Monsters can exist, and they come in many forms – in both our minds and in reality. That’s at least the idea behind Hulu’s newest show Monsterland, an anthology horror series based on the 2013 book North American Lake Monsters: Stories by Nathan Ballingrud. Consisting of eight tales, the series might feature some freaky creatures, but the horror’s of real-life are what truly surprise you.
The first episode stars Kaitlyn Dever as a young mother, barely making ends meet with her waitress job in a Louisiana small town. She is raising her daughter alone, as her abusive ex isn’t really in the picture. But being a single mother throws her some curve balls, as her daughter begins expressing some aggressive tendencies that she cannot handle.
One day at work, she meets a strange man (Jonathan Tucker) who takes a liking to her. When he shows up to her door, needing a place to stay and offering her a good chunk of cash for her hospitality, she will soon come to find out that not everyone is who they seem – not even herself.
Now, I’m a complete sucker for anthology shows, which I’ll talk about more in some future posts. I especially love when it’s episode by episode, as I just find them to be less daunting than a standard season format. With each episode essentially a fresh start, I think they work perfectly for the horror genre. So I’m always interested in checking out new ones to get a bunch of spooky tales in one.
My initial impression of the first episode, was that it was definitely a slower burn than I expected – I thought a little too slow for an episodic formula, at first. But it continued to pull me in with its mysterious plot. It doesn’t play as if anything monstrous or supernatural is part of its story, so it continues to make you wonder how it fits into the shows narrative of being a “Monsterland”.
Each episode from there plays the same. It’s deeply rooted in reality, playing on the ideas of what makes a monster. Not just a fictional beast, or a tall tale, but what actions we as humans find immoral. It has an intriguing premise with some unique twists that I haven’t seen, and there are some wonderful talents in front of the camera, such as Kelly Marie Tran, Mike Colter, Taylor Schilling and Nicole Beharie.
Sometimes the stories end fairly abruptly, leaving me craving a bit more. Not just in terms of answers, I’m fine with vagueness, but to feel a tiny bit more resolved. However, I think that might be its point as this sort of bleak, moral compass that uses fictional monsters as a stand-in for the horrors these characters face in life.
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