The Monster Squad (1987)


 "You know who to call when you have ghosts but who do you call when you have monsters?"

   "Wolfman has nards!" If you know that line already chances are you, like me, are a fan of this movie. Feeling almost like a spiritual successor to The Goonies , with much higher stakes, it wasn't till many years after it's release that Monster Squad  started to get a heavy cult following. I personally was introduced to it via my mother, who had seen it earlier on and liked it enough to pick up a DvD of it when she came across it, and it wasn't much longer till I ended up using that DvD more than she did. That I'm a fan is one thing, but to deliver proper wealth of opinion here I won't simply just gloat over how you should feel like a lesser-person for having not seen it, because that's just my character. Seriously though, you should feel bad for not knowing anyone awesome enough to make you watch this movie.

   Remember when you where a kid, and you used to love the old Universal monsters like Dracula, Wolfman, and the Creature from the Blue Lagoon? Remember how you always knew they were out there somewhere but knew nobody would believe you? Well, if you had been right the entire time, then you might have found yourself in the situation presented by the plot of this movie. We start with a great title scrawl elaborating on how Van Helsing attempted to seal away evil forever and blew it, we find ourselves in modern (the 80's) times where monsters, led by Dracula (Duncan Regehr) himself, are on the prowl for the ancient amulet that works to keep the creatures of darkness at bay and destroy it in the hour of it's only weakness.

   Coming into possession of Van Helsing's old journal (that elaborates on how to send all the evil to limbo), young monster buff Sean (Andre Gower) finds himself the target of Dracula's wrath. It is then up to Sean and his Monster club to save the day, as no adult would believe in such a thing as monsters. It's a pretty straight forward affair, starting with mild-mannered life for kids (getting in trouble at school) and quickly ramping up to teaming up with the neighborhood "scary german guy" (Leonardo Cimino) to combat the forces of evil in the best way they can.

   Given the subject, the movie is meant to be a bit scarier then something like The Goonies  was. Famous monsters such as The Wolfman (Carl Thibault), Creature/Gillman (Tom Woodruff Jr.), Mummy(Michael Reid MacKay), and Frankenstein's monster (Tom Noonan) all make an appearance, with incredibly well done costumes. Dracula looks very much a typical affair of what we know - with the two tone cape, the elaborate Bella Lugosi attire and slicked back hair, and the mummy looks like any old movie mummy, being so bandaged up. Wolfman and Gillman, however, are even to this day impressive in looks, being done as full suits, allowing for them to move and act on screen and have other actors react to them (something that is still hard to do with CG in modern flicks), and by far my favorite of the monster cast. The wolfman is an intricate blend of aspects that makes him look rather similar to both old and new werewolves, but at the same time unique enough to be something you don't see every day (even the latter transformation sequence was rather impressive considering we are still in the latter 80s).

   The kids themselves all have their own distinct roles - Sean coming off as the leader type, for example. Fat Kid (Brent Chalem), also known as Horace, is the one a lot of us nerdy types may associate to - being picked on by some bullies in his first scene, but also being pretty reasonable about not wanting to go into a scary building filled with real monsters. Patrick (Robby Kiger) is Sean's best buddy, and plays the role of the partner in crime to Sean. Eugene (Michael Faustino) is the younger kid of the crew and seems to serve the purpose of just being there to set up some of the jokes ("Creature stole my twinkie!"), whereas Phoebe (Ashley Bank) is the youngest kid and sister to Sean - often getting left out of the club until later she befriends Franky. Of course, of all these kids, one stands as out as the  coolest hombre you've seen: Rudy. Rudy (Ryan Lambert) is the leather coat and sunglasses wearing 'cool kid' archetype, who sticks up for Horace in his first scene (when getting bullied), joins the club, and then latter on ends up being the single most useful character in the entire movie. Heck, he even has some solid one liners!

"...scary German guy adds a whole other level to the film..."

    May adults grace the movie, but in comparison to the main set of kids vs monsters, they play a lesser role. Sean's parents are going through some marriage problems resulting from his dad's work as a cop, and the a fore-mentioned scary German guy helps out with translating the book in various scenes (and really isn't that scary once you get to know him). This isn't to under represent the roles they play - Sean's dad is on screen throughout the film taking part in the action on mystery, and scary German guy adds a whole other level to the film thanks to a sneaky shot after stating he "supposes he knows a lot about monsters" that shows he happened to be once held in a German prison camp.

   As far as audio is concerned, the lines are understandable and well delivered even despite some of the slang and usage being a bit dated. Likewise, the background music does a good job of setting the mood with some creepy sounds and queues while also giving that extra bit of spunk for the parts that have that high-energy fun to them (like the montage). Effects audio can be a bit loud, but generally this only happens in parts where it's important (like some dynamite explosions later on), and the movie has avoided being overly whimsical with it's sounds.

   Sets are generally your standard affair of houses for the time period, although of the sets the two standout scenes are the spooky mansion and the Monster Club hangout. The mansion is aptly where the monster forces hang out for a good portion of the movie, and is nearly identical to what you would expect from a haunted mansion as a kid, complete with secret doors and underground tunnels /  prison cell. The hangout is a pretty impressive tree fort, being large enough for all the cast of kids (plus Franky) to fit up there and still be comfortable, and looks to me that it would be an awesome place to have hung out as a kid.

   As a whole, the movie deserves a watch at least once. It's a bit of a cult classic, and if you like movies such as The Goonies  or the old classic universal monsters, then it should at least have your interest enough for that viewing. I love it as a viewer, always getting in laughs at scenes (particularly the "Kick Wolfman in the nards!" one) and overall enjoying the ride. Really young kids might be a bit scared of the film (it does contain a lot of monsters after all), and there is a bit of violence (nothing too bad outside of one character exploding), and the kids throw around some light swearing here and there (it makes them feel a bit more real in my opinion) as they get into different situations. I won't necessarily tell you to go out and buy it, regardless of how I feel about the movie, as I also recognize that not everyone will love it as I do - the nice part comparatively here is that you could probably find it for cheap (maybe 10 bucks or so).

Monster Squad on IMDB

The Monster Squad
Starring Andre Gower, Duncan Regehr, Ryan Lambert, Stephen Macht, Tom Noonan