Think The Goonies meets the Universal Studios monsters. The Monster Squad, released in 1987, is a fun preteen adventure, where a group of misfits who love monster movies band together, in order to conquer some of the greatest monsters to ever hit the silver screen: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
The Monster Squad begins 100 years before the mid 1980’s in Transylvania. Two epic combatants prepare for their greatest battle. In one corner, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing; in the other, Count Dracula. But according to the blood red opening crawl, the Freedom Fighters blew it. Skip ahead to the 80’s, where Dracula has returned with his band of monsters to wreak havoc on small town America. The only thing is, a Sean Astin lookalike and his Monster Squad are armed with an amulet that has the power to send the monsters back where they came from.
The Monster Squad, written by Fred Dekker and Shane Black, is not a horror film by any stretch, but it does offer many scary movie moments, reminiscent of the classics: eerie music, coffins infested with spiders, scantly clad beauties freshly bitten, lots of thunder and lightening, a virgin in need and an 80’s music montage. True to the title of the film, the most enjoyment comes from the monsters themselves and seeing them all back on the big screen in one movie.
There is something nostalgic about seeing a monster movie from a time that wasn’t plagued with over-abundant CGI, when everything had realistic feel to it. I’m a child of the 80’s, and being so, I have a certain level of comfort with old fashioned special effects, whether we are talking about monster makeup or dangling bats pretending to fly. Sometimes, too much CGI can ruin an otherwise decent movie. In many ways, I prefer this older style to the special effects in Van Helsing years later, which felt far too drenched in computer graphics and pulled me out of the movie.
There is a definite element of hokiness in The Monster Squad. Perhaps the greatest amount of cheese comes at the film’s climax, which isn’t the best place for it, as it takes away from the intensity of the climax. The Goonies had the benefit of some Hollywood heavyweights at the helm: Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus and Richard Donner. The Monster Squad did not. Shane Black cut his teeth on The Monster Squad, but later went on to refine his skills and write more successful works like Lethal Weapon, and most recently, Iron Man 3 with Drew Pearce.
What attracted most to The Monster Squad, both as a teenager and an adult, is that it’s a fun monster movie. Back in the mid 80’s, it was hard to go to the theater and find anything remotely like it. Most movies of this ilk were made strictly to scare the life out of me. A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Hellraiser. Don’t get me wrong, I loved them, but sometimes a guy just needs a break from the sleepless nights and wants to enjoy some old-fashioned, good natured thrills.
The Monster Squad is a good movie for both kids and adults, but only if you don’t take it too seriously and aren’t looking for something ground breaking. It may give you some scares, but the laughs are plentiful. The Monster Squad is worth checking out, or revisiting, if not just to see what those of us in the 1980’s called fashion.
And always remember, if you’re ever cornered by these monsters: Wolfman’s got nards.