Talkin' Movies: The Monster Squad (1987)


"I'm in the goddamn club, aren't I?" - Rudy

It's Halloween. Perfect time for a horror movie. What should one watch? A vampire movie? A werewolf movie? How about something with a mummy, or a classic Universal horror movie in general? Let's save us all the trouble and watch one that has them all. And then let's have them try to take over the world and the only people that can stop them are basically the Little Rascals (some say The Goonies, but the kids here have a dog. That's Pete the pup, if anything). Okay, okay. Hear me out.

From a team of guys that had their hands in Night of the Creeps and the Lethal Weapon movies comes just that. After defeating Van Helsing's group centuries ago, Count Dracula has come to America in search of his nemesis' diary. With the aid of The Frankenstein monster, a 2000 year old mummy, a man struggling with knowing he's a werewolf, and The Gillman, Dracula will let nothing stand in his way of world domination (even if it means slaughtering some neighborhood kids to do so).

The non-monster cast of the film isn't anything too special. We have all the stereotypes: Sean, the leader who knows all the monster lore and acts tougher than he is. Patrick, who is the sidekick and nothing more. Horace the fat kid (who is even called that by his friends. It was the 80s. Kids did that). And finally Rudy the bad boy older kid (you know he's the bad boy because he smokes and wears a leather jacket).

The real acting belongs to the monsters. Duncan Regehr as Dracula IS my favorite portrayal of the Transylvanian count on film: low key with a lot of his acting, but terrifying at times as well. Tom Noonan as the Frankenstein monster: Doing his "master's" bidding when not wanting to, but then becoming a lovable member of the group of kids and a dear friend to Sean's 5 year old sister Pheobe. There's also Carl Thibualt as The Wolf Man: scary when the animal, yet sympathtic as the human who knows he's cursed and wants to end his life. Not a lot of acting from The Mummy or Gill-man other than some great body language, but it works perfectly.

The themes are surprisingly adult at times for a movie like this. Rudy taking pictures of Patrick's sister undressing and using them as blackmail to get her to help with the ritual of sending the monsters away (they need a virgin. Sadly for them, it turns out Steve "didn't count" for her). The kids get help from the "Scary German guy" in the neighborhood and we find out why he really knows a lot about "monsters." Plus we deal with a man wanting to die due to his curse, kids nearly getting murdered, adults actually GETTING murdered, parents possibly getting divorced, and more.

The gore is very limited in some scenes. We pretty much only have some bleeding from the mouth when some of Dracula's brides are stabbed and a cool gunshot wound on the Gill-man when he's taken out, though we definitely make up for it when we see what happens when dynamite is used against a werewolf (it's true. Only silver bullets can kill them. Excellent scene).

The designs of the monsters are some of my favorites. From the scary look of the Wolf Man and the mummy, to the streamlined look of The Gill-man, to the more humanistic look of the Frankenstein monster.

Is there anything bad I can say about this film? Sure. It's got your typical cheesy 80s montage of the kids making weapons and getting ready to take on the monsters, all while a lame rock song plays. We have some poor special effects at times when Dracula morphs into a bat. The younger kids may seem to be a bit annoying. Eugene and his letter to the Army (along with the payoff) will either get a chuckle or a groan. And the Frankenstien monster's fate will either pull at your heartstrings or make you roll your eyes. I sadly roll my eyes now at my age during that scene.

However all those "bad" things aside, I still love this film and not just for the nostalgia. We have Dracula attempting to kill kids (and actually killing adults). We have some of the best looking versions of the Universal Monsters ever. Adult themes at times that you don't expect in a film lke this. Plus we get some perfect slices of 80s cheese with a lot of the dialogue. This movie failed at the box office but it's cult status continues to grow and grow. To me, this film would be like a six pack of Miller Genuine Draft. It's goes down really well, makes you feel good, and then makes you want to enjoy it again very soon. Happy Halloween, everyone.

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