Friday, June 5, 2009

A true Master of Horror

Just started watching the UK produced Showtime series The Hunger, and though I have only seen two episodes so far and am thus perhaps premature in reviewing it as a whole, it has really grabbed my attention. It is similar to Masters of Horror, in the sense that each episode is its own horror-themed vignette, but that’s about as far as the comparison goes. If you're like me and found most of Masters of Horror dissatisfying because of the sophomoric directing (can these directors truly be called Masters??), the heavy handed and predictable plots, and forced acting, then The Hunger will be a welcome relief.

Perhaps the key is Ridley Scott as producer; each episode has the same carefully crafted and almost catastrophically atmospheric sets that I have enjoyed in all of his films, and have come to see as his trademark; decaying luxuriance, a former grandeur brought to ruin by decadence. Add to this a sense of maturity and subtlety in the writing, and you've got a show that makes many American produced series appear bumbling and childishly obvious. There is little emphasis on gore, the gratuitous nudity normally associated with the genre is replaced by a thoughtful and dark eroticism, and lasting chills take the place of jump-scenes.

Perhaps most importantly, the stories avoid what I see as one of the most common pitfalls of Horror, over-explanation of the punch-line. Instead, a lot of the whys and wherefores are left to the imagination of the viewer, and half of the thrills are psychological rather than visceral-how refreshing! So if you like horror that isn't dumbed down, and doesn't cater to the current adolescent fervor for gouts of blood, then I think you'll find The Hunger to be a very pleasant surprise. And joy of joys, you can watch the whole first season on Instant View on Netflix....just make sure you take a break to eat now and then.

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