Monday, 11 September 2017

Masters of Horror Season 2 Part 1: Pelts (2006)


Director: John Carpenter
Screenplay: Matt Venne
Based on a short story by F. Paul Wilson
Cast: Meat Loaf as Jake Feldman; Link Baker as Lou Chinaski; Emilio Salituro as Sergio; Ellen Ewusie as Shanna; John Saxon as Jeb 'Pa' Jameson
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Shows) #18

I return back to Masters of Horror for Season 2, which had a surprisingly quick turnaround as whilst the first season ended in the spring of 2006, the second started in late 2006. Even swifter than this is how, not far from viewing Dario Argento's Jenifer (2005), I'm now viewing his second addition to the TV series Pelts. Jenifer was an immense disappointment, having the potential for a great psychosexual drama but given to the wrong director. Pelts is an immediately better episode. Not great, but better. 

The one advantage Pelts has, for all its silliness, is that it relies on the tone of ancient folklore to justify anything that happens in the plot. Meat Loaf is Jake Feldman, a greedy fur merchant with an obsession with a stripper/former model Shanna (Ellen Ewusie) who thinks he can bribe her affection and succeed in life when he acquires a set of suspicious fur pelts from a trapper Jeb Jameson (John Saxon, whose return to an Argento film after Tenebre (1982) is still awesome even if his role is brief). The pelts are cleared hexed the moment they were acquired, taken from a sacred raccoon shrine in the woods, with a tendency to woo people into committing suicide in utterly ridiculous ways.

Expecting a deeper message of Pelts being anti-fur is absurd, but what stands out for the better is how the pelts as an item of symbolic meaning evokes common folklore in various cultures of the dangers of transgressing nature. In this case, the curse generated against those who transgressed over a sacred animal shrine allows the episode to get away with such ludicrous deaths as witnessed throughout the episode. Sewing one's face close is absurd, but using the logic of this taboo in human myth makes it more acceptable, as such folklore stretched into the fantastical.

Aside from this, it's Argento making a lurid story for the sake of it, which varies per viewer in reward. Whilst his golden run of films were lurid too, especially on gore, they were also filtered through a rich aesthetic and stories which twist and turned with invention and spark. Here, in later year Argento, its having everything ramped up to an exaggerated extent with that content itself the main dish being served. Where Meat Loaf chews scenery. Where the gore, including the most impractical of suicide methods including animal trap, are as visceral as possible and not stylised. Where sex and nudity is up front, including random lesbianism. Stuff you'd expect more from an Andrea Bianchi or one of the other more infamous Italian genre directors of yore. Not Argento who combined the hyper violent and sensual with a bit more class than this.


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