Based on the short story collection NORTH AMERICAN LAKE MONSTERS by Nathan Ballingrud, MONSTERLAND (Hulu) is an eight-episode horror anthology exploring the idea of monsters. It’s a masterclass in “monster as metaphor” and overall a terrific addition to screen horror, though some episodes were stronger than others.
In each episode, we see people either making it or not making it but in every case slowly being crushed by some conflict: poverty and a problematic child, a family scandal, an ailing family member, mental illness, the loss of a loved one, an environmental disaster. Within five minutes, we see people caught in an almost intractable web. The monster element offers either alleviation or punishment, affecting the plot while being directly integral to the story’s theme, and it’s not always clear who the real monster is. This is not the typical monster story, where the central conflict revolves around clear-cut survival. This is more literary stuff about people trying to survive horribly real circumstances, with a monster playing a part.
For me, I found the episodes all well produced but uneven in storytelling. Some shined, others were basically good, and a few weren’t so hot, mostly because they were too on the nose in the relationship between monster and theme. In most, I would have preferred a stronger resolution.
Despite these minor reservations, I liked this series a lot for its storytelling and admired it quite a bit for its approach to genre. Overall, I recommend it to anybody but particularly horror fans looking for something a little more literary and offbeat to chew on.