The Monster Squad (1987)
Starring: Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht, Tom Noonan, Brent Chalem, Ryan Lambert, Ashley Bank, Michael Faustino, Jon Gries, Leonard Cimino
Growing up in the ‘80s usually meant one thing – your favorite movie was “The Goonies.” But for a select few, “The Monster Squad” not only represented a more mature version of the treasure-hunting adventure flick, but was also a far superior film that never got its due. Mere days after watching “Flash Gordon” for the first time in more than a decade, I popped in the newly released 20th Anniversary Edition of the film to discover that, unlike the 1980 sci-fi B-movie, Fred Dekker’s love letter to the Universal monsters of yesteryear was exactly as I remembered it.
The movie even inspired my brother and me, as well as a few other kids on the block, to form our very own Monster Squad. Whether we did so out of fear – due to the creepy people on the corner who used to scare the shit out of us on Halloween (after they chased me with a chainsaw, I never went trick or treating at their house again) – or because we got to make cool business cards really isn’t the point. It’s that the film played a seminal part in my childhood, while also lending one of the most memorable lines in ‘80s cinema: “Wolfman’s got nards!”
Self-proclaimed monster enthusiasts Sean (Andre Gower), Patrick (Robby Kiger) and Horace (Brent Chalem) spend their days up in the clubhouse watching monster movies and discussing their favorite creatures, but when Dracula arrives in town in search of an amulet that can control the world, their favorite pastime becomes all too real. Joining Dracula in the crusade is Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Mummy and the Gill Man (i.e. Creature from the Black Lagoon). When Sean stumbles on the key to destroying the amulet in Van Helsing’s diary, the kids enlist the help of junior high tough guy Rudy (Ryan Lambert) and face off against the forces of evil.
Co-written by Dekker and Shane Black (“Lethal Weapon,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight”), “The Monster Squad” has got to be the most politically incorrect “kids movie” in the history of cinema. Sure, the movie was rated PG-13, but I can’t imagine it would have been treated the same way in this day and age. Kids shoot guns, swear like drunken sailors (“faggot,” “asshole” and “don’t be a chickenshit” are among the choice phrases), and Dracula himself calls Sean’s younger sister (Ashley Bank) a “bitch.” It’s clear when watching the film that Dekker had no intentions of sugarcoating the story, but that’s what makes watching the film, even 20 years later as an adult, so enjoyable.
Even the look of the film holds up to the expectations of today’s effects-driven industry, with Stan Winston’s practical creature effects outdoing the likes of Stephen Sommers’ SFX-happy “Van Helsing.” The Wolf Man may not look like the classic Universal monster that we all know and love, but he’s still effective. The Mummy’s glorious unwrapping while attached to the back of the Squad’s jeep is one of the film’s coolest moments, and the Gill Man’s design is near-flawless, prompting one to wonder why studios are so concerned with CGI when there are people out there who can make the fantastical look incredibly lifelike using real-world tools.
Does that mean “The Monster Squad” doesn’t deserve it’s B-movie moniker? Of course not, because once you remove that title, you’re then forced to view the film with completely different standards. Plot holes suddenly become a problem, as does the sheer ridiculousness of Dracula blowing shit up with dynamite. As if the Prince of Darkness wasn’t strong enough that he actually needed TNT to rid himself of a bunch of 12-year-old boys. It’s great for what it is, though, and at a slim 82 minutes, it’s nice to see a movie that doesn’t waste any time getting to the point.
20th Anniversary Edition DVD Review:
Thank god somebody finally recognized the strong cult following of this movie, or it may have never been released on DVD. Lionsgate finally took charge of the situation, though, and their two-disc special edition is certainly worthy of the film’s reputation, offering digitally remastered video (2.35:1 widescreen) and audio (5.1 Dolby Digital), as well as a brand new documentary about the making of the film. Two audio commentaries highlight the first disc (one with writer/director Fred Dekker and co-stars Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert and Ashley Bank, and another with Dekker and DP Bradford May), and though they both start off pretty lame, the conversations eventually turn around to deliver some great insider info.
Headlining the second disc of the set is “Monster Squad Forever,” a five-part retrospective on the origins, casting and production of the movie that should quell diehard fans, while the addition of deleted/alternate scenes, an animated storyboard of The Squad’s fight with The Mummy, and a hilarious interview with Tom Noonan in character as Frankenstein all serve as great supplemental material.