Creatures that go bump in the night are front and center in Monsters, a 1988 anthology that ran for three seasons and 72 episodes. This series of standalone frights bears a striking similarity to Tales from the Darkside, but that’s mainly because they share a producer, Richard P. Rubinstein, and production companies. Unlike its predecessor, Monsters is purely horror with an emphasis on demons, ghouls, and other nightmarish entities whose names we dare not speak.
Season 1, Episode 2
Original airdate: October 29, 1988
Directed by Theodore Gershuny
Written by John Connolly
Katherine, a puppeteer for the animatronic namesake of a children’s show called Holly’s House, has just learned she’s pregnant. And, as Katherine starts to have doubts, Holly acts out violently, as if she has a mind of her own.
The ‘uncanny valley’ effect is often why we’re so repulsed by dolls and puppets. Their humanlike quality makes the average person uncomfortable, whereas others develop more severe aversions. For the latter, Holly’s House is definitely one to avoid.
Unlike the previous episode, The Feverman, this one is more psychological. There is indeed a child-sized puppet, but she’s not the actual monster here. Rather, the eponymous character in Holly’s House is a means to an end. A tool, if you will. Holly is a loaded gun in need of aiming, and, boy, does Katherine aim.
The fictional, low-budget TV show here is like the ones we all grew up with. Anthropomorphic animals interacting with humans, and inanimate objects who have sprung to life with little to no explanation. It’s a fairly routine reiteration of analogue nostalgia. That being said, Katherine (Marilyn Jones) loves what she does. This is painstakingly clear when she announces she’s pregnant to her partner, Lenny (Perry Lang), another actor on the show.
Seeing as she is torn between her job and wanting a family, Katherine’s pregnancy is a mixed blessing. It appears odd she has to choose one or the other, but there’s an overwhelming message that Katherine has to ‘grow up’ and get out of the business. Lenny wants to tie the knot, and the show’s director (Neil Smith) weighs the pros and cons of leaving or staying at Holly’s House. It’s a lot to handle for someone who’s devoted what seems like a good chunk of her career to oversized dolls and juvenile delights.
We lash out instead of communicate, or we lie to ourselves to avoid conflict. In her need to placate Lenny as well as convince herself to do the ‘right’ thing, Katherine suffers a psychotic break. Her weighing uncertainty incidentally gives life to Holly, the epitome of her resistance.
The truth of the matter is, sometimes, we create our own monsters.
The most complicated performance in Holly’s House is Holly herself. She requires someone to inspirit her, so to speak. Through a remote setup, Katherine can make her dolly counterpart move and talk.
Katherine gives herself agency by allowing Holly to ‘live.’ She uses the puppet to do what she won’t do. It’s never established whether or not Holly (physically played by Michael J. Anderson) is indeed alive, as we are to believe her actions are the result of Katherine’s nervous breakdown.