Spooks, Shocks, & Schlock – ‘Monsters: The Complete Series’ Reviewed

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Monsters: The Complete SeriesTitle: Monsters – The Complete Series

Studio: Entertainment One

Released: March 4th, 2014

Rated: NR

Genre: Horror Television Series

Runtime: 1560 minutes (72 episodes)

Aspect Ratio: 4 x 3 (1.33:1)

Audio: 2.0 Dolby Digital

Language: English w/SDH Subtitles

Number of discs: 9

Retail Price: $99.99

Guest Stars: Adrienne Barbeau, Linda Blair, Tempestt Bledsoe, Laura Branigan, Steve Buscemi, Jeff Conaway, Billy Drago, Frankie Faison, Gina Gershon, Frank Gorshin, Pam Grier, Rich Hall, Deborah Harry, Ashley Laurence, Darren McGavin, Meat Loaf, Rob Morrow, Laraine Newman, Tom Noonan, Chris Noth, John Saxon, Tony Shalhoub, David Spade, Tori Spelling, Jerry Stiller, Lili Taylor and many more.

If you’re in your thirties or forties (or even older) you’ll probably remember Monsters from its syndication, through Tribune Entertainment, from 1988 through 1991. Younger viewers have probably run across the show when it ran on SyFy (ok, it was called the Sci-Fi Channel back then) or, more recently, in sporadic marathons on Chiller. Laurel Entertainment produced the series, as it did with Richard P. Rubinstein’s earlier series Tales from the Darkside, and 72 episodes were aired in total.

For the most part each episode follows a particular formula: a creepy creature is featured and those who deserve to come to a horrible end do. While the special effects were pretty solid in the day they are a bit creaky with the present state of CGI. The tales on the other hand are still nicely crafted, with plenty of black humor and irony. A great many of the episodes contain a twist and rarely play out in a straight forward manner. Keep in mind not every story is horrifying and a good number are played for laughs.

Monsters Glim-GlimMonsters has attained a cult status over the years and now Entertainment One has collected all the episodes in one set. While there are quite a few especially solid episodes, there are also a good number which either haven’t held up well or were just overall schlocky in the first place. It’s not as if I’d ever compare Monsters to the classic Serling The Twilight Zone, but it’s important to keep in mind that even a series like Twilight Zone had its share of clunkers too.

Some if the more notable episodes of Monsters…

Glim-Glim: An alien crash lands in a small Midwestern town and everyone starts keeling over dead. The entire town hasn’t been wiped out, however, and a little girl may be the key to preventing a global catastrophe.

The Cocoon: No, you won’t find Wilford Brimley or Don Ameche anywhere in sight. An exceptional creep fest as a woman is involved in a terrible car accident yet seemingly shows no injuries. An investigating police detective brings in his psychic girlfriend to assist and things proceed downhill quickly.

Murray’s Monster: Played strictly for laughs, this episode stars SCTV veteran Joe Flaherty as a disgruntled psychiatrist who’s trapped between two women; the first is his wife who’s a shrew of the first order and, the second, his secretary who he’s to convince to knock boots. Could a mild mannered patient, who claims an inner monster within, be the solution to the doctor’s problems?

The Hole: Set during the Vietnam War, two American G.I.s and a South Vietnamese soldier find themselves trapped in a series of underground tunnels which, they’ve been told by a dying Viet Cong, disturbed an ancient burial ground and the dead aren’t happy.

The Space-Eaters: Based on a story by Frank Belknap Long. In the midst of a New England evening thunderstorm, two friends find their game of chess interrupted by a local who claims to have been abducted by aliens and had his brain removed. Sure enough, the man has a hole right there in his head! The only Cthulhu Mythos tale Monsters took on, but not by Lovecraft obviously.

While it’s certainly nice to have every episode of Monsters available in a handy boxed set, the quality of the transfers leaves a lot to be desired. Monsters: The Complete Series suffers from the same problems as other DVDs of late 80s/early 90s television shows which were syndicated on independent networks; grainy video. I understand there isn’t much Entertainment One can do about this but don’t expect any sort of restoration or enhancement to the video. I understand the video has been remastered but you could have fooled me and the 1.33:1 aspect ratio looks mighty strange on a 1080p big screen. Also of note is a lack of any sort of extras on the DVDs as each contains eight episodes and nothing else.

While some may balk at the $99.99 price tag, and others disappointed with the video quality and only Dolby 2.0, it’s still nice to have one of the better horror anthologies of the past available for marathon viewing. Viewers who have been weaned on current offering like The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, and True Blood will probably find these classic little spook tales a bit too tame and/or campy but for those who fondly remember Monsters from its initial run this complete collection should be considered a must buy.

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