The Monster Squad (1987)
By: Devon B. on October 9, 2012 | Comments
Lionsgate | All Regions | 2.35:1, 1080p | English 5.1 DTS-HD MA | 82 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Fred Dekker
Starring: André Gower, Duncan Regehr, Stephen Macht, Stan Shaw, Tom Noonan
Screenplay: Shane Black, Fred Dekker
Country: USA
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I still vividly remember missing The Monster Squad at the cinema. My parents had a propensity to just drive to a theatre with the firm belief that the movie they'd set out for would be playing. To this day, I can't explain why they never bothered to check screening times before departure, but telling a young monster fan that the family was off to the movie of his dreams without making sure it was still showing was just cruel. When we found out that we had missed the film's run at the last theatre still playing it, my disappointment was so vast I'm surprised I survived the night. Missing out only augmented my obsession with the film, so when the movie was released on video I became a total pest until a copy was located from an obscure video store (this was back before stores like Blockbuster and Hollywood guaranteed a new release would be in stock). Looking back, my parents could've saved themselves a lot of time and hassle if they would've just taken me to these milestone movies right away rather than being stupid, procrastinating jerk faces.

The movie revolves around an indestructible amulet that stops evil from ruling the world, and every 100 years it can be used to completely eradicate evil. An unfortunate side effect of this 100 year opportunity is the amulet becomes temporarily vulnerable, and its destruction would ensure that the forces of darkness would take over the world. 100 years ago (or more like 125 years ago now) Van Helsing tried to use the amulet, but the vortex he opened sucked him in instead of the monsters. Since Van Helsing cocked everything up, it's an amulet stalemate for another 100 years during which time the amulet is relocated to America. Dracula tracks it down, and brings along with him a wolfman, Frankenstein's monster, a mummy and a gillman. The only thing standing in the monsters' way is a group of youths who have dubbed themselves The Monster Squad.

Thank God George Lucas doesn't have the rights to this one, because a large piece of my childhood would die if it were tampered with like Star Wars. I'd been interested in monster movies most of my nine years when The Monster Squad was released, so it seemed like a movie made specifically for me. When I finally got to see it, I thought it was totally iconic. I kept waiting for the video game adaption, and when that didn't eventuate I wrote a sequel for my Grade Four creative writing project. My story included monsters that writer/director Fred Dekker had not been able to include like King Kong, Godzilla and the shark from Jaws. I can't quite recall how a white pointer fit into these proceedings, but I'm sure it was brilliant. The Monster Squad hit at just the right time for me, and I was thrilled at this adventure movie with monsters, despite being too young to fully understand it. I had to have things like the dynamics of the candy bar scene clarified for me, and I had to have internment camp tattoos, and thus internment camps, explained, plus I didn't know what a virgin was. I'm sure this last question delighted my prudish mother. I would've been too polite to ask if I'd seen the movie in a theatre with other patrons, so served her right.

Clearly I've been traumatised by my initial letdown, so when I say The Monster Squad is the best movie of all time it's not a case of nostalgia at all. It really was the Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein for my generation, and while people my age were lucky to have such a great emulation of that classic, the law of diminishing returns would be felt by the next generation who got Van Helsing as their main monster mash up. The Monster Squad is firmly entrenched in the 1980s, so much so that even the bits set in the 1880s seem like they're happening in the 1980s. The film has some moments that are "unPC" by today's standards, particularly in regards to using homosexuality as an insult, but honestly this was a common occurrence at schools back then, and probably still is today, so the PC Police should just shut up because it's just another highly realistic component of The Monster Squad.

Of course this movie is perfect, but under extreme duress I might admit there is some minor room for improvement. Naturally, it would've made the movie even more awesome if Dekker had been able to get the rights to update the classic Universal monsters' makeups, but Stan Winston's involvement ensured that most of the makeups are fantastic, and they're evocative of the Universal monsters anyway. Except for the wolfman who looks closer to the werewolf in Curse of the Werewolf than The Wolfman, and unfortunately the wolfman's makeup is rather immobile, making him the least convincing monster. The plot also raises a few questions when scrutinised, like what kind of Junior High shop class has all that equipment, how did the postal service deliver that letter so fast and what exactly is Dracula's plan? I'd never noticed it before, but another question is why, in a movie where it's cool to know that Frankenstein is the name of the guy and not the creature, is the monster billed as Frankenstein?

