Friday, June 1, 2007

Masters of Horror - Right to Die (2007)

Do you remember those crime shows on TV like CSI or Law and Order that advertised most of their sensational stories as having been “ripped from the headlines…”? Well, it seems that nowadays the Masters of Horror series has turned to this technique. Episodes like Homecoming and Pro-Life dealt with such real life issues of the Iraq War and abortion, each with their own horrific take on the subject. Right to Die, like these earlier episodes, will feel very familiar to most viewers as it echoes the controversial case of Terry Schiavo. While the tale, directed by Wrong Turn’s Rob Schmidt and scribed by Graveyard Shift writer John Esposito, begins by borrowing heavily from the famous case, it doesn’t ever get too entrenched in the true story and packs its own distinctive punch.

Dentist Cliff (Martin Donovan) and his beautiful wife Abbey (Julia Anderson) are driving late one night on a dark rural road. Things are tense, as Abbey is obviously pissed at Cliff, who is whining how much he loves her and will never let her go. Abbey seems more interested in sucking on her cigarette, which she proclaims is her “last one,” until she reaches into the backseat to show Cliff something. Cliff suddenly swerves to avoid hitting some debris and the car crashes into a tree. He emerges without a scratch, but Abbey is not so lucky. The accident leaves her drenched in gasoline and she is soon human flambé. The doctors tell Cliff she is in a coma, and will stay in a vegetative state the rest of her life. Her only chance is to get a full body skin graft, but time is quickly running out. Cliff, with reassurance from his sleazy lawyer (Corbin Bernsen), decides to fulfill Abbey’s will and pull the plug, which incites a firestorm of negative media attention. Cliff’s got other problems to worry about, though. Whenever Abbey flatlines, her spirit seeks revenge on those who have done her harm and would profit from her death. Cliff’s got reason to worry; before the accident, Abbey was upset because she found out that Cliff was cheating on her with his perky dental assistant. After the violent hauntings start, Cliff changes his tune and tries everything in his power to keep Abbey alive…

Borrowing from the headlines can be a tricky business. There is a fine line between being socially conscious and downright exploitative. Yet, Right to Die manages to find a comfortable balance between the two. On one hand, it recreates the controversy of the Schiavo case and on the other it manages to entertain with scares and even a bit of sexiness.

I had my doubts about Rob Schmidt being inducted into the Masters of Horror, even though I absolutely adore Wrong Turn. While the Right to Die episode isn’t the cream of the crop, it still delivers the goods and shows a promising director. Schmidt crafts some creepy shots, especially one involving a series of cell phone photos and another involving the severely burned Abbey crawling on the floor that both look very J-Horror inspired. Writer John Esposito does a fine job with the script as well, though some subplots get lost in the shuffle and the story drags a little in the middle.

The special FX done by KNB are quite gruesome, especially Abbey’s extra-crispy body and one scene involving the flaying of someone’s skin. Though there aren’t too many deaths in this episode, there are enough cringe-worthy scenes to more than make up for it.

The actors all do a great job, from Julia Anderson’s icy performance (with one of the best racks I’ve ever seen – and that’s coming from me, a straight girl!) to Martin Donavan’s grieving yet still cheating Cliff and, of course, Corbin Bernsen as the slick lawyer.

Right to Die might not be the best Masters of Horror episode and it certainly has its flaws, but it still manages to entertain and comment on a controversy without ever getting too heavy-handed.
And a pair of perfect boobs go a long way.

Available on Amazon!

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