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Series / Monsterland

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When you were born, when you were a little baby, there's a million yous you can be. A doctor, a lawyer, a bank robber, happy, sad, all different kinds of versions of you. Then you start going through life and you make this choice, this one, that one, one by one those versions sort of go off, like they dying in a sort of way. And then finally, you end up who you is.
— Toni, "Port Fourchon, Louisiana"

Monsterland is a 2020 horror anthology series streaming on Hulu. It is based on the short horror stories (sometimes loosely) of Nathan Ballingrud's 2013 book North American Lake Monsters: Stories. The show was created by Mary Laws (writer of The Neon Demon) and each episode takes place and is named after a different city.

The show stars a large number of actors, including Kaitlyn Dever, Jonathan Tucker, Charlie Tahan, Ben Rappaport, Nicole Beharie, Creator/HamishLinklater, Bill Camp, Taylor Schilling, Roberta Colindrez, Adria Arjona, Trieu Tran, Kelly Marie Tran, Mike Colter, and Adepero Oduye.

The official trailer.


"Port Fourchon, Louisiana" (based on the story "You Go Where It Takes You")

A down-and-out waitress questions her choices.

  • Adult Fear: Toni's whole life is consumed by this; she's a single mother working a dead-end waitressing job that doesn't pay enough, her daughter has violent episodes and Toni had no resources to get her treatment... by the time she encounters a shapeshifting Serial Killer, the supernatural horror is almost a relief.
  • Gender-Blender Name: The protagonist is a young woman named Toni, who has a daughter named Jack. She meets a man named Alex, which can be a male or female name. It becomes very appropriate when he reveals he's not always male.
  • Greasy Spoon: Toni works in one. Watch out for the rats.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Alex claims to be on the run from another skin-changer called Mr. Grey. After a falling-out between them, he believes he killed Mr. Grey but can't be fully sure, and lives his lives paranoid about running into him again.
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  • Once More, with Clarity!: The opening scene is of Alex drowning a teenage girl, but towards the end of the episode, the show flashes back to the scene as he explains she wasn't really a teenager at all, but Mr. Grey.
  • Shower of Love: After he pays her to let him stay the night, Toni approaches Alex while he's showering and the two kiss, leading to sex. Borders on Fan Disservice as, while both are attractive and fit, Alex has a genuinely creepy vibe, and also began the episode by murdering a teenage girl... or so it seemed.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Several scenes are shown of Mr. Grey, the "skinwalker" who hunts Alex. The actor playing Grey is credited, and it is suggested that Gery is hunting individuals who change identities, like Alex and Toni. Grey's presence has no bearing on the episode, and he doesn't show up in future episodes although Toni does.

"Eugene, Oregon" (based on the story "S.S.")

A lonely teen encounters an unwelcome guest.

  • Ambiguous Ending: It isn't clear at the end if Nick killed the Shadow, or killed his mother thinking she was a Shadow, or killed anyone.
  • Disappeared Dad: Nick's dad vanished years earlier; the Watchers use information about him as leverage to turn Nick against the Shadows. It's kept ambiguous whether they actually had any to offer.
  • Emotion Eater: The Watch claims that the Shadows are these, creatures that feed on misery and suffering. It VERY much seems to be Blatant Lies, as the one Shadow we see never does anything malevolent, and reacts with genuine fear when Nick attacks it.
  • Living Shadow: Nick finds one living in his house, a human-shaped shadow of indeterminate gender.

"New Orleans, Louisiana"

A New Orleans socialite wrestles with her past.

  • Black Eyes of Evil: the sinister trumpet player sports a pair; it's up for debate if he's the most evil character in the story, however.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The ice pick is used during the party scene; later, Annie uses it to puncture both ear drums to escape the trumpet player's music. It doesn't work.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The demonic trumpeter really may be some sort of supernatural tormentor punishing Annie for her complicity in her husband's crimes, or he may be a manifestation of her own guilt-riddled paranoia.

"New York, New York"

A wealthy CEO suffers for his sins.

  • Amoral Attorney: Stanley's attorney is unlikable and only concerned with coaching Stanley in what to say to get him off the hook in his testimony before Congress.
  • Green Aesop: The demon in the episode says that oil spills are a sign of the Apocalypse.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Stanley Price is apparently possessed by a demon. It claims to be God at one point, but displays no omnipotent abilities. It occupies Stanley's stomach in an oil-covered bird-like form. Stanley seems to have opened himself up to demonic possession by polluting the planet and being unrepentant. At the end of the episode, the demon emerges from Stanley's stomach and flies off. It claims that oil spills are a sign of the Biblical Apocalypse, but there is no indication it caused Stanley to pollute. The demon in Stanley's stomach apparently thrives on heat, implying a Hellish origin.

"Plainfield, Illinois" (based on the story "The Good Husband")

A suburban lawyer debates life and death.

  • Downer Ending: The episode ends with Kate as a mindless zombie, and her daughter Heather unaware that one of her mothers is undead. Shawn seems happy with the situation, but she appears to be in denial and/or happy that she still has Kate.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: Kate comes back as a zombie without explanation why. It is implied that she doesn't let go of anything when she was alive, and didn't let go of life itself. She starts as unaware that she died by attempted suicide or is dead, but slowly turns into a near-mindless animated corpse.
  • Gayngst-Induced Suicide: Averted, since Kate kills herself not because she is gay but because she has mental problems.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Kate dies and comes back to life through unknown means. It is implied that since she never let things go, that attitude carried over to her not letting go of life. She is drawn to dead things and likes to lie in shallow graves, and decays at a normal rate for a corpse.

"Palacios, Texas"

A disgruntled fisherman makes the catch of a lifetime.

  • Downer Ending: The episode ends with Sharko diving into the Mermaid's tank, and her killing him. While he hallucinates that he is going to be with her forever in the ocean.
  • Interspecies Romance: Sharko becomes romantically involved with a mermaid.
  • Mermaid Problem: The fact that the mermaid has no external genitalia is averted when the Mermaid takes on the form of a human woman. Although whether she actually does, it is Sharko's hallucination, or it is a hallucination projected by the Mermaid itself is never clarified.

"Iron River, Michigan"

A neglected daughter longs for another life.

  • Abusive Parents: Faye is not a good parent to Lauren. The reason why Faye is passed out on the couch is never clarified to be whether she worked late (as Lauren claims), or because she is drunk. Later, Faye takes money from Lauren's rival (and makes sure Lauren sees her take the money) to accuse Lauren on her wedding day of murdering Elena. Faye doesn't let Lauren have any kind of social life, and after Elena disappears, Lauren embraces Elena's mother Rebecca as her "new" parent.
  • Disappeared Dad: Lauren's father is never seen or mentioned. Neither is Elena's, and there is no sign of him on Lauren's wedding day.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Several characters have "flashbacks" speculating what happened on the day Elena disappeared.

"Newark, New Jersey" (based on the story "The Monsters of Heaven")

A grieving couple struggles to say goodbye.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The "Angels" in the episode have no wings, and the one we see has a number-letter code printed on its chest. The tattoo suggests its origin is less than celestial, but it is never clarified.

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