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.
MY ZOMBIE LOVER
Season 1, Episode 5
Original Airdate: November 19, 1988
Directed by David Misch
Story by Bill Burnett & David Misch
Teleplay by David Misch
On one night of the year, in one little town, the dead leave their graves. They roam the night in search of something to eat. Until the day ends, it’s up to the citizens to quell their numbers. As Dottie’s parents and brother participate in the annual hunt, she’s visited by an old classmate—Paul. Much to Dottie’s horror, her peer is now one of the very things she’s been raised to fear.
This would be the first episode in the season that’s strictly played for laughs. “But, what about New York Honey?” one might ask. Although there was a humorous undercurrent to that episode, My Zombie Lover is unmistakably comedic. It practically winks at the audience with its dated sitcom-ish cues. Not sure why David Misch didn’t just go all the way and include canned laughter while he was at it.
On the plus side, we have our first look at zombies in the series. And, what an introduction it is. What lies ahead is, regretfully, not a study of a town where zombies rise once a year like clockwork. That wasn’t feasible considering the show’s financial limitations. Nevertheless, the potential is squandered away with a brief exposition that only begs more questions. So, instead of some widespread zombie mayhem, we’re offered something more intimate.
In this weird, star-crossed love story, a college bookworm named Dottie (Tempestt Bledsoe) is visiting her parents one holiday. Having no interest in the zombie carnage outside, her family leaves her at home with her book. This is when a gentleman by the name of Paul (Steve Harper) comes a-callin’. Dottie is initially repulsed by his state and appearance, but it doesn’t take long for her to invite him in for a stroll down memory lane.
My Zombie Lover is an oddball that throws realism completely out the door. Seeing as the episode is about a young woman so lonely she’s forgiving of a zombie who bites her in a fit of passion, that’s for the better. There are moments where you think this is all a ruse so Monsters can broach bigotry in a way that only this show can. It vaguely steers itself in that direction before succumbing to a lousy twist — which is hardly a twist to begin with — shoehorned in for comic relief.
My Zombie Lover may muster a chuckle here and there. Ultimately, it’s wildly unfocused with no endgame. There are certainly worse episodes in the show, but at least those don’t feel as DOA.
Zombies appear in more than one episode in Monsters, and each one has a slightly different lore. Here, the zombies appear to be central to one town. They annually rise from their slumber for one day, and the townsfolk spend that day killing them.
No one seems to know the precise reason why the zombies exist. Dottie’s father gives a number of theories—the corpses are reanimated by an ancient curse, atomic testing, or shoddy embalming.
Regardless of the origin, the zombies here can spread their affliction with bites. One has to die for the infection to take its total effect, too.