Monday, November 22, 2010

Catching Up On The Classics: The Monster Squad (1987)

GUYS. Why don't you tell me about these things sooner??? The Monster Squad is like my new favorite thing. It was flipping fantastic. In fact, I liked it so much that after only seeing it once, I bought it when I found it at my local video store for only $7.99. Killer.

Monsterific plot: Count Dracula is on the hunt for a mystical amulet that will throw off the balance between good and evil and let evil win. He enlists the help of several classic friends including Frankenstein's monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and the monster from Creature from the Black Lagoon that I did not know was called Gill-Man. The amulet is hidden in a tiny American town that also happens to be the home of a group of kids called the Monster Squad, and their love and knowledge of these classic creatures will help save humanity from evil!

Movies with groups of young kids as the main stars are always hella fun - I believe someone described The Monster Squad to me as "The Goonies but with monsters." The Goonies, Stand By Me, The Sandlot... Even when you're way past the kid stage, these movies will always retain their charm and lovability. They keep it simple and sweet with the story, always have fantastic child actors throwing out hilarious one-liners, and continue to teach us that we should never lose our childhood imagination and quest for adventure.

The group of kids is amazing - although admittedly a tad reminiscent of every other child character from every other kid movie like this. They make funny wisecracks with 80's words like "bogus" and it's all cute and stuff when they cuss and say stuff like "If we get through this, I'm gonna shit!" This movie is the almost-perfect combination of comedy and horror. The comedy is spot-on most of the time, and while the horror is faithful to the legends, the film overall is geared toward a younger audience which basically makes it mostly a comedy film. But I don't care. Dracula and Frankenstein's monster are in it; I can talk about it on my horror blog. Making this same movie today without the comedy element, however, would just be a disaster. Making it more directed at horror would mean it completely loses everything that makes it special. I don't think it ever gets "too scary" for kids and it's funny enough that adults (like me) seeing it for the first time absolutely fall in love with it. So the movie works. It works REALLY well.

One part of the film that I was attracted to was the fact that Sean's parents seem totally supportive of his monster movie love - Mom buys him the Van Helsing diary and Dad enjoys watching the movies with Sean. Nobody makes fun of him or asks him why he likes the movies, they just go with it and make an effort to know about the thing he loves. Why can't my parents and friends be more like the people in this movie? While I think they've accepted my obsession, they constantly make comments about "that weird shit" that I watch whenever I try to talk about a new movie I saw or something. It's wearing a little thin.

(Sidenote: As I was watching this, one of my first thoughts was why Count Dracula was recruiting all these other movie monsters in the first place, and more so, just what his connection to all of them was. Then I remembered that I have not seen ANY of those Son of Frankenstein, Bride of Dracula, Mummy vs. Wolfman or whatever movies from that era of filmmaking. I don't know that I will, either. That seems like one genre that I'm really not that interested in. Sorry!)

In that regard, the movie ended much different than I thought it would. After witnessing the mayhem caused by the monsters, the grownups actually suspend their disbelief and get involved in the fight against Dracula, instead of the kids having to do everything for themselves. I expected Scary German Guy to be in on it, but not for the climax to take place in full view of so many adults. With these kinds of movies, there's usually an absence of adults until after everything is resolved, so this movie broke the mold in that aspect.

I love, love, love the guy playing Count Dracula. He is so perfect in that role and embodies it in the way that we always think about the infamous Count. Frankenstein's monster was scary at first, especially when I saw that scene where he comes up on Sean's little sister playing by the water - I don't need to tell you all what I thought was going to happen at first! But I love how the filmmakers flipped that on its head with the next scene and had Frankie become the kids' ally. Wolfman is a little weird looking without the protruding snout, and Gill-Man and the Mummy actually don't really get that much screen time. I guess they're the low ones on the monster totem. The little girl playing Phoebe is absolutely cute as a button, especially when she's telling the boys not to be chicken shit. Seriously, can I adopt her?

This movie also slightly pushes the boundaries in some areas. I wasn't actually expecting anyone to die and was surprised when Dracula blows up Sean's father's partner (who was also very funny) in the police cruiser. I was also a little taken aback at one scene with Scary German Guy. After his discussion with the kids about Van Helsing's diary, one of the kids says to him that he must know a lot about monsters. He says that he supposes he does, and as he's closing the door, we see the numbered tattoo that Nazis gave concentration camp prisoners in World War II. Out of place for a horror-comedy directed at kids or just an apropos plot point for his character? Not sure, but it freaked me out for a second there.

The movie's pacing is quick (almost too quick at only 80 minutes long) and fun with something unexpected and hilarious around every corner. From the kid trying to ask his sister whether or not she's a virgin to "Wolfman's got nards," I couldn't get over how much I enjoyed this movie and everything it had to offer. It's from the 80's and it shows but that's probably why I loved it so much. I'm still catching up on all those great little kid movies that came out between the years I was -5 and 5 years old. Two mega-thumbs up on The Monster Squad. I think this is one my little nephew needs to see, too - I already got him into the Ghostbusters. :)

Catchy taglines aside, The Monster Squad is a cute, uproarious good time for people of all ages.

Also: Sean's "Stephen King Rules" t-shirt is so bitchin'. And now that I'm seeing reproductions of it for sale on the Internet, I want it REALLY BAD. If you all can't think of a Christmas present for me, I've given you a huge clue right there.


  1. Such a fun movie. It came out in '87 when I was 12. So I totally related with them.

  2. I remember watching this movie over and over and over again. Great movie! Very entertaining!

  3. aaaaaaah, how could I forget about this movie? Saw this as a child and totally loved it!

  4. Yeah, I saw the monster squad as a kid and a few more times throughout my growing up and then a few years ago at a playing at the Brattle theater in Cambridge with my mom and chica... so you can imagine the nostalgia it holds for me.

  5. This was one of my favourite child hood movies, and I havn't seen it in such a long time, I really want to watch it again now

  6. love love LOVE this movie, it's just so fun!

  7. jervaise brooke hamsterNovember 24, 2010 at 9:59 PM

    What the hell happened to Fred Dekker?, after "Night Of The Creeps" the affor-girl-tioned "The Monster Squad" and the ludicrously under-rated "Robocop 3" he seemed to disapear from film making completely which is a real shame because i think he was a much better film maker than that pathetic tosser Quentin Tarantino (i`d much rather watch "The Monster Squad" than "Inglourious Basterds" any day of the week).

  8. To me, THE MONSTER SQUAD is a near perfect movie full of light-hearted vibes, yet still taking its horror creations (mostly) seriously, and that makes almost an ideal genre film, in my estimation - laughs and quotable lines interspersed with legit spooky atmosphere and creature FX. Glad you finally came around to this one - jeez, what took ya so long?! ;)

    And while I am almost NEVER inclined to agree w/ jervaise brooke hamster, I will relent this once and admit that I, too, wonder why the hell Fred Dekker made more awesome horror stuff after this and NotC. Although I DO still think ROBOCOP 3 sucked big-time ass (especially when compared to the amazingly fun marvel of film-making that is ROBOCOP 2), and was surprised to learn that the clearly-awesome Dekker had anything to do with such a weak piece o' crap.

  9. oh!