. Although the series took some liberties in this regard, there were several famous names to draw in viewers — Dario Argento, John CarpenterJoe DanteStuart Gordon, and Tobe Hooper to name a few.

With Masters of Horror now streaming in high-definition on Screambox, now is the perfect time to revisit the series. And these five memorable episodes are a good place to start.


Thanks to the J-horror wave of the 2000s, Takashi Miike was getting recognized more and more outside of Japan. The filmmaker was invited to Masters of Horror after notable acclaim for his existing output, including The Happiness of the Katakuris, Ichi the Killer, and One Missed Call. Although his contribution, “Imprint“, was set to close out the first season, Showtime ended up not airing it due to concerns over its content. Mind you, Masters was already taking full advantage of its license for gore and sex. So the fact that “Imprint” was singled out as too disturbing says something.

In Miike’s episode, set during the 19th century, an American (Billy Drago) visits Japan in search of his lost love, Komomo (Michié). After learning of her passing, another woman recounts a story about the harsh fate that befell Komomo.

After having seen “Imprint”, it’s not hard to understand why Showtime was so wary in the first place; this is the most graphic episode of the entire series. What it lacks in Miike’s typical dark intellect it makes up for in utter shock value and gruesome delights.


Dario Argento needs little introduction, and it was certainly a no-brainer to cast him as a director. Argento, however, didn’t write either of his two entries because the directors didn’t usually have a hand in the scripts. There were of course exceptions to the rule, but handling “Jenifer” on paper was the episode’s very own star, Steven Weber. The story itself is from the mind of Bruce Jones.

In “Jenifer”, a disaffected cop (Weber) happens upon a man trying to kill the episode’s namesake (Carrie Anne Fleming). He saves her only to then discover she isn’t like any other woman he’s ever met. The cop soon falls under Jenifer’s spell and starts to craves her touch. Unfortunately for him and those who come in contact, Jenifer also has her own unique cravings.

Even though Argento didn’t write this, he injects as much of his directorial style as possible. “Jenifer” still ends up being a compelling if not mysterious tale of misogyny and obsession. It’s a depraved story with a lot of bite.

Sick Girl

At the time, Lucky McKee wasn’t so recognizable. He had previously helmed the exceptional movie May, but other than that, McKee came to Masters with little horror under his belt. Knowing that, “Sick Girl” wound up being a favorite for many of the series’ fans.

In “Sick Girl”, an awkward entomologist (Angela Bettis) starts dating an eccentric artist (Erin Brown). At first Bettis’ character fears her career in bugs will scare her date away, but the revelation only causes the opposite reaction. At the same time, someone has directly delivered a rare — and very dangerous — specimen that will put the women’s new relationship to the test.

Queer horror was not very common to see back when “Sick Girl” first aired, but this episode was a breath of fresh air. Of all the stories, this one has plenty of room for critical analysis. For example, homophobia pops up in the form of a curmudgeonly neighbor whose evident dislike of the lesbian protagonists is filtered through an intense aversion to insects. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot to dissect here.

Cigarette Burns

John Carpenter‘s first episode is deemed one of the series’ absolute best. The story touches on a favorable subject in horror; cursed objects. In this case, the ill-fated item is a film.

According to lore, the sought after movie in “Cigarette Burns” was screened only once because it drove audiences to fits of violence. Norman Reedus‘ character is then hired by a cinephile, played by Udo Kier, to track down the missing film. His doing so only leads him down a path of no return.

As with Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, “Cigarette Burns” imagines what might happen if someone’s work of art is so dangerously influential. There are caveats to consider when assessing this episode, but the minds at work have tapped into something both unsettling and insightful about why film matters so much to us.

Sounds Like

Brad Anderson might not be the first name to come to mind when recalling masters of horror, but his movie Session 9 has a large following. That achievement in suspense alone is likely why he was enlisted for the second season. And “Sounds Like” feels like an anomaly when put up against the other episodes.

In “Sounds Like”, a father and husband (Chris Bauer) drowns himself in work to avoid thinking about his grief. He also has an uncanny ability after losing his son; he has a heightened sense of hearing. In time, though, the racket in his head becomes too much and he must find a way to quell the noise.

Upon its original release, “Sounds Like” was dismissed as not scary. The truth is, Anderson’s episode really has more in common with something from The Twilight Zone than it does Masters. The horror climate has changed a lot since the series was on the air, so audiences today might better appreciate this unusual and rather sad story about grief.

If you like these episodes, check out the rest of Masters of Horror on Streambox.

Subscriptions include unlimited movies and shows, with no ads: Month to month pricing is $4.99, while you can get discounted rates at 3 months ($11.99) or one year ($39.99).

Sign up for Screambox here and become a premium subscriber!


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