Dept. of Halloween Hash-Ups


What with it being October, and people just needing an excuse to do horror stuff, Hulu recently released an eight episode anthology series called Monsterland. Being October, it also feels like a good enough reason to release mediocre, mildly haunting stuff in the name of Halloween. 


The idea behind this series is simple, but that’s not the problem. In Monsterland the monsters aren’t the things that go bump in the night. The monsters are us. And that’s it. The problem with Monsterland is that it tries to do too much with too little.

Kaitlyn Dever in episode 1 of Monsterland.

As it is in Episode 1, where we’re introduced to Kaitlyn Dever, a young single mother working at a diner while trying to manage her problematic young daughter. She is almost at the end of her rope when she meets a stranger who, we discover during the opening moments of the episode, is a brutal serial killer. The entire episode then goes to show us how awful Kaitlyn’s life is, with flashbacks to her past and the history of her child. Kaitlyn sleeps with the serial killer, who we then find out is a slightly misunderstood monster, only for the episode to end with Kaitlyn leaving her daughter in the car of a rich lady at the parking local parking lot. Thus the monster is Kaitlyn. And humanity in general.


Or in Episode 2, when a lonely teen finds friends on an anti-Shadows online chat group after he sees a Shadow stalking him. The group, all of whom have never seen a Shadow themselves, convinces the teen that it is the reason his life is so bad and that he should kill it. 

Or in Episode 3 when a mother is confronted with the horrors of her new husband sexually abusing her son, while being haunted by a jazz playing monster trumpet player.

A frustrating and at times boring attempt at convincing us that the monsters that live under your bed is less scary than the monster that is in it.

Or in Episode 4 when the CEO of an oil company that downplayed an oil spill, has his own chest busting experience with an oil covered pelican.

Or the zombie lawyer in Episode 5. Or a fisherman crossing paths with a mermaid in Episode 6. Or an old hag in the woods in Episode 7.

All these descriptions sound like they could be something good, something spooky, but all of them fall flat in their attempt to dehumanise the humans in a story about monsters. Each episode feels self indulgent. Each episode feels like its made by people who think themselves too good for monster stories, so they try and overcomplicate things by making every story about humanity’s failures.

A stage 1 bipolar zombie is comforted by her partner in episode 5 of Monsterland.

Or in the case of Episode 8, not bother with anything at all.

This episode tells the story of a couple who had their young daughter kidnapped a year and a half earlier. The father, Mike Colter, goes through the motions of buying Christmas presents in the hope of his daughter’s return, all while visiting a hypnotherapist to retrace the day of her disappearance. Halfway through the episode Colter’s wife, Adepero Oduye, confesses that she’s been having an affair, and he storms out of the house. Colter then stumbles on an injured angel (angels have been falling from the sky throughout the episode and they’ve been drained of their blood for drugs because humans are like that), and brings it home with him. They nurse it back to health, and in an act of, I guess grieving/moving on/rekindled passion, have angry sex. The angel then walks in on them, and slits its own throat, showering the two grieving parents having angry sex, in a literal fountain of gushing angel blood. 

What. The actual. Fuck.

The grieving couple sit and watch their daughter, in Monsterland episode 8.

The entire series feels like an exercise in experimental storytelling. Trying to do more than it needs to, or even should. 

It’s hard to watch Monsterland when you’re coming off the high of HBO’s Lovecraft Country, a show that isn’t quite an anthology in storytelling, but is instead a great combination of thematically different episodes. Monsterland tries to tie all these stories together (Kaitlyn Dever from Episode 1 shows up in Episodes 3 and 8. The oil spill and oil covered pelican from Episode 4 comes back in Episode 6.) but does so in the most meaningless and superficial way.

On paper Monsterland sounds fantastic. The description of each episode makes this sound like a great series. But what Monsterland really needed was to do less. Each episode needed to be half as long, and far simpler in its plotting. Each episode needed to be more about the monsters, and less about the humans, even if they are the actual monsters in your story.

All 8 episodes of Monsterland is now streaming on Hulu.

Hulu, Season 1, 8 episodes
Creator: Mary Laws
Writers: Mary Laws, Scott Kosar, Wesley Strick, and Emily Kaczamarek
Cast: Kaitlyn Dever, Jonathan Tucker, Charlie Tahan, Ben Rappaport, Nadia Alexander, Nicole Beharie, Hamish Linklater, Marquis Rodriguez, Lauren Bittner, Matty Cardarople, Cheryl Freeman, Anthony Hervey, Bill Camp, Michael Hsu Rosen, Tina Benko, Taylor Schilling, Roberta Colindrez, Adria Arjona, Trieu Tran, Tyson Ritter, Alfredo Narciso, Kelly Marie Tran, Joy Osmanski, Sarah Catherine Hook, Susan Pourfar, Alice Kremelberg, Rachel Zeiger-Haag, Henry Ayres-Brown, Mike Colter, Adepero Oduye, and Michael Chernus

Bahir likes to review movies because he can watch them at special screenings and not have to interact with large groups of people who may not agree with his idea of what a movie going experience is. Bahir likes jazz, documentaries, Ken Burns, and summer blockbuster movies. He really hopes that the HBO MAX Green Lantern series will help the character be cool again. Also don’t get him started on Jason Momoa’s Aquaman (#NotMyArthurCurry).

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