Black Horror Movie Hall of Fame member Ernest Dickerson was tabbed by Showtime’s Masters of Horror TV show to direct this episode, a solid entry in Season Two. The title is a sly play on Showtime’s The L Word, which Dickerson just happens to have directed in the past. Synergy, thy name is Showtime! (Granted, you could also read it as a play on “the N word,” but I don’t think that was the intention.)
The story here revolves around two teenagers, white kid Justin (Branden Nadon) and his best friend, black kid Kenny (Arjay Smith), who live together in perfect harmony, side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why can’t we? One night, Justin uses this logic to convince Kenny to visit a local funeral home to see the body of Billy Redford, a bully who used to pick on them:
“You know why we should do this? So that every time your stupid brothers pick on you and call you a white geek dipped in chocolate, or every time my old man tells me I’m not worth the shit on his shoe, at least we can both say we’re not Billy Redford.”
Congratulations, you’re not dead; let’s try to set our sights higher next time, eh?
When the boys traverse the mortuary’s dark, spooky hallways is when The V Word is at its best. It creates a real sense of dread, the way a good, old-fashioned creepy house should — taking its cue from the Doom 3 video game that Kenny plays as the episode opens. They eventually encounter a vampire — er, “v word” — played by perennial baddie Michael Ironside, who resembles more of a zombie Jack Nicholson here than a typical movie vamp — oh no, he killed Kenny!
Justin escapes and runs home, only to be visited later by the undead Kenny, who drops in for a bite. Thus we begin a surprisingly unsurprising series of vampire cliches, from the dilemma of whether or not to invite the creature inside to the growing pains of the transformation to the reluctance of the new vampire to feed, blah blah blah.
Masters of Horror is a great series, but entries like this fall short, story-wise, of envelope-pushing episodes that tackle topics like abortion and the Iraqi War as well as quirky concepts like George Washington’s cannibalistic tendencies. Though The V Word is sufficiently gruesome with a wry sense of humor and a good cast and crew, it needs a story worthy of its talent.