So I am not going to lie – one of the interesting parts about going through this series for me has been the little bits of callbacks to big things that happened during the early 2000s. I talked about this with the Homecoming episode, which was very much in your face about it. Right to Die sort of went down the same path, although in a bit of a different way. I am getting ahead of myself, though.
Right to Die was the 9th episode from the 2nd season of Masters of Horror. It was directed by Rob Schmidt, who is a bit of an odd one in the lineup. He did direct Wrong Turn, which was attempting to jump on the new slashers that were taking off at that time, but overall his filmography is a bit shorter than a lot of the others brought in. Regardless this was truly a great episode that he did a good job with, just interesting to compare and contrast.
The episode starts with a couple getting into a car crash. Cliff, played excellently by Martin Donovan, notices that his wife Abby is trapped and tries to quickly dial 911 before the car can light on fire but fails. It turns out that Abby survives the crash but is in a coma, and all her skin is burned off. For her to live, she would need a full replacement skin graft, and it will still be a diminished life without the ability to speak or care for herself. Cliff seems truly torn but eventually decides with his lawyer that it would be best to let her die. Cliff’s major hesitation seems to come from an affair that he regrets, but his lawyer insists he just keeps that under wraps (heh) and pursue the end of life.
Abby’s mother shows up to throw a wrench in the plan when she insists that Cliff and Abby did not, in fact, have a happy marriage and that Cliff is trying to kill her daughter to take her money.
Things start to go a little hinky when Cliff imagines that Abby visits him, and they proceed to have sex only for her skinless form to take over towards the end. Cliff then learns that around the time of the dream, Abby had flatlined… curious.
It takes an entirely different turn when Cliff’s lawyer visits the soon to die, Abby, admits his hatred of her and how happy he is to guide Cliff towards ending her life. Abby once again flatlines, and this time kills the lawyer in a brutal yet spectacular way. However, you get the point, every time Abby flatlines, it leaves her spirit to get revenge, only for her to be brought back.
Cliff’s ultimate goal now is to make sure that Abby stays alive because he knows that Abby has good reason to come after him next. I don’t want to get into too many details because I’ve spoiled a few episodes, and I think that this one is really worth watching, so I want to encourage people to do so. I will say that the ending is just brilliant and a great scene of someone accepting their fate.
Masters of Horror is an interesting anthology because the directors truly seemed like they had a lot of freedom. Homecoming was about the message it wanted to get across and the silly way it went there. Pick Me Up was more of a character study about two serial killers. Right to Die is about the horror and suspense of whether or not Cliff can prevent what he knows is coming for him, and it is fantastically well done.
This episode has a lot of intense body and medical horror that will truly leave you uncomfortable and terrified. I will say the plot gets a touch shaky, especially regarding the skin graft, but not enough to really prevent the viewer from enjoying it. I just had a moment of “well, that doesn’t make a lot of sense” before going right back to being horrified and loving it.
The suspense and plot development also play out excellently. We start genuinely liking Cliff, and slowly yet surely, just a little more is revealed about both him and Abby. By the end, a great picture is painted that really changes how the initial one unfolds.
I will also say that once again, there are a lot of intense and fantastic scenes with gore. The lawyer’s death is particularly brutal, and I loved it.
On the downside, Masters of Horror, in general, had a lot of “sexy young women seducing men” and really placating the male gaze with them. The show isn’t the worst at it, not even close, and it was a thing at the time (and still is). It gets… irksome? Although the plotline serves its purpose, I could have done with a little less of the hows. Again much like above, none of this actually kills the overall experience to me.
Decent gore, solid pacing, a good amount of suspense and tension building, especially for the runtime. All in all just a really great entry into the series. Also, as mentioned, the little bit of call back to the time, Terri Schiavo.
I distinctly remember that case really picking up around this time and how weird it was to me to see so many people get involved in something that felt so personal. I was pretty young at the time, so I don’t remember all the ins and outs, only that when my parents turned on the news, there was a good chance I’d see something about it. It’s not a major plot point, and I can’t confirm that it was for certain inspired by the Schiavo case, but I did get the impression of it. Abby’s mom getting involved brings out all kinds of protesters, and Cliff being confronted with a lot of people feeling the need to tell him how they feel about what he was attempting to do with ending Abby’s life, both good and bad. It’s kind of interesting to be transported back to those times with some of the episodes. Although again, it’s a lot less in your face than, say, Homecoming.
So bottom line? I haven’t finished the full series yet, but right now, I would say this is probably my personal favorite, even edging out Pick Me Up, which I really enjoyed. Well acted, directed, fantastic body horror, and an interesting plot. I also appreciate the ramp-up in horror after giving my Impressions on an episode that was pretty light on it. I highly recommend this one to genre fans. I will say that while some episodes non-genre fans might be able to enjoy, I think this one will be a little too intense in terms of the gore for them.