A question for everyone: what show should I cover next? I have some ideas, but I am curious what you would want to read about.
Fear Itself is the unofficial third season of Masters of Horror. Showtime did not want to fund a third season on their own, so Lionsgate stepped in with a budget and inked a deal to air the anthology series on NBC. After the first eight episodes, the rest of the series released all at once on the NBC website, then on DVD, and was finally erased from the website entirely.
A veterinary clinic will work with any size patient. That’s great news for the injured werewolf brought in by a concerned citizen and terrible news for the veterinarian who gets bitten.
Something with Bite is Ernest Dickerson’s return to the Masters of Horror/Fear Itself franchise. He was featured on season two with The V Word, one of the most shocking, dark, and violent episodes of the series. His second run is an over the top horror/comedy about very kind people letting loose and going on violent crime sprees as werewolves.
American horror traditionally has two modes for monster transformation stories: tragedy and comedy. For every Wolfman, there’s an Invisible Man. For every The Howling, there’s An American Werewolf in London. The absurdity of transforming into an unimaginable monster is treated as something serious or ridiculous, but rarely anything in between.
The weakest element of the episode is the actual creature transformation. This werewolf design looks like a Halloween costume. Its face can move a little, but it feels like a rubber mask. The appliance is thick and bulky, which impairs the acting behind the makeup. Dickerson shoots the transformation scenes well, but there’s no way to disguise the lower budget compared to the magnificent creature design featured on Masters of Horror.
Something with Bite works because of the direction and casting. Dickerson knows how to keep his actors functioning in the same horror universe. His films are all about tone, detail, and control even when the world seems to spiral. There is not one moment of the episode that suggests any other reality is possible.
Wendell Pierce is hilarious as the veterinarian turning into a werewolf. He has to carry a lot of unusual angles on the genre. It’s a performance all about subtle changes in behavior and reaction. The believability of the transformation comes down to Pierce’s physicality as a human.
At first, Wilbur is stuck. He’s lost his passion for life outside of helping animals. Wilbur is a passive observer in his own life. After the attack, he’s becoming the ideal version of himself. He’s disgusted by the junk food, heals quickly, and is confident enough to start conversations. Best of all for him, he can communicate with his patients and find out, for example, that a dog ate AAA batteries with no real examination.
The twist ending in Something with Bite appears out of nowhere. Small hints appear in passing from the beginning. The format of Fear Itself doesn’t allow for slow and subtle world building. Dickerson and the screenplay have to make the choice between the comedy of Wilbur’s transformation and the true crime mystery, and they put the focus on Wilbur.
The traditional theatrical relationship between comedy and tragedy isn’t as far removed as you might imagine. There’s a joke used often in Shakespearean criticism to explain the divide. The difference between a comedy and a tragedy is a wedding. It doesn’t matter who’s murdered, who gets dethroned, or what elements of society are destroyed; it’s a comedy if any couple winds up together in the end.
Comedy can feature dark, upsetting events and still be a comedy. Something with Bite is an over the top werewolf transformation comedy with bloody murder scenes.
content warning: gore, violence against women
Up next: Fear Itself: S1E10 “Chance” from director John Dahl.