These days, there seems to be two sorts of horror anthology film: the ones like V/H/S and Southbound, in which all of the material was created specifically for the film, and ones like Dread Central’s Zombieworld and Monsterland—feature-length compendiums of short horror films that have already made the festival circuit and now have basically nowhere to go. And while the first type of anthology requires a lot more creativity, it’s nice to notice that someone out there is shining a small but consistent spotlight on the relatively thankless world of short filmmaking.
Anyone who has ever spent time at a genre festival knows what a “shorts program” is: a collection of mini-movies that are (hopefully) tied together through some sort of thematic connection. But even if these programs are entirely random, the simple truth is that you’ll often find a whole lot of care, effort, and creativity in the world of short films—and it’s always nice to see those efforts rewarded in some sort of home video release. And that’s where collections like Zombieworld and Monsterland come in.
At best, a “shorts program” collection like Monsterland gives you a handful of amusing mini-films, and at worst they inspire young filmmakers to realize that there are good options when you want to be a filmmaker but you’re not quite ready to produce a full-length feature. And while Monsterland is most assuredly a mixed bag, the good stuff stands out; the final film is an absolute hoot. So here’s what we got:
Don’t Go in the Lake: Horny swimmers get eaten by something in goofily gory fashion. Not much to this one, sorry to say.
The Grey Matter: A young man takes dating advice from a giant brain parasite—obviously odd but legitimately funny. It also features an amusing lead performance from Ebon Moss-Bachrach.
Curiosity Kills: A broadly appealing slapstick splatter-fest from Estonia that plays like a live-action cartoon. It’s about a radioactive mouse that goes on a killing spree in rather raucous fashion.
Hag: A man who is suffering from horrible nightmares earns an unwelcome visit from the titular character. Meanwhile, his wife may know more than she lets on. This one’s creepy and effective, thanks in large part to some good special effects and two strong leads.
Monster Man: A quick, simple, and enjoyably gory piece of horror animation from Frank Sudol, director of similar features entitled City of Rott and Dead Fury (which you should probably check out if you enjoy this little morsel of mayhem).
House Call: A man who believes he is a vampire invades a dentist’s home and insists that he yank his teeth out. Pretty straightforward stuff, although the extraction scene is pretty darn nasty.
Happy Memories: A certifiably insane piece of bizarre animation that may drive you insane if you watch it on any drug stronger than marijuana. You have been warned.
Stay at Home Dad: A new father agrees to an experiment that will give him large, milk-producing breasts so he can feed his daughter. Would you believe that things get even weirder than that? Well, they do.
Hellyfish: I loved this one. Sort of a fast-paced satire of all the simplistic monster movies you know and love, it’s about a deluge of mutated, man-eating jellyfish that pour out of the ocean and devour a collection of walking stereotypes in very freak fashion. Fun stuff. Great music, too.
The “wrap-around” story is about a guy who takes a break from what is clearly a monsterpocalypse to enjoy a bunch of short films in a creepy old movie theater. It doesn’t do much to tie the shorts together, but it does strike a nice tongue-in-cheek tone for the collection.
While Monsterland may not appeal to those who are focused mainly on mainstream studio horror, those who can appreciate the time and effort it takes to produce even a 10-minute film will probably appreciate what Monsterland has to offer. It’s true that most horror shorts are made as “calling cards” for up and coming filmmakers, but that doesn’t mean they need to be screened a dozen times and then forgotten. Here’s hoping that Dread Central keeps the shorts collections coming. Lord knows there’s no shortage of short films out there that deserve a little more attention.
Rating: 3 miniature burritos out of 5
Image: RLJ / Image Entertainment