It is hard to categorize John Landis’ contribution to the Showtime horror anthology series, The Masters of Horror. Landis made a name for himself in the horror genre as the director of the classic early 80’s werewolf film, An American Werewolf In London, and the cult classic vampire-noir film, Innocent Blood. With his “Deer Woman” episode, John Landis reaches back to his past work and comes up with an episode that mixes horror, absurd situations and a healthy dose of black comedy.
“Deer Woman” has something in common with An American Werewolf In London in that this episode deals with a creature born out of folklore and myth. This time around its a creature from Native American folklore. The creature in question is the Deer Woman. A legendary creature who takes the form of a beautiful woman from the waist up and that of a deer from the waist down. The Deer Woman will then go on a spree of seducing random men then trampling them to mincemeat. In this respect she has a bit of the mythical succubus mixed in with the shapeshifting. It is during the aftermath of one of her killings that we’re introduced to the main player in this horrifically absurd little tale. Detective Faraday (masterfully played with a dry wit and comedic timing by Brian Benben) gets called in to the scene thinking it is an animal attack, but the crime scene leaves him confused, perplexed and a tad more than intrigued by the case after it’s unceremoniously taken away from him.
We learn through the length of the hour-long episode that Faraday is a disgraced cop due to an incident in the past that’s made him a pariah in his own department. Faraday’s sidekick in his hunt to solving the murders and thus finding the Deer Woman is a beat cop played by Anthony Griffin. Former Brazilian, and still smoking hot and stunning, Cinthia Moura does duty as the abovementioned Deer Woman. She goes through the entire episode without uttering one line. Her eyes, expressions and body language conveying whatever motivations and thoughts may be in her head. She did pretty well and it didn’t hurt she looked very natural baring it all on the screen.
The dialogue in the episode was where the absurdity of the moments in the story shone through to give “Deer Woman” its black-comedy. The characters in the film react to murders and the clues leading to what might be their only suspect with incredulity, denial and dismissal. Yet, no matter how much the characters of Faraday and his partner try to deny what they know in their mind is the real killer, they inevitably see the truth of the matter dangerously up close and personal. The teleplay for the episode was primarily written by Max Landis (the director’s son) with some brief rewrites and treatments by John himself. They both run with a very absurd situation and run with it fult-tilt and non-stop. They both know how silly the story sounds and its that silliness that makes this episode memorable. In fact, if I really had to categorize this episode I would call it a comedy with small bits of horror slipped in (horror and gore effectively done — once again — by the master effects people from KNB EFX.
Despite “Deer Woman” being closer to a comedy-horror than a straight-up horror tale, I found the episode to be very entertaining and worth the viewing. John Landis stuck to his guns in crafting an absurd tale and making it believable to his audience. With shades and hints of An American Werewolf In London, Landis’ contribution to The Masters of Horror marks a bright spot in the an uneven series, so far. Landis’ has once again shown that horror and comedy are more intertwined than most people would think.