It seems perfectly reasonable to me that the Wolfman would have nards. Wolves have nards. Men have nards. Why wouldn’t Wolfman have nards? For some reason, that Wolfman has nards bon mot has been the most enduring characteristic of this movie. Even people who have never seen it know that line and know what movie it’s from. It’s not their fault they haven’t seen it, though. We’ve been denied a DVD since the inception of the format so how was anyone younger than 28 or 29 supposed to see this? Even when the movie hit VHS it lingered in relative obscurity. This one took a long time to gather an audience and despite all the bitching from the fan collective, the DVD has been put off to long. It’s about time that we got one and on July 24th, we’re getting it from Lions Gate on a 2-disc special edition. Rue Morgue’s latest issue has their cover story about it, too. So among all this excitement, I broke out the Monsters HD bootleg that I’ve been sitting on for a while and took it for a spin. I can’t remember the last time I actually watched this movie, but I can tell you that I’ve tried to start it up a million times and have made it no more than ten minutes in before the feeling strikes me that I need to watch something else. Not because Monster Squad sucks, it’s a genuine cult classic, but because my attention span is so classically short.
The Monster Squad begins as Van Helsing leads a bunch of vampire killers against Dracula’s castle where they have to perform a ritual on some kind of amulet that will destroy all monsters, but something goes wrong. Back in the present, Sean and his buddy Patrick are being disciplined at school for being the underachievers that they are. Meanwhile, two bullies pick on the token fat kid, named Fat Kid, until Rudy, the junior high cool kid comes along to his rescue. It’s a quick and effective introduction to the major characters. It turns out that Sean, Patrick and Fat Kid, as well as an even younger kid who comes along a little later named Eugene, chill out in a clubhouse and talk monsters. After Rudy saves Fat Kid, they bring him into the fold and he stays because the clubhouse has a perfect view of Patrick’s sister’s bedroom. For some reason, an airplane is hauling the body of Frankenstein’s monster somewhere and Dracula manages to get aboard and steal the body. He also manages to assemble the cast of Beetlejuice’s Rockin’ Monster Party attraction from Universal Studios (actually, Wolfman, Mummy and Creature From The Black Lagoon) as well as procure a sweet, custom Hearse with chrome details, and a creepy pad on the edge of a swamp. Van Helsing’s diary, detailing the monster killing ritual, has accidentally fallen into Sean’s hands and it’s Dracula’s mission to track it down and get it back. Frankenstein is charged with tracking it down and getting it back, but Sean’s 5 year old sister charms the pants off of him and Frank becomes an honorary Monster Squad member. As soon as Sean realizes that weird shit is happening in his town, he and the Monster Squad get down to business montage style set to the sort of party hardy song you might expect from such a scene. Aided by the local Boogeyman, Scary German Guy, the Squad faces down Drac and his crew in the middle of town.
Not even the Goonies was safe from the exploitation machine. The fact that this got a bigger budget treatment than most exploitation movies nearly excuses it from the label, but let’s face it, if The Goonies hadn’t been made, neither would this one. The Monster Squad certainly wasn’t the only one of it’s kind, I can also think of Explorers which has gained quite a cult following as well. What can you say? These kid-club movies set pre-teen imaginations soaring.
Fred Dekker followed up his other cult flick, Night of the Creeps, with The Monster Squad in 1987 and even for a kid friendly horror spoof, it manages to shock occasionally. The Goonies may have been made with the family in mind but Monster Squad features some foul mouthed, misbehaving kids. They call each other faggot, Rudy smokes, all things you would never see in a movie today. You can credit these qualities to writer, Shane Black, who also wrote the first Lethal Weapon movie. He was obviously saving his A-game for Riggs and Murtaugh as the script is actually pretty groan-worthy with a lot of corny one-liners but this is coming from a 31 year old and not the 11 year old that I was 1987. You’re asking a lot from a movie such as this when you want some quality acting, the primary cast is a bunch of 12 year olds, after all. However, where most of the writing seems like natural conversation, my friends and I talked to each other like The Monster Squad does, there are a lot of scenes which are stunted and weird, as if Dekker felt like the scene needed a punch where Black’s script didn’t deliver. The obvious culprit in a lot of these scenes are Fat Kid (real name Horace). Watch it and try to disagree with me. You’ll owe me money.
Stan Winston, certainly wasn’t saving his A-game. The monster make-up in this movie is top notch with the exception of the Wolfman that just winds up looking crappy. The Mummy and Gillman look great! This is the sort of work you come to expect from a name like that.
After torturing my brain with 9 Deaths of the Ninja it was nice to fall back on a proven favorite. It may not strike me the same way it did when I was a kid and I don’t have those clubhouse fantasies anymore that made these kid-club movies so appealing to guys my age. It’s also very dated but so are 99% of the movies I talk about here. These were movies made to capitalize on a particular trend in film at that time, so it’s inevitable that they’re going to look like they were shot in the 80’s with 80’s music to back it. Looking back I can definitely see how each of these movie appealed to different kids. I was a Monster Squad fan because I was a horror movie freak at that age. I know people now who claim loyalty to Explorers because they were and still are sci-fi fans. It just works out that way. Suburban pre-teens wanted nothing more to do than stumble on to a bonafide adventure and the movie studios were more than willing to supply us with a surrogate. Thank god for that.