I've made adoration for 80's movies no secret. The me, that decade gave us the greatest period of creativity and originality that the world would ever see, horror or not. If you just take a look at the entire decade, it's hard to fathom so many iconic films coming out within that 10-year span. Everything from "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi", to the "Back to the Future" trilogy, "A Nightmare on Elm Street", "Friday the 13th", "Terminator", "Aliens", "Gremlins", "The Goonies", I could go on and on and on about the seminal things from that decade. Going back and watching these movies, they hold up in every way. The practical special effects, the acting, the timeless quality, the fact that there was pretty much zero political correctness.
After having spent the last several days exposing myself to very hard hitting, heavy movies, I needed to watch something of a little lighter fare, so I went back to my old standby, one of my favorite movies from the time I can remember (the movie was made the year I was born, 1986), "The Monster Squad". Wrongfully referred to usually as a "Goonies" knock off, "Monster Squad" is a movie that transcends genres, anyone from 9 to 90 can greatly enjoy it. It has so much heart, so much humor and wit, but at the same time, could possibly scare the shit out of a kid. It tells the story of a group of kids that have a club they call The Monster Squad. They have a clubhouse where they hang out, the spend all day reading comic books, arguing about how many ways you can kill a werewolf, and important things like whether Wolfman has testicles. They are such a cool group of kids, and the kind of kids that most of us can relate to. They were seen as the oddballs of society because they're nerdy, they love horror movies, the kids that constantly get picked on. Our gang even includes Pete the dog and Phoebe, the adorable little sister of Sean.
The film starts in a scene from long ago, featuring the classic struggle between Van Helsing and Dracula. Van Helsing is focusing on an amulet, and has this girl reading German incantations from a diary, which summons a vortex and sucks them all in. Fast forward to modern day, Dracula shows up and summons his group of monsters to do his bidding, including original takes on the classic Universal monsters we all know and love, including Dracula himself, The Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Wolfman, and Frankenstein. He has summoned them to help him find the magical amulet, which will give him ultimate power, I guess. While all of the monsters are just absolutely fantastic, the two that stick out are Dracula, played by Duncan Regehr, and Frankenstein, who is Tom Noonan. Probably two actors you've never heard of, but they bring these characters to life in magnificent ways. Dracula is the villain of the flick, played in such a straight and terrifying, creepy way. He's played with little to no camp. And Frankenstein, in this movie, is a character that has so much heart and you have so much sympathy for. He's obviously a monster and hideous creature, but he's so sweet and endearing and innocent, and strikes up a great friendship with Phoebe, which ends up being the heart and soul of the movie.
After our squad is completed with the addition of badass Rudy, rolled up jeans, loafers, and leather jacket included, they visit the scary old German guy, who lives in the creepy old house down the street, who ends up being a huge asset to the group. He is the one that translates the diary for them, yes, the one that Van Helsing had in the beginning. Sean's mom got it at a yard sale for him, even though she refers to it as the "Van Halen" diary. There are so many story elements at play here, that all add up to the bigger picture. For example, Sean and Phoebe's dad is a cop, constantly having to forego time with his family for his job. This creates a rift between his parents. When the Squad figures out what's going on and these monsters are actually really real, they go to the house where Dracula is, they find that magical amulet, and they do discover infamously, that yes, Wolfman's got nards.
Now that they have the amulet, our squad is teamed up with Frankenstein and scary German guy, as well as one of the kid's older sister, who is needed to recite from the diary, in order to activate the amulet and send Dracula back to wherever. Only problem is, it has to be read by a girl that is a virgin, or "vershion". Unfortunately, our older sister has lied about her lovelife, which comes in the middle of our climax. The group has gathered in the town square, at a church naturally, where the monsters are all descending on. Each kid gets a chance to shine and show why they're a group of badasses. Sean blows Wolfman up with a stick of dynamite, Fat Kid disposes of Gilman with a shotgun, Rudy kills a group of sultry vampires with some wooden stakes that he made in woodworking class. Now this film is certainly filled with things that people today would misconstrue as even offensive, but you must remember the context of when this movie was made. Yes, it's technically a "kid's movie", but it has lots of violence, bad language, but it's all done in complete light-heartedness and fun. The kids use terms that today are considered offensive, but I don't see how you could be offended in any way.
The kids figure out that little Phoebe should be the one to read from the book, Scary German Guy helps her read the lines to bring forth the vacuum, Dracula, in one scene, picks her up by her cheeks and says "give me the amulet, you little bitch!" or Rudy saying "I'm in the Goddamn club, arent I?". You'd NEVER see that stuff in something made today. This edginess is something that's sorely lacking in these kinds of movies today. Ultimately, Frankenstein turns on Dracula and saves our kids, but it results in a scene that STILL makes tears well up in my eyes. As the vortex begins sucking up everything, unfortunately, that includes our wonderful monster. Phoebe pleads for him to stay, and he's reaching for her, wanting to stay, but knows he can't, so as he's being taken away, she throws him her teddy bear. I cannot understate how great the relationship between Phoebe and Frankenstein is. It's really the crux of our story. It's such an important element.
I cannot accurately express my sentiments about this movie. It was such a huge part of my childhood and has remained so all these years later. It's such a perfect and endearing experience to me, and the kind of thing that incites such an idea of creativity and adventure in us all. Looking back at it, I truly can't think of anything at all that I would change. At all. What more can you ask from a movie?
"Monster Squad" gets 10 Wolfman nards out of 10!
Check out the original trailer: