Nicole Beharie (right) stars in the the new show Monsterland, available on Hulu.
When it comes to consuming horror media, I’m a bit of an oddball. While I love scary novels and listening to spooky podcasts about ghosts, I absolutely hate horror movies and television (with an exception of Supernatural, but that’s another story). Why this is, I have no idea. Regardless, I knew this was something I had to overcome when the Halloween season rolled around for the first time since I started these reviews; people want scary this time of year, so I am going to review something scary. One thing that caught my eye was Hulu’s new anthology series (or miniseries… that’s kind of unclear from what I’ve read) Monsterland.
But while I found it well acted and occasionally frightening, Monsterland is not really what I expected: Instead of being a story about monsters stalking people across the USA, it is more about the monstrous things that we as humans are capable of with a healthy amount of social commentary to go along with it. The actual monsters are more of a feature than the point, but if you know this beforehand there is still a good time to be had with Monsterland.
Perhaps the focus on the potential for evil in humanity shouldn’t have caught me off guard (the tagline for the series is “fear the monster inside us all,” after all), but it was still a bit of a let down when the first episode ended and I found myself bummed out instead of terrified. Monsterland is a far-from-lighthearted affair that features heavy thematic elements and damaged people in depressing circumstances. It’s not what I would call “fun” by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad; there are still bouts of terror (and the occasional helping of good old-fashioned body horror and gore) to keep the audience from wallowing in empathetic despair for too long.
Other pluses are the acting, which is well done in every episode, the score, which is impressive, varied, and adds greatly to the tension, and, best of all, the fact that the series treats you like an adult. You’re never really spoon-fed anything in Monsterland, and each episode has at least one moment that requires the audience to come to their own conclusions.
It is, in other words, a series that begs (well, let’s not go crazy here… let’s say “asks politely”) to be discussed and argued over long after the credits roll (or long after Hulu has skipped to the next “recommended” series). Or is “best of all” the fact that one episode is set in our very own Eugene, Oregon? I can’t decide.
Like all anthologies, Monsterland has some episodes that are better than others, but all-in-all the series is worth your time if you’re looking for something a little more thoughtful and a little less fun this fall. If a nonstop rollercoaster of thrills and chills is something you’re after, however, best look elsewhere.