To celebrate horror on television, I’m looking back at 31 tales from various anthology series. They’re the ones I vividly remember or respond to the most. No matter what, though, they are proof that horror and suspense aren’t limited to the big screen.
With a title like Masters of Horror, you anticipate great things. In hindsight, however, the series didn’t live up to its own hype and not too many people are willing to admit that. It’s disappointing that even with a roster of genre storytellers like John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, and Tobe Hooper, the end results left much to be desired.
The series did have some standouts; this often happened in episodes directed by people who weren’t quite “masters” of the genre. Mick Garris sought out up-and-coming or less iconic directors who incidentally brought with them a fresh perspective. Case in point: Season Two included “Sounds Like,” an episode written and directed by Brad Anderson. Best known among horror fans for Session 9, his entry is notable for being more psychological.
Chris Bauer plays Larry Pearce, a man whose job is supervising the calls between customers and tech support. He’s developed a sensitive ear that lets him anticipate problems at work before they rise. Larry has also developed a reputation for being strange since he came to work the day after his son’s death. This also ties into his heightened sense of hearing that is slowly driving him insane.
Other Masters of Horror directors took advantage of Showtime’s relaxed standards so they often inserted copious amounts of gore to pad the time. Anderson instead takes the scenic route, and the results are unlike anything else in the entire series. The insidious buildup alone makes “Sounds Like” unique amid all its peers. It’s a slow and steady descent into madness as Larry’s supernatural hearing takes over. The slightest sounds trigger him beyond belief, and he’ll do anything to quiet them.
The episode is relatively scanty when it comes to blood and viscera, too. There is one moment involving a den of baby mice where the violence is implied rather than shown. Despite not seeing Larry do the unspeakable to those innocent creatures, this scene somehow shocks viewers more than anything in the actually graphic episodes.
Although Masters of Horror doesn’t completely earn its name in terms of quality, it did boast a variety of talent and perspectives. The series often fell short of expectations, but there’s no denying some episodes helped cushion that fall.