Horror. Worldview. Faith.

The Monster Squad – Review

The Monster Squad – Review

Jun 26, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Fred Dekker, 1987
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Although not financially successful, Fred Dekker managed to direct two of the more memorable and long-lasting cult horror films of the 1980’s – Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad.  I recently sat down for a re-visiting of the latter; I was all smiles throughout.

The Monster Squad follows a “club” of children led by Sean (Andre Gower) who gather in a super cool tree house to discuss monsters and mayhem but really have nothing much to do.  Sean sports a “Stephen King Rules” t-shirt most days and entrance into the club is mandated by the passing of a horror movie quiz.  Things begin to heat up for the squad when Sean is given the ancient diary of Van Helsing, the famed vampire killer.  After utilizing the services of the local “Scary German Dude” in order to read the German text of the diary, they realize that a special amulet which maintains the balance between good and evil becomes vulnerable to destruction once every century – and that time is now!  Sean begins piecing local disturbances together and realizes that Dracula has invaded their city in search for the amulet.

In order to assist Dracula in his search for the amulet, he enlists the services of the Wolf-Man, Gill-Man, the Mummy, and Frankenstein.  The race is on between the monsters and the Monster Squad to find the amulet and use it for their own advantage.  Frankenstein is eventually befriended by the young 5 year old Phoebe and turns against Dracula in the search.  The movie works its way to a climatic finish where a portal into another dimension is opened and the monsters are ultimately cast away for another century of peace.

The Monster Squad has several elements working in its favor that help make this a great movie for all ages.  First, the monsters look incredible.  Legendary monster maker Stan Winston (Aliens, The Thing, Terminator 2) had a bit of a challenge when creating the look for the monsters in the film.  Universal Studios owned the copyright to their “look” of the classic monsters.  Thus, Winston had to create a version of Dracula, Frankenstein, and all the rest that both differed enough from Universal’s monsters to keep them out of court but also make it very clear who these monsters were.  He did a superb job.  The classic monsters are some of the best looking creatures in any horror film and they are fun to watch throughout.

Second, the casting for the film, especially the monsters, was excellent.  Tom Noonan as Frankenstein and Duncan Regehr as Dracula provided powerful, near epic performances for these famed characters of legend.  The children are believable and incredibly funny.  The movie provides some classic one-liners, the most famous being Horace’s proclamation that “Wolfman’s got nards!”  As with many movies of this genre type, the group of children are just a blast to watch and provide a reminder throughout that we should not take this too seriously.

Having said that, the film does go into some fairly dark directions on occasion.  After visiting the “scary Germad dude” for help with the text of Van Helsing’s diary, Dekker takes just enough time to zoom in on the German’s arm as he closes the door – on it is a Nazi concentration camp tattoo, a subtle reminder that not all monsters live in the world of the undead.  Also, at the end of the film, young 5 year old Phoebe is picked up by Dracula.  Dekker does not hold back one iota as Dracula screams into her face, “Give me the amulet you BIT**.”  Pretty dark stuff for this type of film.

All in all, The Monster Squad is memorable, very re-watchable, and worth your time.  Sadly, the box office failure of the film, despite the cult following it enjoys today, added to the disappearing of Fred Dekker’s career.

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