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Monday, October 23, 2017

The Monster Squad (1987)

While I try and cover things here at the horror dude blog that you guys haven’t heard of before I still need to nerd out on some old favorites. The Monster Squad is one of those and I’m happy to finally get around to watching it and reviewing it for the blog. Spoilers… I love this movie!

Things get started a hundred years in the past with Van Helsing and some villagers laying siege to Dracula’s castle. They are there to use an amulet that will banish the evil from the world forever, but evil can also use it to shift the balance and control the world. Things don’t go as planned and everyone, including Dracula, has to wait another hundred years before trying again. Which brings us to the main characters the Monster Squad.

Sean and his friends are kids obsessed with monsters. Their clubhouse is filled with posters, models, magazines, and many other monster related stuff. When Sean’s Mom brings him home a journal written by Van Helsing he is pretty excited. What he doesn’t know is that Dracula is also searching for the journal and the amulet which has been hidden in town by Van Helsing’s followers. Dracula doesn’t come alone in his quest to shift the balance towards evil. With him are the Mummy, Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, and even the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Basically, all your favorite Universal Monsters are in town. Of course, the adults don’t believe in monsters, so it is up to the kids and “scary” German Guy to save the day.

Kids movies used to be better than the homogenized Disney/Pixar crap that gets shoved down our throats these days. Sorry to shock the soccer moms but it is okay for kids to get scared and have an occasional nightmare. I grew up watching movies that scared the crap out of me and I turned out fine… Okay maybe not the best example. My point is that you can make a good movie with serious themes and populate it with well written characters that just happen to be children. That is what The Monster Squad does and why it is still fun thirty years later. Let me give some examples.

The creatures look awesome!
There is a subplot that isn’t resolved but does exist and impacts the characters of Sean and his sister. Their parents are having issues and are going to see a marriage counselor, or are supposed to. The Mummy disappears from the local museum and since Sean’s Dad is a cop he has to investigate. It seems that this only serves to add some depth to the characters and is likely something that a lot of kids might be able to relate to. There is also a scene with the “scary” German Guy when after spending some time with him one of the kids, Horace, remarks that he really knows a lot about monsters. As he closes the door we see the number on his arm from a concentration camp. This might fly right by most kids watching the movie, but I like the fact that it was included. It brings some depth to the character who never gets a name, he is billed as scary German guy, but immediately has a story that we can understand. That is excellent writing.

Now I don’t want to give the impression that this is a serious movie. It is a kid’s movie with monsters running around! We get all sorts of amusing scenes and one-liners. Some of the most famous ones are “Wolfman has nards” and “Creature stole my Twinkie!”. I love the scene where the Wolfman gets dynamite in his pants and has to reassemble himself after getting blown to pieces. There is also a bit of fun when the youngest member of the Monster Squad sends a letter to the “army guys” that pays off in the end. The movie has so much going for it.

I haven’t even mentioned the creatures. Duncan Regehr is amazing as Dracula. He is very scary in the role and creates one of the best screen interpretations of the character that I’ve ever seen. It is way more interesting than anything Christopher Lee did with the role. Yes, I expect the hate mail so bring it on! The makeup on the rest of the creatures from the Frankenstein Monster, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Mummy, and Wolfman are stellar. That shouldn’t be a surprise since they were all created by the crew from Stan Winston’s studio. That is a talented bunch of people and they brought their “A” game for The Monster Squad.

Clearly, I’m recommending this one. It is a great bit of ‘80s cinema that took way too long to reach DVD/Blu-Ray. But it is out and you have no excuse not to own a copy. If you have kids scare the crap out of them with this one! Trust me it’s good for them.

© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

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