STARRINGAndre Gower - Sean
Robby Kiger - Patrick
Brent Chalem - Horace
Ryan Lambert - Rudy
Michael Faustino - Eugene
Ashley Bank - Phoebe
Duncan Regehr - Dracula
Tom Noonan - Frankenstein's Monster
Year - 1987
Score - 4 Howls Outta 4
I've seen a lot of films in my life. Horror, comedy, action, drama, period pieces, documentaries - I've seen many. But it came to my attention last week that there was one film that I had not seen or even heard of: THE MONSTER SQUAD, which was released back in 1987. A lot of my fellow bloggers seemed to have a huge nostalgic appreciation for this film, and I became curious as to why. I researched it and it sounded a bit like THE GOONIES, a film I love, so I figured I'd take a chance on THE MONSTER SQUAD. I even discussed this film with my cousins, who seemed to have a great love for this film as well. They were ready to kick my ass for not even seeing this film. So with new motivation, I decided to buy the new 2-disc 20th anniversary DVD for the film and watched it for the first time. And I gotta say...how in the hell did I miss this fantastic film back in the day!?
The film begins in the late 1800s where the famous vampire hunter, Van Helsing, tries to defeat Dracula (Duncan Regehr) by using a magical amulet to trap the fanged one in limbo for all of eternity. Even though the amulet works to perfection, Dracula is nowhere to be found, leaving Van Helsing and his allies to be trapped within the amulet themselves while Dracula lives on.
We quickly get into the present day, where Monster Squad leader & teenager Sean (Andre Gower) is given Van Helsing's diary as a gift by his mother, due to Sean's love and knowledge of classic monster films. Sean and his other Monster Squad members Patrick (Robby Kiger), chubby Horace (Brent Chalem), cool kid and bad ass Rudy (Ryan Lambert), shy Eugene (Michael Faustino), and Sean's little sister Phoebe (Ashley Bank) go to the the local "Scary German Guy" (Leonardo Cimino) to help them translate the diary since it's all in German.
The diary describes the amulet [which is composed of pure good], and how one day of every century, the forces of good and evil are balanced. When this balance occurs, the indestructible amulet becomes quite vulnerable, making it easy to destroy. This causes the kids to find the amulet before Dracula and his goons [The Wolfman, Gillman, and the Mummy] finds it first and destroys it to create an evil world in their vision. With the "Scary German Guy's" help and the defection of Frankenstein's Monster on their side, The Monster Squad prepares to get rid of these classic monsters once and for all, even if they die in the process.
I would have loved this film as a child, and I still love it as an adult. It's funny, it never takes itself seriously, it has great looking monsters and effects, and the characters are really smart and always seem to know what's going on at all times. THE MONSTER SQUAD reminded me a lot of THE GOONIES, except this film was shorter and pretty much got to the point quicker than THE GOONIES did. Not to say that THE MONSTER SQUAD is better than THE GOONIES [I personally like Sloth & the gang more than The Monster Squad], but this comes darn close. This film is extremely fun to watch and I was kinda upset when the film ended because I actually wanted to see more.
Fred Dekker, who directed this film and wrote the screenplay, does an excellent job behind the camera moving the story along. The film moves at a quick pace, getting from point A to point B really quickly while still developing the characters and keeping the story consistent and believable within the context of the film. From the Wolfman's transformation scenes using quick edits, to the pretty long emotional scenes concerning Phoebe's affections for Frankenstein's Monster [I felt the love between the two], to the pretty awesome action sequences [Rudy's the man!], Dekker is pretty flawless as the director of the film. He has a great imagination and the thought of children fighting the classic Universal monsters was just sheer genius in my opinion. Did anyone think of this before? I also loved the reenactment of Frankenstein meeting Phoebe by the lake, which was taken directly from the most famous scene of 1931's FRANKENSTEIN starring Boris Karloff. Dekker really showed his appreciation and respect for these classic monsters. Just an fantastic director's job here [he also directed the classic cult fave NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and unfortunately the horrible ROBOCOP 3].
