Saturday, July 11, 2009

Monsters – Pool Sharks – review (TV Episode)

title screenDirector: Alan Kingsberg

First aired: 1988

Contains spoilers

Monsters was an anthology horror series that ran for three seasons from 1988 to 1990. One of the key elements came out of budgets so small that locations were kept to a bare minimum, in this case one room. Pool Sharks was a season 1 episode.

Rebecca Kyler Downs as NatashaWe are in a bar run by Cappy (Page Johnson). At the back of the bar is a pool table and it appears that the provocative Natasha (Rebecca Kyler Downs) is hustling Lester (Irving Metzman). She is setting up shots, if he makes them she gives him a kiss but if he misses he pays $20. It seems clear to us that he is being hustled and probably he is happy to be hustled.

Tom Mason as GabeEnter Gabe (Tom Mason) – a man with a pool cue. He orders a drink and asks Cappy who died – there is a hearse out front. The hearse belongs to Lester, a funeral director. Some ten minutes after he came in Natasha came in, she’s been hustling him since. Gabe arranges for Cappy to give Lester a whisky “on the house” and then to keep them coming on his own tab. Cappy notices that Gabe wears a cross and asks if he is religious. Gabe says he is just cautious.

sucking his fingerHe approaches the pool players, hiding his cue beforehand. And puts a coin on the table – indicating his turn to play. Cappy brings over a ‘drink on the house’. Gabe manages to ‘accidentally’ break the glass of said drink and cut his finger on the glass. Natsha attends to his wound – by sucking it. The wound heals. He hustles Lester good and proper who then leaves but Natasha decides to remain with Gabe. She reveals she knew he was a hustler.

a flash of fangThey end up betting on a game (first to 50 points) where the winner gets to do what they like to the other’s body – she turns to camera and reveals fangs. As they play he talks about a bar in Allan Town, PA. There was a man there who vanished after being seen playing pool with a beautiful woman. His family believed that something truly evil happened to him. They get to a point where the points are close and one more frame will decide it.

cross on the ballThey both make their preparations. She goes to the toilet as he puts the balls out. Whilst she is gone he places his own cue with those belonging to the bar and then draws a cross on the black ball with chalk. She goes to Cappy and hypnotises him so he’ll sleep. When she breaks, the black ball does not move, presumably due to the power of the cross. He takes a shot she believes to be impossible, but Bobby – his brother – taught him how to make it. Bobby was the pool player in Allan Town.

Lester re-enters the bar, calls Natasha Countess and reminds her of the time (yes he was part of her hustle) but she is determined to finish the game. Gabe tries to distract her with his cross and she demands he remove it – unbeknown to her he drops it in a pocket. She makes the shot – winning the game – and is on Gabe, fangs and claws showing. The game isn’t over – the black jumps back out of the pocket (presumably repelled by the cross as the vampire made the shot).

burned her fingersShe puts her hand in the pocket and burns her finger. He is trying to make the shot but she tries to distract him with a flash of suspender and her womanly wiles. To make the shot he looks in the mirror where, of course, she cannot be seen. The shot is made. So why the bet, why not just hunt. The vampires in this need an invitation – even to feed – the bet becomes an invitation made by the unwary.

final fateOf course she tries to escape her fate – she offers herself sexually but he had grabbed his own cue for the final shot – it comes apart and makes a stake which he rams home – ending the vampire’s life. It is a moment of violence and gore in an episode that worked without such devices up to that point. It worked due to well written and delivered dialogue and good characters. The noirish jazz soundtrack added much to the episode as well.

Whilst games such as pool aren’t unique as the main premise for a vampire piece – we previously looked at Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire that uses the game snooker – they are unusual. However the main thing this went to show was that you don’t need an awfully long episode or lots of locations to make something worthwhile. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very atmospheric episode I thought. There's also a pool/vamp plot in the film within the film in Graveyard Shift 2.