Looking back on the Masters of Horror episode Incident On and Off a Mountain Road

Masters of Horror: Incident On and Off a Mountain Road is not exactly a masterpiece, and that's okay.
2006 Los Angeles Film Festival - Last Rites Screening
2006 Los Angeles Film Festival - Last Rites Screening / Matthew Simmons/GettyImages

Masters of Horror: Incident On and Off a Mountain Road is an episode from the first season of the Showtime horror anthology television series Masters of Horror. Directed by Phantasm director Don Coscarelli, the installment originally aired on October 28, 2005, and is based on a short story of the same name by Joe R. Lansdale.

The plot revolves around a woman named Ellen, played by Bree Turner, who becomes stranded on a remote mountain road after her car breaks down. She encounters a psychopathic serial killer named Moonface, played by John DeSantis, who hunts and torments her.

However, Ellen proves to be a resourceful and resilient protagonist, using her survival skills and determination to fight back against her assailant. Incident On and Off a Mountain Road received some positive reviews for its suspenseful atmosphere, intense performances, and effective use of horror elements, and is sometimes cited as one of the standout episodes of the Masters of Horror series (though I prefer Family, personally).

Incident On and Off a Mountain Road is trope-tastic, but ultimately just alright

This is a simple tale with plenty of horror tropes: A secluded mountain road, a bizarre, mutant-like slasher villain (in this case named "Moonface"). And yes, Ellen is a "survivor girl" type, trained by her abusive survivalist husband, Bruce (Ethan Embry). So what does that mean for the story? Is Ellen really some ultimate badass? Not necessarily, but she tries, and that's what is supposed to matter.

As the story progresses, Moonface takes Ellen to a cabin, holding her captive along with two other characters, an unknown female/Jane Doe (Heather Feeney) and an odd guy named Buddy (Angus Scrimm). It gets weirder after Buddy is introduced, as Buddy is really an odd duck in his own right. The fights become life-or-death rather than mere scuffles, and you have classic scenarios about escaping or hiding and a victim who attempts to become a soldier.

It's a blood-stained adventure, of sorts, albeit sort of dumb. No one will care to know anything about the killer's identity or backstory. It's really just something to watch to see who ends up in the morgue.

This will sound dismissive, but it's the sort of thing one might put on if they wish to go to bed early (and that's not entirely an insult; there's nothing wrong with sort of a dumb little thing to watch as a sleep aid, be it a horror flick or Aqua Teen Hunger Force — a show Angus Sctimm did some brilliant promo ads for, by the way.). Not everything needs to be a masterpiece, just something to watch, and that is exactly what this episode of "Masters of Horror" is.

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