The Monster Squad (1987) USA / PG-13 / 82 min / 7.0 IMDB / IMDB rank 4,995
By Roger Malcolm / Oct. 2012
In a film reminiscent of an Abbott and Costello comedy, a group of children form The Monster Squad to prevent the Universal Monsters from taking over their small town like The Sandlot Meets Frankenstein. Fred Dekker directs and co-writes with Shane Black, best known for writing classics Lethal Weapon (1987) and The Last Boy Scout (1991). Though Shane Black will always be better known to me as Hawkins in Predator (1987) telling his jokes about his girlfriend, telling his jokes about his girlfriend. You might ask “Why did you say that twice?” I would say, “I didn’t.” See, cuz of the echo.(you stare blankly)
The film starts 100 years ago in Transylvania where the townsfolk have organized behind Abraham Van Helsing to rid the world of the Dark Prince himself, Dracula. “They blew it.” Instead, Dracula organizes together his monster squad of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, Gill-man the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Mummy and even the Wolfman! Together he plans on hunting down an ancient amulet somewhere in modern day America.
The Monster Squad consists of nerdy adolescent boys that hold meetings in a tree house, discussing scary creatures and classic monster films. Sean, played by Andre Gower, demonstrates his strong, independent squad-leader role by wearing a red t-shirt with “Stephen King Rules” across the front. The cast consists of a strong group of child actors, including the adorable little kid sister Phoebe played by then 5 year old Ashley Bank. Although they are the school’s outcast group of possible future Hollywood screenwriters, to join their squad you must first pass a “Monster Test” proving your worth… or just be the most iconic monster outcast ever.
Luckily for the town, Sean realizes that something is wrong when the body of a man who claimed to be a werewolf was shot dead by the police, has been declared missing along with a mummy from the local museum. Sean’s mom, who doesn’t know the difference between Godzilla and Dracula, buys him an old book at a yard sale that turns out to be Dr. Van Helsing’s journal! Only to understand what is written in the journal he must ask the scariest man in the neighborhood, Scary German Guy, to translate what will be the key to stopping Dracula and his Monster Squad – if only he could find a “versgin”, I mean virgin.
With classic laughs from “Wolfman’s got nards”, to scares of iconic Universal Horror Monsters running amok, back to laughs of “Awww, man, fat kid farted!” and ending with a self-titled anthem for the credit roll that could only have originated from an eighties film called “The Monster Squad”, trying to emulate the excitement of singing along with a scary movie like The Ghostbusters.
The Monster Squad is a classic film which should be required viewing for every child. Especially a child whose parents might deprive them of ever truly getting to experience the thrill of cinematic horror, horrors that can only come from the adventures of a classic film, just because it terrifies them too much. My parents permitted the watching of horror films which gave me nightmares throughout my childhood that left such an impression on my life I am thankful for all the films I watched as a child. Sadly I missed out on what I am sure would have been THE rival to my childhood horror film favorite of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, in The Monster Squad!
Best Death: What are the two ways to kill a Werewolf? Silver bullet!? Of course, that’s easy right? What is the other way? Car crash? Accident with power tools? Old age? Falling out a window onto a bomb? Perhaps we find out when the Wolfman has a single stick of dynamite stuck in his waistband underneath his belt ironically getting pushed out a window? Ka-BOOM!? Has the Wolfman been blown to SMITHEREENS!? Or have I made yet another exception questioning the creditability of this being the Best Death credit? Or have I just taken all this question asking too far?
Best Scene: After little Phoebe has been through all the horrors in the film she comes across Dracula! She remains calm as he slowly approaches. The contacts and fangs for the Dracula character were not used around actress Ashley Bank, only 5 at the time, since she was so severely frightened by them when used by actor Duncan Regehr. Director Fred Dekker took this knowledge and expertly arranged for the capture of a genuine scream of horror from an innocent child during the best scene in the movie. I can’t spoil the end but that is some clever directing, Mr. Dekker, and something on which I wonder if the 31-year-old Ashley Bank of today continues to reminisce.