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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Why “Monsters” is Still One of the All-Time Best Horror Anthology Shows [TV Terrors]

Horror and science fiction have always been a part of the television canvas, and constant attempts have been made over the years to produce classic entertainment. Some have fallen by the wayside, while others became mainstream phenomena. With “TV Terrors,” we take a look back at the many genre efforts from the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, exploring some shows that became cult classics, and others that sank into obscurity.

This month we revisit the nostalgic charms of late 80s/early 90s series “Monsters.”

  • Aired from 1988 – 1991
  • Aired in Syndication

The 1980s were filled with an abundance of great anthology horror both in theaters and especially on television. Even when the series were considered failures like “Amazing Stories,” they still managed to age pretty well. One of the most unique anthology horror series of the eighties (and one of my top five anthology horror series ever) is “Monsters.”

Developed by Richard P. Rubinstein (Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside, Pet Sematary, Dawn of the Dead), “Monsters” was a syndicated anthology horror show that often told short form stories that delved in either straight faced horror or dark comedy horror. “Monsters” has one of the most interesting opening intros of all time, as the camera pans down to a normal suburban household one evening. What we assume is going to be a normal nuclear family is actually a suburban family of monsters.

They’re preparing for family night (monsters have those too!), and much to their surprise their favorite show “Monsters” happens to appear on television. Despite never really changing a thing about this prologue, it’s surprising how re-watchable this opening is as there are so many subtle nuances, including the strong monster make up and the tongue in cheek humor.

“Monsters” had one mission and that was that every episode had to feature a monster (or monsters). There was never a single episode that didn’t have some kind of beast or creepy crawly in it. Despite the concept demanding the writers concoct ways to introduce new monsters, the series was pretty fantastic and almost always delivered. As mentioned, “Monsters” was a show that leaned heavily in to dark horror comedy, or just straight faced horror. When it was tongue in cheek, it managed to be very clever, but when it offered up straight faced tales of terror, the series excelled at being pretty scary.

Even today a lot of my favorite episodes from the show give me the willies. Some of my all time favorite episodes include “Cellmates,” centered on a spoiled rich American man who is jailed in South America for hitting a kid with his car. Expecting to be bailed out and rescued by his father’s lawyer, he realizes that he may not make it out as his mate in the next cell may be something otherworldly. This is a great, often creepy look at an affluent racist man getting what’s coming to him. The darkly comic “Small Blessings” works like It’s Alive as a sitcom focusing on the domestic life of a young couple (Kevin Nealon and Julie Brown) caring for their mutated flesh eating baby, Eric.

As people around the neighborhood begin turning up dead, the exhausted mother wonders if there’s a psychopath on the loose, or if Eric is going out at night to eat. This one is pretty fun in all of its demented humor, and includes a very early appearance from David Spade.

The Hole” is one of the many Post-Vietnam horror tales from the decade involving a platoon of American soldiers that are forced to raid an underground tunnel, hoping to garner some information on the enemy. While in there, they come across a wounded Vietnamese Soldier who warns them that the dead are lurking within the walls, and are ready to take anyone that enters the hallowed ground.

Tense and claustrophobic, this is a classic horror tale that feels ripped right out of EC Comics. My favorite episode though is the bleakest of the series, “The Waiting Game.” Centered on two soldiers watching over a nuclear bunker overnight, the two stir crazy men are horrified when unexplained circumstances force them to launch nuclear warheads from the silo. Setting off a chain of nuclear explosions around the country, they learn that they’re draped in nuclear winter with the bunker their only safe haven.

As they fight off boredom and anxiety, they begin to realize that someone or something is lurking outside in the darkness. Before long, they realize something horrible just might have survived the apocalypse. Even worse, it’s trying to lure them out. This is a pitch black horror tale filled with biting tension and some top notch performances. It’s all topped off by an absolutely perfect and bleak final scene. I vividly recall watching “The Waiting Game” as a kid back in 1990, and it kept me up all night.

“Monsters” was considerably lower in budget than anthologies like “Creepshow” and “Tales from the Darkside,” so many of the episodes were confined to one setting, often feeling a lot like stage productions. Nevertheless, the series excelled in unique horror stories that made great use of its resources. The production crew also offered up a plethora of creative monsters like sentient lab rats, subterranean mutants, a vengeful Indigenous deity, a man eating bed, and a monster that feeds on cancer patients.

After ending in 1990, “Monsters” lived on for a long time in syndication on cable television, garnering a long run in the 1990s with repeats airing constantly on The Sci Fi Channel (Now Syfy), and in the aughts on (the now defunct) Chiller TV. “Monsters” was very much in the tradition of “Creepshow” and “Tales from the Darkside” in that it owed a lot of its twists and mood to EC Comics and their offbeat horror stories. The production wasn’t always spectacular, but the series still holds up shockingly well in the annals of horror anthologies.

Is It On DVD/Blu-ray/Streaming? In 2014, Sony released a great DVD set of the entire series. It’s sadly out of print at the moment. However, the entirety of “Monsters” can be found streaming on Amazon Prime Video, and The Roku Channel.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3693973/monsters-still-one-time-best-horror-anthology-shows-tv-terrors/

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