Welcome to Monsterland! A terrifying place where savage beasts, carnivorous creatures, and grotesque abominations are the new normal; and the human race is now at the bottom of the food chain.
Frank J. Sudol
The McCoubrey Brothers
Frank J. Sudol
There are two types of anthology film. There’s the flicks which contain several different episodes, all put together as one cohesive thing – films like Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie and Twilight Zone: The Movie.
Then there are the ones where several short films, previously released or seen on the festival circuit (separately) are curated into a mini-film festival all in one compact picture. Think All Hallow’s Eve 2.
Monsterland is an example of the latter variety. The surround story for this particular mini-film festival; is in fact, an actual mini-film festival – and it’s written and directed by Andrew Kasch & John Skipp.
The world has been overrun by towering monsters of mass destruction. One of the survivors (John LaCasse) happens upon an old school movie theatre; where the popcorn is still fresh and the movies are still playing. So, to take a well-deserved break from the chaos and violence outside, he steps over a few dozen corpses, helps himself to a tub of popcorn and takes a seat in the vast theatre. It looks as though it’s a block of horror film shorts. So right along with this hardened survivor and his trusty baseball bat as a weapon – we’re gonna join in on this eclectic collection of horror shorts.
As I love to do with these many horror anthologies which have come across my desk – I’m going to rank each story/short film; from best to worst. Here we go:
#1) Stay at Home Dad – written by Cody Goodfellow/directed by Andrew Kasch & John Skipp
This one is my favorite of the bunch. It’s a Lovecraftian film about Steven; a stay at home dad (Matthew Currie Holmes) who decides to undergo an experimental procedure which will allow him to grow mammaries, thus giving him the opportunity to produce breast-milk and feed his baby. It’s hysterical and absurd as Steven becomes emotional, is cat-called by men and certainly when his wife (Alisha Seaton) becomes obsessed with these new “play-things”. The film has some great effects, good performances and a nice twist ending. And that dream/hallucination sequence is awesome!
#2) Curiosity Kills – written by Sander Maran, Kaspar Ainello, Jan Andresson / directed by Sander Maran
A mostly dialogue-less exercise in campy horror/sci-fi, Curiosity Kills follows a young boy and his beloved pet rat. The boy’s father works in a nuclear facility and brings some of his chemical components home one day. Boy feeds rat some of these concoctions and the rat turns blood-thirsty and begins to glow green. This film is an absolute hoot – full of splattering blood, kooky camera angles (including plenty of “rat-cam”) and wonderfully absurd situations.
#3) The Grey Matter – written by Peter McCoubrey / directed by Luke McCoubrey and Peter McCoubrey
A bored and boring office worker named Simon (Ebon Moss Bachrach) wakes up in an alley, covered in blood and with a hole in the back of his skull. And although post-hole in the head Simon is now a lady charmer, things are not all hunky-dory when certain appetites arise. The puppetry and creature effects are bizarre; with more than a passing homage to Hennenlotter’s Brain Damage. And the performances are highly entertaining – most notably from supporting actor Carter Roy as Mitch; Simon’s co-worker/bruh. The scene of him in his tighty-whities is classic!
#4) Helly-Fish – written by Kate Fitzpatrick, Patrick Longstreth / directed by Patrick Longstreth and Robert McLean
An over-the-top monster movie with a gaggle of giant, mutated jelly-fish. The effects are lots of fun, the panicked throngs of beach-goers (straight out of Jaws) are a nostalgic hoot. And the closing credits “comic-book” motif is brilliant! It takes all of the tropes from your favorite giant monster movie and delivers just what you’d expect. It’s ridiculous and goofy fun, with cheesy (and oh-so appropriate) monster effects.
#5) Hag – written & directed by Erik Gardner
With appearances by The Exorcist’s Eileen Dietz (in the title role) and John Franklin of Children of the Corn, there are some horror heroes present here. Scott (Drew Wicks) begins to experience the terrors of sleep paralysis when his wife Marie (Megan Duffy) begins sleepwalking. Great make-up effects with a fun and creepy atmosphere, I originally saw this one at the 2015 Filmquest Film Festival in Utah. It holds up on a second viewing – and this time out; I made specific note of the lighting in the film – particularly Scott’s walk down his home’s hallway in the middle of the night – and the creepy textured glass of the bathroom door.
#6) Happy Memories – created by Jack Fields
This is one of the shorts which the surround story viewer watches after sucking on some sort of neon green monster/alien slime – so basically he is hallucinating. And once you are finished with this segment, you’ll wonder if you too have ingested something extraterrestrial and possibly illegal. It’s a film with puppets and it is messed up – but you’ll never take your eyes off of it. And it’s one of those pieces which will allow you to draw your own conclusions, fill in your own blanks and make of it – whatever you please. Hypnotic and strange.
#7) Monster Man – created by F. Sudol
It’s a fun little animated short. Very bloody and very clunky animation – but it all adds to the piece’s quirky charms. Not much as far as story – just a couple of dudes hunting a giant monster. And the short’s payoff is a good one.
#8) House Call – written by Dick Grunert / directed by Graham Denman
I enjoyed the performances from Ruben Pla and Sean Keller and some of the camera tricks will impress, but this entry doesn’t quite make it. There’s some attempt at history and marital problems for Dr. Richter (Pla) in the beginning, but none of that exposition ever really pays off. The ‘disturbed man’ played by Keller; claims to be a blood-sucking vampire. Dr. Richter is a dentist, and is taken hostage – at gun-point by Keller’s unnamed character – all in the hopes of removing his fangs. There’s a bit of cat and mouse, a bit of gross-out gore (any dental-phobes out there will want to avoid this), but overall, this one’s not particularly memorable.
#9) Don’t Go in the Lake – written by Tyler Wood, Hayley Norman / directed by Corey Norman
It’s a quick piece about a bunch of drunk and horny teenagers who go skinny-dipping in a dark lake at night. And of course, there’s some creature in there which quickly kills them off, one by one. The splatter effects are lots of fun and the performances are as cheesy as you’d expect. But there’s no substance and no story. Not that it’s not fun for what it is – but it’s not fun enough to pull itself out of the bottom spot.
In the great scheme of things, Monsterland is a pretty average entry into the horror anthology game. There are highlights, and the connecting story is goofy and original – and overall it’ll entertain. Certain shorts will definitely impress, but some of the lesser ones will feel like nothing more than fillers and bog down the flow kept hopping by the better entries.
Monsterland is now available on DVD/VOD. While I don’t think it’s necessary to drop everything to find Monsterland right at this moment; it’s certainly worth a look when it happens to cross your path.