REVIEW: The Monster Squad (1987)

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1987, Tri-Star Pictures

Director:
Fred Dekker
Producer:
Jonathan Zimbert
Writers:
Shane Black
Fred Dekker
Cinematography:
Bradford May
Editing:
James Mitchell

Cast:
Andre Gower (Sean Crenshaw)
Robby Kiger (Patrick)
Ryan Lambert (Rudy)
Brent Chalem (Horace “Fat Kid”)
Ashley Bank (Phoebe Crenshaw)
Michael Faustino (Eugene)
Stephen Macht (Det. Del Crenshaw)
Stan Shaw (Det. Sapir)
Mary Ellen Trainor (Emily Crenshaw)
Leonardo Cimino (Scary German Guy)
Duncan Regehr (Dracula)
Jonathan Gries (Desperate Man)
Carl Thibault (Wolfman)
Tom Woodruff Jr. (Gill Man)
Michael MacKay (The Mummy)
Tom Noonan (Frankenstein)
Jack Gwillim (Van Helsing)
Lisa Fuller (Patrick’s Sister)

One of the most underrated films of the 80’s has become one of the most beloved films of that decade with its re-release on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Sean is a middle school student who loves all horror films. Along with his friends Patrick, Rudy, Horace, and Eugene, they meet every day after school in Sean’s treehouse to talk about their love for monster movies. When Sean receives a rare item, a book that once belonged to Abraham Van Helsing, he is very excited. However, the book is written in German and the only one who can translate for him is a creepy German neighbor. Sean will soon learn that the creepy neighbor is nothing compared to what’s about to happen.

After one hundred years, Dracula has returned and he is hellbent on finding an amulet that along with Van Helsing’s diary, can cause limbo, a gateway between good and evil. Dracula summons The Mummy, a desperate man who becomes the Wolfman, and the Gill Man. In addition, he awakens Frankenstein’s monster and orders him to find the diary. Instead, Frankenstein finds Sean’s little sister Phoebe and she ends up befriending him, putting at first a shock value to Sean and his friends. They soon learn about Dracula’s intentions and decide that since no one would believe them, they must stop Dracula and his gang themselves with the help of Frankenstein and their neighbor, the Scary German Guy.

From the director of the underrated horror film Night of the Creeps comes this tribute to the classic monsters of Hollywood. Due to certain copyright restrictions though, the looks and in one case, the name of one of the monsters, had to be changed. Yet that doesn’t hold a problem to this underrated 80’s gem, co-written by the man who would bring the dynamic action-comic duo of Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh of the Lethal Weapon series that same year.

The idea for the film was combining something like The Little Rascals and the classic Hollywood monsters and the cast is just wonderful here. Andre Gower leads the pack as Monster Squad leader Sean, who like his policeman dad, has a sense of things and tends to be a tough cookie to crack. A moment of bonding between father and son involves them sitting on their rooftop watching a horror film being screened at a drive-in through binoculars. While Robby Kiger’s Patrick doesn’t offer much in terms of the action, he does provide some hilarious comic relief in the climax of the film. The tough guy of the group is well played by Kids Incorporated actor Ryan Lambert, who has some of the one-liners and has the most in terms of physical action. The late Brent Chalem is the fraidy cat of the bunch but soon grows mentally as the film progresses. As for Michael Faustino’s Eugene, he has a few funny one-liners that relate to the monsters. Ashley Bank’s Phoebe seems first like a throwaway character but as the film goes on, she proves to be very vital to the story.

The actor who truly deserves major kudos in the film is Duncan Regehr, who perhaps could be the best depiction of the classic Dracula since Bela Lugosi himself. Not only does Regehr show the dark monstrous side of the vampiric leader, but shows a human quality when it comes to finding the amulet. Perhaps this is because he knew that playing Dracula to a group of kids could eventually phase them as seen in a pivotal scene with Phoebe. Nevertheless, he truly kills it as Dracula. Jonathan Gries spends his time going ballistic as if he amps up Lon Chaney Jr’s Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man about him turning into a werewolf. Carl Thibault does pretty well as the Wolfman and Michael MacKay, in his limited screen time, makes the most of it as The Mummy. Special effects make-up artist Tom Woodruff Jr. pulls it off nicely for his acting debut as the Gill Man. Kudos must go out to the late Stan Winston, who did a spectacular job with the special make-up effects for the film. While it brings a subliminal meaning of who the monsters represent, they do ultimately avoid the suit by changing or rather, updating the looks of these classic monsters.

The Monster Squad is truly a gem of the 1980’s with a very valuable lesson…”Wolfman’s got nards.”

WFG RATING: A

DVD/BLU-RAY

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