PrintE-mail Written by Scott Clark

Anthology horror is back in a big way, from fully-formed franchises like V/H/S to experimental showcases like The ABC’s of Death, short films are back in vogue for the horror genre. Monsterland, from Zombieworld producers Dread Central, contains eight tales of terror (and a wrap-around narrative) that take place in a monster-filled world where humans have sunk to the bottom of the food chain.

Helmed by fresh-faced filmmakers, Monsterland looks like it was made on a slim budget by some far-reaching underdog horror fans. After confronting us with a chaotic cityscape terrorised by all kinds of monstrosities, Monsterland follows a lone survivor into a cinema where he settles in, not-too-bothered by the corpses that litter the auditorium or the screams that sound outside. The wrap-around narrative, though not as grating as the one used in V/H/S: Viral, doesn’t really do much except offer the audience a break between every few films. And those films are a mixed bag.

The McCoubrey Brothers’ The Grey Matter feels like a reworked Brain Damage and ends up being one of the best humoured, and best filmed, entries. But then, a talkative brain parasite that sounds like Michael Keaton’s Birdman is difficult not to enjoy. Erik Gardener’s Hag is a similarly well-executed segment and easily the scariest entry, utilising simple frights to make the most of a Sleep Paralysis-imbibed thriller.

The two animated films are pretty fun. Jack Fields’ Happy Memories is a colourful trip kicked-off by the accidental ingestion of monster blood. Using puppets, paintings, and all manner of surreal sculpture, we are dragged into a parallel world where a cupcake seems to be reincarnated. Mysteriously, there’s a short film that looks an awful lot like an excerpt from Frank Sudol’s Dead Fury, but there’s no mention in the credits. It’s a pretty cool type of animation that plays like a prolonged cut-scene from a ‘90s side-scrolling video game, and has the gore to match.

Sander Maran’s Curiosity Kills is the worst entry, even though it embraces some of the most enjoyable aspects of horror: killer pets and ludicrous violence. The farcical plot, along with some of the hyper-gore, should have been a laugh except sloppy filmmaking, over-gurning, and a lack of focus make it a surprisingly grating experience. Similar could be said for Corey Norman’s dopey scenario-re-tread Don’t Go Into the Lake or Patrick Longstreth and Robert McLean’s creature-feature Hellyfish. Although Hellyfish has the most excessive use of dodgy digital monsters, it deserves credit for at least using its effects to create something preposterous.

Too often, sloppy digital effects and juvenile humour outweigh fresh interpretation, solid scares, and good old-fashioned entertainment. Monsterland flaunts some cool ideas and talented filmmakers, but unfortunately, its lows are pretty low and its highs ain’t high enough to make it anthology gold.



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