Sunday, October 26, 2014

Outré Intro: Monsters (1988 - 1991)

To this day, I have very fond memories of watching Monsters (1988 - 1991) when I was  away at college, at the University of Richmond. 

The syndicated anthology (and follow-up to Laurel's Tales from the Darkside [1984 - 1987]) often aired late at night, on weekends, and my buddies and I would return to the dorm from a night out with Taco Bell or Dominoes Pizza, and watch an episode. The series rarely disappointed, especially at that hour, and with fast-food in hand.

The introductory montage to the half-hour series is really charming, even today, and knowingly harks back to a time when the horror genre could be scary, funny and even a little campy. Today we expect our scares serious (a side-effect of the culture's move toward naturalism and grittiness over artificiality or theatricality), but in 1988, Monsters told good scary stories and also some funny, socially-conscious ones.  The show had a small budget, but an almost unlimited sense of imagination.

The Monsters montage commence with a God's Eye view from on high, or from space. We are looking down from the Heavens at the United States. You can make out the Rocky Mountains and the lower tips of the Great Lakes in the first image. We see several pinpoints of lights, from cities.

Through a series of dissolves, we move closer to ground level. We see a city, a neighborhood and finally an average middle-class family house, in what could be the 1950s or  even 1980s. 

Next, we're inside the living room of the American family house, gazing at Dad in an easy chair, like Archie Bunker,'s watching a black-and-white program on the TV set.

This shot represents our first indication that we may have arrived on an alternate Earth, one still populated by 20th century American families. But the families are comprised of...monsters. But again, these are monsters we recognize. They live the same lives we do.

In the next shot, here comes Mom, a happy home-making cyclops (with horns...) as she happily wheels in dinner on a tray. Again, there's a very strong June Cleaver feeling here, suggesting the traditional 1950s of Leave it to Beaver or Ozzie and Harriet.  What the intro seems to be noting, with tongue-in-cheek, is that horror is as American as apple pie.

As the family child, a little girl, goes for the dinner casserole, Dad laments that nothing good is on TV, and Mom, finally sitting down after preparing the meal, suggests something good must be on for family hour.  

And indeed, something good and wholesome is on, the family favorite: Monsters!

In this universe of creatures and beasties, horror is family fun (as it should be in our universe too...), and the family is excited that the show is about to begin.  One wonders if the "monsters" to be featured on the popular program are all actually "humans," since this is an alternate world.

Dad turns off the light, and leans forward, ready to see what stories the program is going to offer tonight.  Anticipation runs high...

And from Dad's eyes the series logo/title emerges.  Monsters.

This introduction today seem even more nostalgic than it did in the late eighties. Today, we have our phones and other devices at the dinner hour, and no one is left to the whim of "what's on" TV because we can stream programming, or instantly access hundreds of channels. The sense of community that arose around a series of touchstone TV shows  -- like Leave it to Beaver -- is largely gone but Monsters remembers and depicts that era with a sense of humor. 

Even cyclops love a good story...

And here's the intro in live-action:

1 comment:

  1. Loved Monsters. A channel here once showed it and Tales From the Darkside back to back and Saturday nights. I miss that.