When I received Monsters: The Complete Series on DVD for review, I thought it was going to be totally new to me. I popped in the first disc and the second I saw the cyclops family sitting down to watch TV, it all came back to me. (But why isn’t the dad a cyclops, too?)
The series ran for three seasons starting in 1988 and even though it crossed into the 90’s, it’s all very 80’s on the inside. There are 72 half-hour (22 mins) episodes each with a spooky but cautionary tale about what happens when you’re motivated by greed, lust or hubris. The show is similar to Tales from the Darkside or Tales from the Crypt. If you like either of those, then Monsters will be a hit in your home, too.
The one thing that’s hard to get passed while watching this series is the low budget production values. It has that flat look that was common in syndicated shows of the era. The background music is particularly jarring and it all feels like you’re watching an old soap opera – except for the guest list.
The most amazing thing about Monsters is it’s stellar and varied cast of characters. You have the usual horror staples such as Adrienne Barbeau and Linda Blair, but Blair plays against type with a very young Rob Morrow (Numb3rs). Chris Noth, Tony Shalhoub and David Spade also appear alongside TV icons such as David McCallum, Frank Gorshin (Batman) and Darren McGavin. Then it gets wilder – singers Meatloaf, Deborah Harry and Melba Moore show up, too.
Even with all that talent on hand, many of the episodes still fall short. The producers went for a mix of dark humor and just plain dark. The former was lost on me, but I enjoyed the later. Night Gallery tried this same mix a decade earlier and was a bit more successful. The first episode, “The Feverman” even reminded me of Night Gallery’s Sin Eater. It was dirty, and desperate and had a similar twist.
But then there’s “Desirable Alien,” a nonsensical tale about a man who uses his sexual prowess to convince an immigration officer to let him stay in the country. The twist at the end of this one came out of nowhere and I was left wishing for my 22 minutes back.
I moved on to “La Strega” with Blair and Morrow (my husband is Blair fan, I’m a Morrow fan) and we were both pleased and perplexed. The episode involves a slightly kinky powerplay that leaves you wondering who is really running this show and why. Some great moments, some curious moments but worth watching, for sure.
Bottom line, if you can get past the cheap look and the episode missteps, there are plenty of fun stories and good performances in this series. Like totally, it’s the perfect show if you just want to veg out to the max.
Monsters: Complete Series is available now at Amazon.