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Masters of Horror: The V Word

Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // December 11, 2007
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted January 10, 2008 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

This is another one of those entries in Showtime's Masters Of Horror series that makes you wonder what exactly executive producer Mick Garris' criteria is for one to be considered a 'master.' The director chosen this time around is none other than Earnest Dickerson, a name rarely associated with the genre. That said, while Dickerson's one notable horror movie entry, Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight is a lot of fun, it's a singular credit. Is that enough to make one a master? The proof is in the pudding...

Two nerdy video game fanatics, Kerry (Arjay Smith) and Justin (Branden Nadon), love violent games. When they decide to experience a little bit of the reality of death on their own, they wind up breaking into a local mortuary late at night to sneak a peek at a real dead body. Unfortunately for them, not too long after they've made their way into the building they're busted by the owner, Mr. Chaney (Michael Ironside), who just so happens to be a vampire who hasn't had anything to eat in quite some time.

Dickerson doesn't have a whole lot of theatrical credits to his name but he has found much success working as a television director and he's worked on some solid shows such as The Wire and the critically acclaimed Heroes. Oddly enough, he worked on the second unit for Romero's Day Of The Dead and also worked on Bruce Springsteen's video for Born In The USA! To call his resume eclectic is an understatement but there's no denying that the man does know what he's doing. It's to Dickerson's credit that despite the weaknesses in Garris' script, The V Word is a well directed film. It moves at a good pace, it looks really good despite the fact that almost all of it takes place in the dark, and it is a fairly well acted piece. The film builds quite nicely and, for the first thirty minutes or so, looks like it could turn out to be not only interesting, but genuinely creepy as well. Unfortunately, Garris' script is fairly predictable and as such, it doesn't have enough suspense to really pull us in. We know where it's going pretty early on and if the script isn't really derivative, there's enough familiarity here to keep us from sitting on the edge of our seats and it doesn't bring anything new to the table.

That said, The V Word is worth a watch. Michael Ironside is his usual interesting self here and he steals each of the scenes he appears in. The gore effects are plentiful and very well done and this is definitely a much gorier vampire film than your average bloodsucker opus. The cinematography is solid and the movie is certainly very accomplished on a technical level. This doesn't add up to be enough to completely compensate for the story weaknesses but it does come close and while this entry should have been great (it isn't) it is at least entertaining and interesting despite its flaws.



The V Word is, like every episode in the series so far, presented in an anamorphic 1.78.1 widescreen transfer. Overall this is a strong transfer as color reproduction is good, and detail levels are strong. Black levels are strong, which is definitely an asset, as much of the film is quite dark and takes place at night. A little bit of edge enhancement and some aliasing is present, but thankfully it's minor and doesn't detract much from the picture.


Audio options are available in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound or in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, both in the movie's native English language. The 5.1 mix is the stronger of the pair as it does a better job of bringing the entire production to life by throwing the sounds that make up this mix around the room. Surrounds are used very effectively to bring a few of the key scenes in the film to life and it's nice to see that, once again, some obvious care and consideration was put into the mix on this disc.


First up is a commentary track from director Earnest Dickerson and writer/producer Mick Garris. The two participants play off of one another well and this turns out to be a pretty interesting talk. Dickerson talks about how he had his cinematographer sit down and watch Bava's The Whip And The Body so that he'd know what kind of look he was after, while Garris talks about how he wanted to put the sex aside and write something that he felt would be pure horror. The talk about some of the revisions that the script went through and how initially it had far less dialogue and the also talk about some of the paternal themes that the story touches upon. Dickerson also mentions other influences, from Audition to the original The Phantom Of The Opera, Nosferatu and Dracula (which plays on a TV in the show), indicating that even if he doesn't have that many horror film credits to his name, he does indeed know his stuff.

Feeding Frenzy: The Making Of The V Word (13:59) is a featurette that takes us behind the scenes of the production and treats us to some interviews with the cast and crew of the movie. There's a lot of on set footage showing the cast in make up and the crew hard at work, as well as some sound bites from those involved in the production to put it all into context. The cast talk fondly about director Earnest Dickerson, who let them try things their way, and we learn about a few of the changes that happened to the script on the fly while the movie was being shot. Michael Ironside does an interview, in full make up, and we see some interesting test footage for his character. All in all, the featurette is a little too self congratulatory but at least it is fairly in depth and it does contain some solid BTS material and gives us a better understanding of the film.

Bite Me: Mastering The Neck Wound (6:00) starts off with some pertinent clips from the feature showcasing the gore effects before allowing some of the effects technicians to tell us how they did what they did. It's interesting to see how they decided that the vampires in the film wouldn't bite so much as they would tear into things in a much more animalistic fashion. We learn how latex molds were made and how computers were used to fill in the effects shots to make them look more complete.

Rounding out the extra features is a still gallery of behind the scenes photographs, trailers for other episodes of Masters Of Horror, the movie's script in PDF format for those who happen to be DVD-Rom equipped, animated menus and chapter stops. As usual, there's an insert inside the case which features the cover art on one side and the chapter listing on the other, and the keepcase fits inside a slick cardboard slipcase that features identical cover art.

Final Thoughts:

The V Word falls in the middle as far as quality goes in comparison to other episodes of The Masters Of Horror series. It isn't terrible, but it isn't a classic. The film does put a fairly unique spin on the tired vampire mythos and the gore effects are plentiful and really well done, but the story is a bit too predictable and the performances aren't inspired enough to save it. Put this one in the 'nice try' category and give it a rental.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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