Skip to main content

MMYIF: The Monster Squad

My Misspent Youth In Films...

The Monster Squad
Directed by: Fred Dekker
Starring: Andre Bower, Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht
Released: August 14, 1987

A young group of monster fanatics attempt to save their hometown from Count Dracula and his monsters.

What I Thought Then

This was a fun, edgy, kid-centric horror movie with some comic element and a few iconic lines of dialogue.

What I Think Now

Good grief... Some of these movies I revisit knowing that they're not going to hold up well on re-watch. Some of them pleasantly surprise me; most are exactly what I expect them to be. But this one... I didn't expect it to be good, but I had no idea how bad it was. This feels like it was made for twelve-year-olds by twelve-year-olds. There's a profound lack of story, character development, or even basic narrative cohesiveness. This is a film with an important character named "Scary German Guy". This is a movie in which a seven-year-old successfully calls in the military by mailing them a letter written in crayon. This is a movie that throws around a lot of adult language (for a children's film) but refers to having sex as "getting dorked". A movie where the final beat of character development for one of our heroes is getting a "thumbs up" from Abraham Van Helsing. There's a pivotal plot turn that relies on Frankenstein's monster accidentally taking a picture of one of the character's older sister who happened to be standing at the window topless. There's even a rap song at the end that summarizes the plot. It's as if someone liquified a batch of concentrated juvenalia, shot into the director's veins and hit "Go" on the camera.

Which is kind of a shame, because it's not a terrible premise. Universal movie monsters are coming to life and the only people able to stop it are a group of kids united by their love of classic monster movies because they're a) knowledgeable enough to deal with the threat and b) young enough and imaginative enough to accept that, yes, Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolfman, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon are invading the suburbs. I'm not saying it's a Pulitzer-winning pitch or anything, but there's a story there that you could build an engaging film around. But this film is not that film. Instead, it's a shameless ripoff of The Goonies, but one in which everyone thinks that they're Corey Feldman.

The plot centers around Sean, whose parents (played by Stephen Macht and Mary Ellen Trainor in exactly the kind of roles you hire those two to play) are going through a rough patch. He's joined by Patrick, the mouth, Rudy, the tough who wears a leather jacket and a cigarette tucked behind his ear and feels wildly out of place in this gang, and Horace, the fat one who, despite him making a big deal about his name being Horace, literally everyone just calls "Fat Kid". Don't feel too bad for Horace, though, because he's got the most memorable lines in the film. They're also joined by Sean's little sister Phoebe and another kid named Eugene, who looks seven-ish and is trailed by his dog Pete. And that's as much character development as you're going to get. Mostly they just sit around and make whatever passes in a twelve-year-old's brain for wisecracks. Amusingly, Shane Black is credited as one of the writers, and you can feel his acerbic wit in a few of these lines, but none of the associated charm.

Instead we get a couple of real zingers from Horace. At the end he kills the Creature from the Black Lagoon with a shotgun and defends a couple of boys who had bullied him earlier, one of whom is played by John Hervey (Oh, hey, John Hervey is in this!) doing an early version of Wayne from The Wonder Years. After not-yet-Wayne thanks "Fat Kid", Horace turns and says dramatically "My name... is Horace", which he punctuates by cocking the shotgun. And of course, there's the most iconic line in the movie. When confronted by Wolfman, Horace is told to "Kick him in the nards" but is hesitant, fearing that Wolfman might not have any. He finally relents and kicks, causing Wolfman to double over in pain, prompting Horace to say in amazed perplexity: "Wolfman's got nards." Did we quote this line over and over on the playground? You bet your ass we did. This line would also go on to be the title of a documentary about the film.

Apart from the witty repartee (he says sarcastically), the film hasn't aged terribly well. For those of you tracking representation, there is exactly one non-white speaking role in the film. He's a sidekick and he dies in Act II. The effects are fine for their era, but the casting and design mostly feel off. Tom Noonan is Frankenstein. Is that... is that supposed to be funny? Duncan Regehr's Dracula is utterly without charm or gravitas. He isn't helped by the costume, which is the height of centuries-old stereotypical Transylvanian evening wear, complete with high collar, cape, red accents, and a ruffled ascot. And he's clearly vamping (ahem) for the camera. Some of the kids are decent actors, especially Ashley Bank as Phoebe, but they aren't given much to do except look at something scary and scream. Frankly, that's most of what the adults do too. As for the story... I dunno, I'm hesitant to go on. In writing this post up, I feel like I've put more thought into this movie than the filmmakers did.


Hard pass, although at 90 minutes it's a good length for a hate-watch.

Tune in next week for fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles...

In My Misspent Youth In Films, Kurt is going through the movies he grew up on. Read the explainer or see more posts.


Popular posts from this blog

On Getting Laser Eyes

Last week I got Lasik. I was looking forward to not having to deal with glasses getting smudged by my kids or slipping off my face. I figured that not needing them would be pretty convenient. However, the words I heard over and over from other people who'd already done it were: "life-changing." That seemed to be overstating a bit. Convenient, yes, but life-changing? I didn't get it. I get it now. I've had some kind of vision correction, either glasses or contacts, for the last thirty-odd years, which is nearly as far back as I can remember. And what I hadn't realized was the extent to which this had become part of my identity. It's not that I thought glasses were cool because I wore them--although I did and they are. It's that the ability to see was, for me, artificial and temporary. And my vision was pretty bad, so my natural state was one of... not so much "blindness" as "isolation." There was a layer of vagueness that sat bet

Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition: A Thoroughly Unnecessary Review

 Time to save the multiverse A couple years ago I was blogging about my love of tabletop games and described Sentinels of the Multiverse  as being either my first or second favorite, depending on what day of the week it was. Then last year they announced a new "Definitive Edition" of the base game with expansion content to follow. This would be a ground-up rethinking and rebalancing that would, amongst other things, be mostly incompatible with the existing content. Of which I have a lot. This has been a "shut-up-and-take-my-money" IP for years now, so it's not like I  wasn't  going to buy it, but I was at first trepidatious. I mean, was this even necessary? And then I saw an interview with the creators where they talked about what they were trying to accomplish with the new edition, and I was on board. And then the Kickstarter launched and more information was available and I got excited. After all, as I mentioned in the above-linked write-up, the oldest Sen

100 Album: "Game Of Thrones Season 3 Soundtrack" by Ramin Djawadi

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the  explainer  or view  the master list . Artist:  Ramin Djawadi Title:   Game Of Thrones, Season 3 Soundtrack Released:  2013 Genre:  DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh He's not as big a name as Hans Zimmer or John Williams or the various Newmans out there, but Ramin Djawadi is easily the most interesting composer working in television right now (with due respect to Bear McCreary). Soundtracks, especially television soundtracks because they're produced so quickly, have a tendency to serve more as a wall of atmosphere than anything else. But Djawadi's work here and on Westworld  has generated some amazing musical themes. There's a strong undercurrent of leitmotif informing the way the music flows together and the themes those motifs are built around are damned  catchy--which you know if you got the joke in the genre description above. While all of the soundtracks for GoT  are very listenable, this is m