MONSTERLAND (2016) is a collection of films that is not for the uninitiated. Horror generally has no creative boundaries, the downside to which is a lower budget. As with many other anthologies and shorts, cutting costs on production is necessary but should absolutely be looked past in order for the concept to be fully appreciated. Speaking of MONSTERLAND as a whole, it has a wonderful self-awareness. Each piece has a sense of humor and elements to it that I couldn’t help but consider “cute.” The movie opens in an apocalyptic world, creatures of all types are collaged into a catastrophic scene of a city. We follow a man into a theater, because what the hell else is he supposed to do? The only questionable action of his is that he chooses to grab the popcorn, instead of the expensive nachos that a movie-goer would typically give half a paycheck for.
Here’s a quick rundown of what we get to see…
• DON’T GO INTO THE LAKE, directed by Corey Norman – Opens with boobs, so that’s an automatic win. A group of college kids go skinny dipping and the obvious happens, they’re attacked in the open water. The blood in this piece was impressively red, none of that blatantly obvious diluted with corn syrup business.
• THE GREY MATTER, directed by Luck & Peter McCoubrey – We follow a cute nerdy guy named Simon (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) who wakes up in an alley with a gaping wound in the back of his head. Rather than deal with the medical bills, he does the next best thing and patches it up on his own. At least he didn’t use duct tape, although it probably would’ve been just as effective. This winds up being an adorable little creature feature with a little, fat worm who seemingly offers sage dating advice. Every character in this was lovable, but it could have benefited from a higher budget for all-practical effects.
• CURIOSITY KILLS, directed by Sander Maran – This short is about a boy (Peeter Maran) and his family, who seem to live in a Hallmark card designed by a lunatic. The boy feeds his pet rat some of the chemicals his Dad (Jaak Valdre) brought home from work and all hell breaks loose. The Mom (Rita Rätsepp), without a doubt, stole the show. Baked beans and cheery smiles have never been more creepy and disgusting. The aesthetic and care that went into the environment was apparent, but the rat itself was wanting. This really could have benefited from spending a little more time working out the specific movements and effects of the monster.
• HAG, directed by Eric Gardner – This one is by far the creepiest. Marie (Megan Duffy) and Scott (Drew Wicks) Somers are an adorable married couple dealing with sleep problems. Marie consistently gets up every night, supposedly due to night terrors, which disturbs Scott. The story unfolds and reveals a horrible, dark secret that Marie is keeping. The “hag” (Eileen Dietz!!) in this piece is genuinely scary, the makeup was simple, but seeing the gentle sheen on the skin in the dark is what elevated the creep-factor. This one will leave you cocooning yourself in your blanket before bed.
• MONSTER MAN, directed and animated by Frank Sudol – Monster Man is an animated piece about a man who calls a monster hunter after losing his friend to an adorable beast. The design of the monster was wonderful, somehow he was still cuddly looking, even if he did harbor guts and fleshy bits.
• HOUSE CALL, directed by Graham Denman – A lonely, drunk, aging dentist (Ruben Pla), is bothered late at night by a deranged man (Sean Keller). The man pulls a gun on the dentist, claiming he’s turning into a vampire and needs his teeth pulled, but was too chicken shit to do it himself. The acting in this piece is wonderful and it’s easy to feel genuinely sorry for the dentist. Poor guy just wanted to spend the night drinking and reminiscing, only to be disturbed in the worst way during an intimate moment.
• HAPPY MEMORIES, directed by Jack Fields – If you like puppet shows, LSD flashbacks, and fluffy things, this one might be for you. HAPPY MEMORIES happens to be my favorite of the bunch, it was colorful, cute, confusing, and sounded like a room full of jingly things. It’s like all the craft supplies in an elementary school came to life and then, somehow, there was a cupcake god. I don’t really know what’s NOT to like, but I can see how it may not be for everyone.
• STAY AT HOME DAD, directed by Jon Skipp and Andrew Kasch – An enthusiastic, soon-to-be father agrees to undergo experimental treatment which will allow him to breastfeed his own baby so his wife can keep working. Steven (Matthew Curie Holmes) soon grows boobs large enough to make me jealous, but his wife Brenda (Alicia Seaton) seems to be very understanding and accepting. However, a man growing boobs through chemical injections is -SURPRISE- not a natural process. Their baby begins to transform and Steven discovers a pretty nasty secret about Brenda and their growing family. Excellent form of birth control, right here!
• HELLYFISH, directed by Robert Mclean and Patrick Longstreth – An undetonated nuclear bomb lost off the coast of Tybee Island, Georgia begins to leak during a failed effort by spies to retrieve it, affecting it’s surrounding wildlife. Soon Tybee is plagued by giant, blood-thirsty jellyfish that attack all the poor schmucks on the beach. It was difficult to overlook the CGI in this one, but the design of the jellyfish and their movements gave them an endearing quality. The squishy, pink bringers of death go head-to-head with the Russian spy (Agnes Asplund) who oversaw the accident that spawned them.
MONSTERLAND closes with our movie-goer quickly meeting his unfortunate demise at the hands… er.. tentacles of a slimy, delightful claymation creature. MONSTERLAND isn’t a collection of shorts that will change your life and inspire you, but it embodies a lot of the unhinged qualities that makes horror so fun. If you get the chance to watch this with your friends, try to make a drinking game out of it, and make it ridiculous. Like, every time you see blood or boobs, take a shot. Yes, the lush of the group will be puking, but don’t fight it, let them vomit everywhere. I guarantee the slime and smell will only enhance the experience.