Sunday, July 22, 2018

Monsterland – review

Director: Various

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers

This is another portmanteau film that brings together unconnected (and I assume previously released) shorts as a whole. The wraparound has a survivor (Josh LaCasse) of an ongoing apocalypse seeking refuge in a cinema (where the audience has been killed) and watching the shorts we watch.

This is fairly lengthy, coming in at 108 minutes, but most of the content is worth a look (a rather surreal stop motion was perhaps misplaced and I have seen it before in another anthology film). The only connectivity is the theme of monsters and there are two that we are interested in – one with a vampire and the other with a vampiric entity.

Scott and Marie
The first segment is entitled Hag and was directed by Erik Gardner. It starts with Scott (Drew Wicks, Angel) waking up to find that wife, Marie (Megan Duffy) is out of bed and stood at the window. She repeats over and over that *she* gets you in your sleep. He calls out to her but she snaps at him. In the morning he wakes to find her staring intently at him, wanting to look at him.

the hag
They are attending therapy together with a marriage guidance counsellor (John Franklin) but things are going to take a turn for the worse. Scott starts waking to a dripping on his face and finds he cannot move. He also starts seeing a hag (Eileen Dietz, Creepshow 3). We have met the hag before; energy vampire and common archetype across many mythologies/folklores. This time it is unusual as it seems to be tied in with Marie and we are left wondering whether it is an entity in its own right, Scott’s stresses made manifest or actually Marie possessed. This Hag can also attack in a way that is much more visceral than many portrayals.

home invasion
The second segment we are interested in is House Call, directed by Graham Denman. It starts with a dentist, Dr Richter (Ruben Pla), sat at home maudlin – visual clues suggesting that he is recently divorced. There is a knocking at the door. A man (Sean Keller, Death Valley) is there and says he wants a dentist. Richter tries to get rid of him but he pushes in and brandishes a gun. The man has been to his surgery and, when it was closed, come to his home.

pulling teeth
His issue – he’s becoming a vampire. He met a woman, who bit him, and he is now burnt by sunlight and garlic repulses him. He can feel his teeth growing. Richter tries to tell him that the teeth look normal and that, as he has a reflection, he can’t be a vampire. To no avail… the man wants him to pull his cuspid teeth, and when Richter states he doesn’t have his equipment at home the man suggests he improvise. He literally pulls them using a small monkey wrench, but the man fits, following the second extraction, and perhaps the fangs just needed space to grow…

Both these shorts were well shot and fun. Hag gave a lot of room to think about the story and what may (or may not) have happened. The insinuations are there but the short offers just the right amount of doubt. House Call is more direct and simple, with no grey area and is fun for that very reason as well. The other shorts included are varied in content but, for the most part, are professionally put together horror shorts.

Noel Jason Scott as the Ghoul
There is just one more vampire to mention. The wraparound in the cinema was directed by John Skipp and Andrew Kasch. It doesn’t have a huge amount of story to it other than the survivor watching the films (and killing a tentacled thing in the projection room). However – at the end of the film there is a somewhat larger monster in the auditorium and the survivor makes a break for it, however another monster runs into the theatre at the same time. Credited as the Ghoul (Noel Jason Scott), the distinguishing features are the fangs and the 'vamp face' – so it could well be a vampire or remind us that ghoul and vampire often are conflated.

For the shorts mentioned, 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

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