Just what qualifies someone to be called a "Master" in the horror genre? That's a question I've asked several times in the two seasons of Showtime's "Masters of Horror" anthology series. Looking at their slate of directors, there are some obvious choices--but disappointingly the undisputed "Masters" haven't necessarily turned in the best episodes of this show. Rob Schmidt is, perhaps, one of the more dubious choices to fulfill a "Masters" criteria--his most notorious horror work is the film "Wrong Turn." And while I'm sure that film has its admirers, it is ultimately just another of countless derivations of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" complete with young couples isolated in the woods being stalked by hillbilly murderers.
"Right to Die," however, is not a bad entry in the "Masters of Horror" series. In fact, it's rather solid with an unexpected and appreciated cleverness. Martin Donovan, an indie film stalwart whose deadpan delivery I have always admired, stars as the film's protagonist. Existing in a troubled marriage, Donovan's situation goes from bad to worse as a horrible car accident puts his wife in a coma. Covered in burns, unrecognizable, and not able to live without technological intervention--the episode wrestles with whether or not Donovan should humanely let her die. Oh but there's one complication, his wife's spirit is restless. Every time her heart fails, but before she is revived, her gruesome specter is on the move seeking retribution on those that have wronged her in life.
I particularly liked the juxtaposition of the traditional horror story with the "Right to Die" political debate. That's what makes this episode unique, and there is genuine humor that is mined from this topic. The horror sequences are effective enough--if somewhat familiar. Borrowing elements from the tepid "What Lies Beneath," and even "Hellraiser," the scariness of this episode is far less inventive than the shrewd appropriation of the Right To Die controversy. But for an hour, you could do worse. The acting is solid, the effects are good--all in all, I found this to be a worthwhile episode. About 3 1/2 stars (for me, the most enjoyable episodes have only been 4 stars), this is better than you might expect from someone with such an undistinguished horror resume. KGHarris, 03/07.