When not under extreme duress, I'm likely to gloss over all that and focus on The Monster Squad's finer points. The film has plenty of allusions to the classic Universal movies, and quite a few inventive elements, particularly in regards to temporarily disabling a werewolf. The script is co-written by Shane Black, so there're plenty of touches of humour, particularly from one cop who seems to have had all of his dialogue written in Black's colourful idiom. One thing Dekker nailed was children's natural recognition that Frankenstein's monster is not a bad guy, so Dekker made him even more sympathetic, a quality enhanced by Tom Noonan's effective portrayal of the monster as terribly naïve and a bit pathetic.

People are entitled to have their own opinion most of the time, but disliking The Monster Squad would make you a wolf dork.
The colours are much more stable on this Blu-ray than they were on the DVD. The film has a few spots and specks, but is mostly a clean print. After years of wonky VHS copies I thought the movie looked great, except for one odd flaw: At times the image appears to split, almost like a 3D effect that isn't working right. This fortunately doesn't happen much, but it does happen. The clarity of this HD release does eliminate the possibility that a girl in a photo is nude, which is a plus for the detail of the presentation but a minus for all the young boys that wasted time trying to pause the video at the right moment to catch an eyeful.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is not a surround sound masterpiece, but the remix is done discreetly so as not to ruin the film's original audio. The new mix adds directions where appropriate, but is mostly a front heavy affair. Purists will be glad the original audio is also included in a 2.0 track, but sad to find it's a lossy mix.
Extra Features
The Blu-ray has an ad for the Stargate 15th anniversary release and Lionsgate horror Blu-ray titles, two commentaries, a doco, a bonus interview, deleted scenes, storyboard comparisons for the mummy showdown, a still gallery which includes the cool Spanish art, the trailer and a TV spot. My copy also came with a $25 gift card, but it was expired. The first commentary is with Dekker and Squad members André Gower, Ryan Lambert and Ashley Bank. I'm not sure that Bank is overly familiar with the film, but none of the Squad are experienced commentators. This leaves Dekker trying to fill the gaps by doing things like calling out Bela Lugosi's Dracula and making fun of the mistakes and foibles in The Monster Squad. He tries to work out Dracula's plan, and if the writer/director can't do it than I don't think I had much hope. The second track again features Dekker, this time with DP Bradford May. Some info does repeat here, but this is by far the better track. The two discuss the film's composition extensively, and get into their style choices and compromises that had to be made due to micromanagement, though it's clear there are no hard feelings about the meddling. The documentary is Monster Squad Forever, and is divided into five parts that played together run almost as long as the film itself. The doco covers the film's origins, makeup, cast and characters, production and fandom (that last one's about cool people like me). The feature gives some background info on Dekker, briefly touches on Night of the Creeps, and also covers the creation of the monsters in more detail. The guy who played Dracula beat out a relatively unknown actor named Liam Neeson, and while I think the guy in the movie is great, I'm really curious what Neeson would've done with the role. An additional interview is included with Frankenstein's monster where he discusses his desire to change his career's direction. This is mildly amusing, but it runs a bit long for a one-joke premise. The deleted scenes are cobbled together from Dekker's private collection and TV prints. Some of the scenes don't ad much, but they do show that the lead's parents are very liberal with their five year old daughter's viewing regulations. It was a good thing this was cut because I remember being jealous that the older kids in the film were allowed to watch the 80s slashers that were off limits in my house, so the idea of a five year old being able to watch things I was barred from would've been tough to take. There's also some cool stuff involving Dracula, which I think should've stayed in the film.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
I could sit at this keyboard, under my framed Monster Squad poster and listening to The Coffin Caddies' "Monster Squad" on repeat, typing for days and days and still not do my love for this movie justice. Evidently some stupid people didn't get the film because I recall reading a letter Dekker wrote to a horror magazine wondering why they had slammed the movie. I can answer that question, Fred, it's because they're wolf dorks.

While I would've liked this Blu-ray to use the film's original poster art, I guess I can overlook that since I have the actual poster. That leaves the only real issues with the Blu as the lack of a lossless 2.0 track and the weird double vision moments. If the latter was some sort of more common encoding error, its infrequence would make it hardly worth mentioning, so even that's not such a big deal. I can't imagine passing up on this nigh-perfect release because the original audio is only included in a compressed format, especially when the lossless track is pretty faithful to the original mix. The Monster Squad should be part of everyone's Halloween rotation, and this is a great way to see it.

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