Review by Scott Weinberg
At this point I'm not fully prepared to label director Rob Schmidt a "Master of Horror," but after helming one solid slasher throwback ("Wrong Turn") and the rock-solid "Right to Die" mini-movie, I have absolutely no problem with the guy sharing a marquee alongside Joe Dante, John Carpenter, and Stuart Gordon. Aside from a small handful of lame-o episodes, Showtime's "Masters of Horror" series is turning out to be a miniature goldmine for the gorehounds of the world -- and Mr. Schmidt's inaugural episode is one of the best of the litter.
Martin Donovan plays a dentist with a gorgeous wife and a wandering eye. The couple gets into a nasty car accident on an isolated road -- and the missus ends up getting barbecued up good. As his crispy spouse clings to life in the burn ward, Dentist Donovan must decide whether or not to pull the plug on her life support. In one corner is a skeezy lawyer who says "do it," and on the other is a mother-in-law who screams "don't you dare." Plus our "hero" also has to contend with a horny mistress, a judgmental media, and the annoying fact that people seem to be suddenly dying at a pretty rapid clip.
Although "Right to Die" might sound like a gratuitous take on the serious (and very timely) topic of euthanasia, the truth is simply that Schmidt (and screenwriter John Esposito) have found a way to tear something from the headlines and actually explore the issues through the medium of, well, horror. That's not to say that "Right to Die" is a dry or preachy experience, because it's actually a fast-paced, smartly-written, and entirely creepy little flick. Also impressive is the way in which Schmidt and Esposito switch sides. You can never really tell how they WANT us to feel about "mercy killing," which is a whole lot more interesting than when filmmakers make their specific opinions known -- often.
Donovan gives a great performance, and his dive off the deep end in Act III is actually pretty chilling. Corbin Bernsen provides the oil as a wonderfully unpleasant lawyer. Plus the actresses playing the wife (Julia Anderson) and the homewrecker (Robin Sydney) are both stunningly hot and frequently naked. Schmidt covers a lot of bases, basically: You've got a smart, quick-moving, gore-soaked horror tale that's actually got a little something to say ... plus there's some really dark material, extended scenes of visual ickiness, and a generous handful of female nakedness. Toss an extra twenty minutes on to "Right to Die" and
you'd have one of the year's coolest horror movies. As it stands, "ROD" is a really fine entry into the "Masters of Horror" collection. One of my favorites so far, actually.
As per usual with the Starz / Anchor Bay "Masters of Horror" DVDs, the technical specs are just dandy: The episode is presented in a very crisp widescreen anamorphic transfer, with audio delivered (well) in your choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or DD 2.0. Extras include an informative solo audio commentary with Rob Schmidt and a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes: a 15-minute catch-all piece called "Burnt Offerings" and a 7-minute look at the impressively nasty gore effects. Plus some storyboards and trailers.