"MASTERS OF HORROR: JOHN LANDIS' 'DEER WOMAN'"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ***** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Brian Benben as DWIGHT FARADAY
    Anthony Griffith as OFFICER JACOB REED
    Cinthia Moura as THE DEER WOMAN

    Not Rated
    Studio: Anchor Bay Releasing

    Directed by: John Landis
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Whenever someone compiles a list of the greatest horror directors alive, there are certain names you’d expect to see... John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven. One name also tops the list, even though he hasn’t really done much horror.

The name is John Landis, who is mostly known as a comedy director. However, his revolutionary “An American Werewolf in London” was so groundbreaking and made such an impression on the horror industry that Landis will always be considered a master of the genre.

Of course, Landis is also responsible for “Innocent Blood,” a terrible vampire/mafia flick from the 90s, but we won’t hold that against him. As well, Landis was instrumental in making the film “The Twilight Zone: The Movie” in 1983, but the death of Vic Morrow on his watch has stricken the mention of this film almost completely from his publicity. His only other horror excursion is his first flick, the spoofy “Schlock.”

Landis was brought on to the “Masters of Horror” television show to direct the short-form horror film “Deer Woman.” Written by his son Max, “Deer Woman” is about a Native American legend of a beautiful woman with deer hooves. She makes her way into human society, seduces men and then tramples them to death.

Using Landis’ own talent for comedy, he tells this story with his tongue firmly in cheek. The story focuses on a detective who used to work homicide but after the on-the-job pressure got too much for him, he’s been relegated to animal attacks. This detective is played by “Dream On” star Brian Benben, who just doesn’t’ get enough work nowadays.

The detective is tracking a string of murders where unrelated victims tend to be trampled to death while in a state of arousal. He stumbles upon the legend of the Deer Woman while at a Native American casino, and suddenly starts to think this may be the answer.

Benben is a master of the understated comic art, and he shines in this picture. While it is tempting to label this episode as a cheap-end “X-Files” plot, there’s a lot more here. It’s really a horror-comedy, with a strong emphasis on comedy. However, instead of employing the Troma style of in-your-face winking to let the audience know the filmmakers are in on the joke, Landis plays this one straight.

It is this tight-lipped delivery that makes “Deer Woman” work as a great piece of modern camp. Instead of ripping off something like “The X-Files,” he sends up the genre. Landis directs the horror elements very straight, even when the subject matter is so ludicrous. What you end up with is a pretty hysterical piece of television.

The DVD includes an in-depth look at John Landis’ career in the “Animal Hooves” documentary. This feature takes us through his entire career from “Schlock” through “Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers,” eventually landing us with “Deer Woman.”

There are on-set interviews with Brian Benben, Anthony Griffith and the lovely Cinthia Moura. A “Behind the Scenes: The Making of Deer Woman” short tells about the making of the film.

Actors Benben and Griffith lend their voices to a commentary, and there’s also an added bonus of a vintage John Landis interview from his “Animal House” days. Finally, the DVD includes trailers, a still gallery, a bio of Landis, the screenplay in PDF format and “Deer Woman” screen savers.



Specifications: Digital Stereo Sound. Widescreen (1.77:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions.

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