Review: MONSTERLAND, A Mixed Bag of Fun And Freakiness
Remember when horror movies were fun? Okay, maybe they weren't always fun, but there was a special sort of glee inherent in some of them that I've only seen recently in Tales Of Halloween.
Well, RLJ Entertainment and DreadCentral present Monsterland, which was born from a call for submissions. In the wrap-around segment directed by Andrew Kasch and John Skipp, a man (Josh LaCasse who's great in this role) escapes a "monster apocalypse" for an evening of films in a theatre beset by murderous creatures. He's become a murderer himself, having had to defend himself around every corner. Finally free of hinderance, he settles down with a huge box of popcorn to watch some films amid quite a few dead bodies. The theatre location gave this segment a much bigger feel than most of the films included here.
The first film the hapless man sees is Don't Go Into The Water, directed by Corey Norman. It's a typical night of skinny dipping in the lake for several friends, who all get sucked under and eaten by an unseen force, one by one. I can't say much about it, except that's what happens. The film was very short and therefore never had time to fully develop; I wanted to know more and see more underwater photography --- as well as much more monster.
Next is The Grey Matter from The McCoubrey Brothers --- a well-acted, well-shot plot about a run-of-the-mill office dude who is trying to get the company hottie to go out with him. The weird thing is, he's got a giant hole in the back of his head and a weird little grub that gives him advice on women. The film is much better than this sounds; it hits the right comedic notes, looks great, and was quite enjoyable.
Then we're on to Curiosity Kills, which is the lone foreign entry, I believe. Directed by Sander Maran, it's a bright, color-saturated film, with very little dialog. A boy plays around with dad's science potions, and his pet rat is turned into a radioactive rodent out for blood in rapid succession. This one is good for kids who like a little of the macabre with their slapstick, but most adults will probably find it silly, as I did, and wonder why it was included.
Hag is the next short in the anthology, and touches on the terrifying aspects of sleep paralysis. Directed by Erik Gardner, this one is solid, and kinda freaky. It tells the tale of a couple going through marriage counseling. The woman sleepwalks and the man has nightmares, and they're going through a rough patch. Good directing and acting, as well as a pretty scary turn by Eileen Dietz, who we all know and love as the face of the demon Pazuzu in The Exorcist, make this one a winner.
The short that follows is another film that made me shrug; Monster Man, animated and directed by Frank J. Sudol, centers on a a geriatric guy who uses his walker to kill enormous monsters. That's about it.
House Call from Graham Denman feels like a reward for sticking with the anthology thus far. The short stars Ruben Pla as dentist who's been served with divorce papers and Sean Keller as a man who demands that he pull a few of his teeth at gunpoint. A tense stand-off develops, and I won't spoil what happens, but this short is worth watching for its acting, directing, and camera work.
Happy Memories from Jack Fields is another head-scratcher. It's a cosmic tale of a puppet cupcake reborn after going through some heavy stuff, namely, some torture (I think?) from some other puppet beings. It's trippy and experimental.
Stay At Home Dad is another film directed by Andrew Kasch and John Skipp, and this one adds a little farce to the freakiness. The short features a couple with a newborn; mom is the breadwinner, and dad has discovered an experiement that allows him to grow an enormous pair of mammaries to feed their daughter. I won't say much more, but this one manages the laughs well, with a funny turn by Trent Haaga and some cool FX at the end.
The last short is Hellyfish, co-directed by Patrick Longstreth and Robert Mclean. A couple of enemies of the United States go looking for a lost nuclear bomb off the coast of Georgia. Well, it suddenly starts to leak, and the jellyfish in the sea go on a rampage of epic porportions. This short feels like a cross between a CGI demo reel and a music video, particularly toward the end. My favorite part was a lifeguard telling some sassy teens "I hope you drown."
Finally, the wrap-around segment ties things up and we get the credits for all of the films. Like the choices of films in Monsterland, the credits are a mish-mash of styles and fonts, and is available on DVD and digital video on June 7.