The make-up department really did their homework when it came to designing the looks of the monsters. With some alterations [Dekker didn't have total permission to remake the exact likeness of the monsters or the ability to call Gillman "The Creature From The Black Lagoon"], the monsters look just as good as they did back in the day. I thought The Wolfman transformation was cool and Gillman looked so real [not like a dude in a bad costume]. Frankenstein's Monster and The Mummy looked really good too. And the portal that the amulet opened was well done for a pretty cheap 80s film as well. A lot of attention was paid to the visuals and I appreciated it all.
I also loved the characters. Finally, SMART characters in a semi-horror film for once! The Monster Squad members were all believable even if some of them were stereotypical and they all interacted with each other perfectly. They seemed like real friends who would meet together and discuss monsters and peep on the girl next door. They also had great dialogue and they sounded like KIDS, not ADULTS speaking like kids. Not many screenwriters have that ability, but Dekker sure does and he did it perfectly well. I also appreciated that the creatures weren't cute or cuddly [except for Frankenstein's monster]. These monsters were evil, especially Dracula, and it wasn't held back. Dracula called little cute Phoebe a "bitch" to her face! Damn, that dude was badass! And Frankenstein was really cool and his final scene with Phoebe actually made me sad. Yes, the Wolf almost shed a tear. It was that emotional. I just really liked the characters a lot and I wish the film were a bit longer [especially for The Mummy and Gillman, who were seriously underutilized]. But I really enjoyed what I did get and couldn't have really asked for more when it came to the 82 minutes of film. And the kids were DEVELOPED! All of them! In an 80-minute film! When's the last time you've seen that!? A lot of filmmakers in the industry today need to watch this film and see how it's done! Great job again, Mr. Dekker!
The acting was top-notch in this film from everyone involved. All the child actors were excellent in different ways. Andre Gower as Sean was great as the leader and really showed his knowledge for monsters. Robby Kiger as Patrick played the perfect sidekick to Sean. His sister was pretty hot too and I loved the exchange between them during the end when they discussed her virginity and how "it didn't count". Brent Chalem as Horace was extremely funny as the comic relief. I loved his scene where he confronted Gillman. Michael Faustino as Eugene was cute and played the scaredy-cat of the team well. The scene with his dad mocking him over his fear of monsters in the closet cracked me up, especially Faustino's reaction shots. Ashley Bank as Ashley was cute as a button and didn't annoy me at all, which really shocked me. She kinda reminded me of Drew Barrymore in E.T., but cuter and sassier. And when she cussed, it brought a smile to my face. But my favorite child actor was Ryan Lambert as greaser Rudy. That guy was badass. He smooth around the ladies. He helped Horace against those bullies [damn that Jason Hervey!]. And he was the weapons expert of team, kicking evil's ass and taking names. He's definitely the guy I would have loved to have been when I was younger. That kid was cool!
And while all the actors playing the monsters were cool, only two of them did much of anything. Tom Noonan as Frankenstein's Monster was a delight. He was so lovable and so simple that you wanted nothing bad to happen to him. His relationship with Ashley Bank's Phoebe was spot-on and the two really tugged at my heart strings with their friendship. He was as innocent as the children that befriended him and understood the purity of good unlike his other brethren [except for the human Wolfman, who seemed to warn everyone about what was gonna go down]. And his final scene was emotional as I stated before. I loved Frankenstein's Monster. I also loved Duncan Regehr's protrayal of Dracula. He reminded me of the Christopher Lee version of Dracula - suave, charming, and undeniably evil. This was one Dracula you didn't want to mess with, that's for sure. Regehr really did a respectable job in keeping the film legacy of Dracula alive and well in this film.
And I really loved the montage of the kids preparing for the final confrontation and the 80s pop-rock music that went along with the film. Made me feel like a kid again. So 80s, it wasn't even funny. How could I have missed this film for so many years? Someone please slap me before a full moon arrives and I bite your balls off. I can't give anymore praise to this film. I just want to Rock Until I Drop or watch Groundhog's Day Part 12 over and over again!
THE FINAL HOWL
THE MONSTER SQUAD is a great trip back to a time where films starring child actors were entertaining. It's one of those films where you'll magically feel like a kid again and wish The Monster Squad's adventure never ends. With extremely likable characters, great looking monsters, and funny dialogue mixed with great action, there's no reason why you shouldn't watch this. I just wish I had watched this one sooner because I was missing out on something really great. I feel like creating my own Monster Squad. We could go after Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Britney Spears and send them straight into Limbo. Who's with me? Any takers?