Behind the Monsters

4 out of 5

Produced by: Gabrielle Binkley, Anthony Uro, Michael Varrati

covers season 1

A very fun, well-edited exploration of exactly what it proposes: the franchise-supporting horror icons that are recognizable beyond the confines of the films in which they’re featured – Michael Myers, Freddie, Jason, and etcetera. Each episode is structured to step through the genesis of whichever creation, and then – where I’d say the series really earns its viewing time – stepping through how that evolved / evolves over however many subsequent entries in that series. This is important because we’ve generally covered the origin stories (purposeful or accidental) of most of these figures, but have less-so gone into how they’ve endured through ebbs and flows of their movies. So we get to check in with not just creators / initial-movie directors, but also cast and crew of sequels, and then a semi-consistent list of talking heads of films critics, fan, analysts, and historians. The tone is kept casual, but leans toward respectability as opposed to humor: Behind the Monsters understands that there are legacies to discuss here, even if it’s just silly puppets or makeup effects stretched across critically maligned movies. Film clips are liberally sprinkled in so we’re not just watching interviews, and the interviews themselves are staged slightly differently so eye direction can bounce around the screen enough to definitely maintain both our listening and visual attentions throughout the 40ish minute eps.

Of course, some usual caveats apply: of those interviews, a lot are just fans, and depending on your tolerance for certain types of humor, the bits where people are just making witty comments about why they like Pinhead or whomever may incur eye-rolls, and although we do have to cover the origin material to get to the rest of the stuff, you will have heard it before if you’ve watched any similar horror movie BTS or docs.

That latter bit is where Behind the Monsters gets a more substantial knock, as it arrived right around the time of another Netflix season of Movies That Made Us that happened to be Halloween focused and thus featured a lot of the same initial films (and maybe had some shared interviewees?), but of course, that matters moreso if you were watching both at the time they came out. It does drive home, though, that none of Behind the Monsters’ first season entries is particularly surprising. I mean, I totally understand it, since you need to somewhat aim to a more common lower denominator in viewership – you’re not going to earn ratings or a second season by going after, I dunno, Wishmaster or something first – and it’d be hard to support a full episode on series that only have 2 or 3 entries, but once I saw the roster of monsters being covered, I can’t deny I wanted something a little bit off the beaten path. That said, despite having traveled these roads, each episode very much held my attention (and earned my respect) due to reasons mentioned above, so here’s hoping my viewership encourages a second season that can explore a bit more.