Monsters! Now this is a show I've been meaning to write about for years as it was one of my all-time favorite horror anthology television series. Monsters was basically the red-headed stepchild of Tales From the Darkside; same producer, but all of the episodes had a focus on horror rather than the mix of fantasy and sci-fi that were in TFTD. If you ask me, Monsters was a far superior series, however, and it never got the credit it deserved. The fact that the series was never released on DVD is a crime against all fans of horror, and it kills me to think about how many people missed out on this show, as it only ran for three seasons from 1988 - 1991. On the plus side, the Chiller TV network has been re-airing old Monsters episodes lately, so those of you who get that channel are in luck.
One of the main reasons I was instantly hooked on Monsters was the classic intro sequence:
It all starts off with a lurching little tune as the camera enters the suburban house of an all-american family gathered 'round the TV set, as if it was straight out of an old sitcom. We quickly realize that it's not a normal human family, but a family of... well... monsters. Physical abnormalities aside, they act like a happy family, as the daughter chows down on some candy critters. Mom then notices the TV and proclaims, "It's Monsters, our favorite show!", as dad turns out the lights with a big grin on his face and the Monsters logo pops up on the screen.
The intro really set the tone for the entire series, and while the episodes were centered around horror, there was always a healthy supply of humor in each one. There were also plenty of celebrity cameos and future stars making appearances in some of the episodes including Deborah "Blondie" Harry, Steve Buscemi and David Spade to name a few.
Today, rather than gloss over the entire series, I'd like to focus on my all-time favorite episode of Monsters (from Season 1) by giving it a nice in-depth review. The name of that episode? The Match Game.
We begin in front of a spooky old Victorian mansion, as the two lead characters (Paul and Jodie) talk about their plans to hang out there with some friends. Jodie tells Paul about how he's not the most social person, how he's a dreamer, and then she gives him a piercing stare and claims it's all part of his appeal. Oh yeah, Paul... she wants you.
By the way, you should all recognize Jodie, because it's a young Ashley Laurence. She played Kirsty, the heroine in the original Hellraiser film. The guy (Byron Thames) may also look familiar to those of you who were fans of the Freddy's Nightmares series, as he appeared in the "Mother's Day" episode not long before doing this Monsters one.
Paul rests his arm up against one of the columns on the porch and suddenly starts hearing voices whispering his name over and over again. With this little smidget of foreshadowing, it becomes crystal clear that Paul has a strange connection to this place. He asks Jodie who lived here before everybody started claiming the mansion was haunted, and she tells him the only person who ever lived there was the guy who built it. He apparently killed himself in the pond out back, and Jodie says that's what's so great about the house... it really sets the mood. Paul, you may want to reconsider hooking up with this girl. We may have a necrophilia on our hands here.
Later that night, they're in the mansion with their friends, Matthew (Sasha Jenson) and his girlfriend Beverly (Tori Spelling). Yeah, that's right... this haunted tale just got all 90210 on your asses!
Beverly is already complaining that Paul gives her the creeps, because he's weird. Only a few lines in, and we're already hating her character, so all is right with the world. Matthew decides to kick off the spooky fun by playing "The Match Game" and explains to his pals how it works. "First guy lights a match, he starts telling a story, and when the match burns down, he stops. Then the next person in line continues the story from where he left off." It's a classic horror game, just like telling campfire tales, only with more group participation and burned fingertips interjected into it.
The overenthusiastic Matthew decides to start off the story right, by making fake howling wind sounds and talking in a low voice that seems more like a bad Clint Eastwood impression than a creepy guy. "It's been 50 years since he threw himself into Becker's pond. Taking his own life, ending his misery forever. His name? HERRRRRRRRBERRRRRRT WAAAAVEEEELYYYYY!" he moans to the skies. Matthew's voice echoes outside, and we see a hand slowly emergy from the murky pond waters. Oh my god! I must be Herbert!
Now it's Tori, er, Beverly's turn to continue the story. She talks about how ol' Herbert was very rich and handsome, and there was one woman he loved but simply couldn't have, because she was already married to a politician. "Her name was Ethel Schwartz," she says with a proudly sarcastic look on her face as Matthew sticks his tongue out at her, revealing a spider design. When did he get the chance draw that on there? Sadly, we'll never know.
Jodie then lights a match and begins her side of the tale, explaining that Herbert and Ethel would have illicit meetings at the pond out in the back of the mansion. Word soon spread around town and Ethel's husband found out about the affair, so one night, he locked Ethel in the attic and went to wait for Herbert at the pond.
Next up, it's Paul's turn and he goes on to tell how Herbert and Ethel's husband had a terrible fight, but Herbert was bigger and stronger, and managed to drown her husband. Paul even goes into the gruesome details about how the "still, rancid waters of the pond filled his lungs" just before he died.
Everybody then stares at Paul's match and notices that it's not burning out, and Paul seems to be in an almost trancelike state as he continues the story for far longer than any of the others had a chance to. He tells of how, after burying the body, Herbert rode off on his horse during a storm to see Ethel, but he was thrown from the saddle into an old farming thresher machine when a bolt of lightning scared his horse. Naturally, when he says this, a bolt of lightning strikes outside the mansion and startles everybody in the group. Paul speaks of the exposed muscle, bone, blood pouring from Herbert's face and how the thresher machine blades caused "so much pain" as he heard the old clock in the nearby farm house toll the midnight hour. Right on cue, an old clock in the room they're all sitting in, tolls for midnight as his match finally burns out.
