Masters of Horror: John Carpenter – Pro-Life – DVD Review

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Directed by
John Carpenter

Caitlin Wachs … Angelique Burcell
Emmanuelle Vaugier … Kim
Mark Feuerstein … Alex O’Shea
Biski Gugushe … Kiernan
Jeremy Jones … Doug
Lisa Bunting … Joan
Stephen Dimopoulos … Sam
Ashley Williams … Isobel
Grace Bauer … Marie
Bill Dow … Dr. Kiefer
Ron Perlman … Dwayne Burcell
Arabella Bushnell … Grace
Graeme McComb … Caleb Burcell
Benjamin Rogers … Cole Burcell
Chad Krowchuk … Darry Burcell
Derek Mears … The Father

The Episode:

For his second Masters of Horror episode, Pro-Life, Director John Carpenter’s ability to create mood, suspense, as well as his mastery of visuals, even in a low budget setting, are all on display. At times a Siege movie, a Monster flick, and also a Political thriller, Pro-Life is a fairly successful entry into this series, veering off the road only when it tries too hard to sit directly on the middle of the fence of its very divisive issue. While technically, the work is very strong, the episode has too strong a subject matter to not say anything, but unfortunately that’s what the film makers were trying to do.

For those that don’t know, Pro-Life is perhaps the most controversial episode of the Horror anthology yet produced. The story revolves around an abortion clinic, and a determined Father who lays siege upon the facility in order to get his daughter out of there before she ends her pregnancy. It seems silly that Wal-Mart would ban this DVD from its shelves because of its subject matter, and then turn right around and sell Takashi Miike’s Imprint, which is vastly more graphic and disturbing. This is not to say that Carpenter isn’t able to hold you in his grip during his hour of story, but he does so by making you see the most brutal aspects of the episode in your mind more than just hitting you with gore.

There are three monsters featured in this piece, but only two of them are by KNB EFX, as Ron Perlman’s Dwayne Burcell is probably the scariest thing in this movie. Perlman is simply smoldering as Burcell, slowly building up to the slaughter that seems inevitable from the story’s first moments. The actor towers over everyone else in Pro-Life, bringing real human menace, but never once playing this character over the top. In fact, the actor explains in one of the disc’s extras that he plays Burcell as a hero, a man desperately trying to save his daughter and grandchild, even if he has to give up his other children and his own life to do just that.

KNB EFX does some incredible work here as well, with monsters that are very reminiscent of Carpenter’s The Thing. The main creature at the end of the episode is a best I’ve seen from the series, and looks about as good as any you’d find in a big screen feature. Part of the credit should also go to Cinematographer Attila Szalay, who lights the beast for maximum atmospheric effect, creating memorable images when other episodes have just made me sigh in disappointment.

Mainly though, the success of this episode goes to Carpenter himself. Even without the monsters, this episode would have been an exciting and satisfying installment because of his taut direction. The man who brought us Assault on Precinct 13 makes this siege a series of exciting and impressive sequences, even if the film’s messages bring the proceedings down a bit. Again too, there are moments in this piece that are quite haunting, and bravo to the director for letting our own imaginations work against us, instead of just filling the screen with splatter.

Pro-Life isn’t the best episode I’ve seen from this series, but it is a good one. It’s able to bring back for me many of the things I’ve always loved about Carpenter’s movies; I just wish the episode would have been able to stay away from this hot-button issue if it wasn’t going to be able to take a stand. On a visceral level though, Pro-Life is very accomplished and will hopefully not be the last good work we see from John Carpenter behind a camera.

The DVD:

The Video
The transfer on this disc is pretty much crystal clear. It looks as if this episode was once again shot on digital, which gives you about as crisp a picture as possible. Colors are very bright and you should have no trouble with any moments throughout the episode. The episode is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

The Audio
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and also is very, very good. John Carpenter’s son, Cody does an awesome job with this episode’s score, sounding a LOT like one of his father’s old film scores. There’s a good balance throughout, and you should have no problem hearing any element of the sound scheme no matter what’s going on.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary, Featurettes, Galleries, Bio, Screenplay, Trailers.

Commentary by John Carpenter and screenwriters Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan – This is a pretty thorough track, with the three of them talking about the entire conception of each scene. McWeeny and Swan (Ain’t It Cool News’ Moriarty and Obi-Swan) are pretty proud of their work, but much of the blame for the film’s problems could probably also be attributed to them.

Final Delivery: The Making of Pro-Life – This goes about 15 minutes and is pretty exhaustive in terms of showing how the piece was put together. I love the segments with the KNB guys that showed the work that went into putting the episode’s big monster together. Carpenter is also adamant in saying how the episode tries to stay in the middle politically, and is definitely just trying to entertain you.

Demon Baby: Birthing the FX Sequence – This goes about five minutes and has the KNB guys talking about the designs for the baby, as well as how much they took from Carpenter’s The Thing. Also, its funny to hear the actors in the sequence talk about how much fun it was to do this project.

Trailers – You get a ton of trailers here, most for other Masters of Horror entries, as well as other Anchor Bay releases.

Storyboard Gallery

Still Gallery

Director Bio


The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Masters of Horror: John Carpenter – Pro-Life
(OUT OF 10)