Beverly is very annoyed now, and wants to know who was screwing around with the clock to make it ring when Paul said that. Paul just stands there silently, while the others try coming up with brilliant excuses like, "mass hypnosis" and "maybe the thunder shook it loose." She then says she wants to go home, but they all vote on it and decide to stick around and finish the story. Yeah... I'm sure that's a decision they won't regret.
We see the soggy, undead hand of somebody walking up towards the mansion as the group sits back down and resumes the storytelling. Matthew says that Herbert pried himself free from the blades of the threshing machine and started to walk home, with his broken leg dragging behind him and blood pouring from his face. Beverly then adds in that Herbert managed to make it back home to the mansion and collapsed in the doorway. Then she blows out her own match, clearly ready to be done with this game. Jodie takes over the story and says that Herbert survived, but lived the rest of his life as an embittered old man, for his face is so badly scarred that nobody can stand the sight of him... not even his beloved Ethel.
It's now Paul's turn once again, and he tells how Herbert's disposition prevented his wounds from healing properly, so he grew more and more disfigured, and he couldn't even look at himself. He took all the mirrors in the house and stored them in an upstairs bedroom so he'd never have to look at himself again. Eventually, he decided to kill himself by filling his pockets with stones and throwing himself into the pond. I guess they had to be some pretty big stones to weigh him down enough.
Matthew claims that while Herbert's body died, his hatred lived on and it's nights like these that he returns home, following his own trail of blood. They then go straight to Jodie, skipping over Beverly cuz she's too scared at this point, and she warns that people should stay out of the mansion on nights like these, because Herbert will kill anything that gets in his way. Paul then says if you look into Herbert's eyes, it can drain the very soul from your body. We see a shadowy figure making its way closer towards the house as Paul starts telling the group how Herbert is at the front door.
The group is pretty scared now, so Matthew gets up and checks out the window and says nobody's there. Seconds later, Herbert jumps right through the window in classic Jason Voorhees style, and is now stalking the group.
Matthew quickly grabs a poker from the fireplace and swats at Herbert while telling the group to run. Rather than running outside to safety, they run upstairs. Brilliant. Matthew then tries stabbing ol' Herb with the poker and it just goes right through his chest, covering his hand in zombie goo in the process.
Herbert then picks up Matthew by the face with one hand and snaps his neck and/or jaw with no effort whatsoever.
As Herbert goes after the rest of the group, they find themselves barricaded inside an upstairs bedroom. Beverly is now absolutely freaking out, screaming at Paul about how this is all his fault and how he's evil. Then, being the genius she is, she decides to open the door and leave the room and finds herself standing face to face with Herbert.
He grabs her by the throat and starts shaking her around violently as she belts out some more annoying, high-pitched shrills, begging her friends to save her. All they do, however, is stand and watch in horror, but come on... Beverly wasn't a good participant in the Match Game, so she's getting what she deserves.
When Herbert finally tires of her constant screams, one of the absolute greatest and most unexpected moments in the history of televised horror occurs...
That's right. You just saw Tori Spelling's head get crushed into goo by the hands of an angry zombie.
After Herbert stretches out and plays with the gooey remains of Beverly's face in his hands, he suddenly notices himself in one of the mirrors and freaks out. Paul and Jodie realize this and grab a mirror to scare him out of the room and barricade the door with some old furniture. Herb heads downstairs to grab that poker Matthew used on him so he can smash all the mirrors in the room and then kill the two survivors.
Jodie asks Paul how he knew about the room and the mirrors 'n all, but he says he just made it all up. Unsatisfied with his response, she tells him, "Don't you see? It's something in you. We made it up, but you brought him here. You can send him away! We have got to finish the story!" Herbert then starts smashing his way inside the room as the two of them continue the story.
Paul lights his final match and says something outside distracts Herbert, and ol' Herb walks over to the window to look outside. Just then, the heavy storm outside sends a tree branch flying through the window, piercing through Herbert's stomach. It causes him a lot of pain, but we all know that a wounding the gullet is no way to take down a zombie.
Herbert's even angrier now as Paul continues the story, speaking of how the sun is rising, chasing away the storm and it's time for ol' Herb to return to his pond.
Sensing the urgency, Herbert raises the poker above his head to strike down the two kids, but Paul finishes the story telling Herbert to go back to the pond. In an instant, Herbert vanishes as the poker falls to the ground as morning has arrived.
With Herbert back in the bottom of the pond where he belongs, Jodie and Paul leave the mansion once and for all. We never do learn why Paul had such a strange connection to the house, but when it comes to a 22-minute horror show that gives us the joy of watching Tori Spelling's head getting crushed by a ruthless zombie, we're willing to let a few plot holes like that slide.
I hope you guys enjoyed this look at one of my favorite episodes from Monsters. If you have any memories of the series, please share them in the comments section below! It really was a fantastic horror anthology series and I truly hope it eventually gets the looooong overdue DVD release I've been waiting for. After all, future generations of horror fans need to be aware that such a great show, which did not cut away for a second as Tori Spelling's head was crushed, actually existed. With that in mind, here's the entire intro along with some highlights from "The Match Game" episode that I put together for you:
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If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out:
|what's the tales from the crypt espiode There's Something Under the Bed about|
@GreenPeaness-actually the "Inside The Closet" episode you are talking about is a Tales From the Darkside episode, not Tales From The Crypt
You can find it on the Season 1 DVD set of Tales From The Darkside. One of the best episodes of the series, hands down.
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