The Monster Squad (1987)
By: J.R. McNamara on August 17, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Lionsgate (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. English and Spanish Subtitles. 82 minutes
The Movie
Director: Fred Dekker
Starring: Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert, Duncan Regehr, Ashley Bank, Robby Kiger
Screenplay: Shane Black, Fred Dekker
Music: Bruce Broughton
Tagline: "The End of the World Starts at Midnight"
Country: USA
The eighties were a wonderful time for horror fans, and during this horrible heyday a young director by the name of Fred Dekker made two incredible films: his first, Night of the Creeps, and this, a homage to the Universal pictures of the thirties and forties (with a little Little Rascals thrown in for good measure) - The Monster Squad. Dekker had been a fan of the old black and white Universal horror pics as a child, and had a great affection for films like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and the combination of action, adventure, laughs and scares is absolutely perfect.

The Monster Squad tells of 12 year old Sean Crenshaw (Andre Gower), his five year old sister Phoebe (Ashley Bank) and his unruly gang of misfit friends, who include cool cat Rudy (Ryan Lambert), Patrick (Robby Kiger), Eugene (Michael Faustino) and 'Fat Kid' (Brent Chalem), who are all fans of horror films and stories. Their lives never really get out of the rut of making up new monsters, getting into trouble together, and looking at girls…until the day Sean's father, Inspector Crenshaw (Stephen Macht) has to investigate two cases of missing bodies: one a 2000 year old mummy from the local museum, and the shot-up corpse of a man who claimed to be a werewolf. Why is all this happening? It seems Count Dracula (Duncan Regehr) himself is rallying monsters to help him take over the world. Along with the Mummy (Michael Reid Mackay) and the Wolfman (Carl Thibalt), Dracula has gained assistance from the Monster of Frankenstein (Tom Noonan) and the mysterious water dwelling Creature (Tom Woodruff Jr) to assist him in his world domination attempt. Who can stop them? Why the Monster Squad of course…but how can five kids destroy the five most evil monsters in the world? With knowledge….and a German speaking virgin of course!

This film can be described as nothing short of fun. Respect is paid fully to the Universal Monsters of old, and many homages are paid throughout the course of the film, my favourite being the tribute to Frankenstein's 'little girl by the lake' sequence. Fans of kid's adventure films like The Goonies will dig this, as will the fans of the original Universal Monster characters. All the actors, both children and monsters, play their parts to a T. Noonan's Frankenstein's Monster is both horrible to look at and heartwarming, all the kids, specifically Gower and Lambert, strike all their comedy markslike seasoned professionals, and Regehr's Dracula is a regal and horrible tyrant, as the King of Vampires SHOULD be. The surprising thing about these kids is most of them hardly worked after the eighties were over, and tragically, Fat Kid Horace (Brent Chalem) died of pneumonia at age 22.

The Monster Squad obviously isn't a gorefest, or a frightfest, but it certainly entertains on every level. It is a pre-PC (a five year old telling 12 year olds they are 'chicken shit' is hilarious) pile of fun. Brilliant!
The film is presented in widescreen 2.35:1, and is a crisp and clear transfer with no artifact damage at all, although on a few occasions I though there was an ever so slight touch of telecine wobble.
This film is presented in a spectacular Dolby 5.1, and the score is excellent!
Extra Features
On disc one there are two feature commentaries: the first is with Fred Dekker, and three of his Monster Squad teamsters Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert and Ashley Bank. This is a fairly informal commentary, which is only slightly informative, but feels more like you are sitting with a bunch of friends who are heckling a film. The second commentary is with Dekker again, and with director of photography Bradford May: this is a far superior commentary with almost every aspect of the camera work and lighting commented on.

Disc two is a treasure trove of stuff for Monster Squad fans.

The main part of disc two is a retrospective feature titled Monster Squad Forever. This feature has interviews with writer/director Fred Dekker, DoP Bradford May, Producer Jonathon Zimbert, actors Andre Gower, Duncan Regehr, Tom Noonan, Ashley Bank and Ryan Lambert, composer Bruce Broughton, not to mention make-up and prosthetic effects guys Steve Wang, Matt Rose and Tom Woodruff Jnr, who also played the role of the Gillman. This doco is divided into 5 parts: The Monster Master, which is about Dekker's experiences in trying to get this film made, The Monster Makers, which focuses on creature design which had to mimic the old Universal Monsters without breaching copyright; The Monsters and the Squad, which was a series of interviews with the actors and discussed their methods of approaching their roles; Lights! Camera! Monsters!, which discusses the actual production of the film and its score; and Monster Mania, which was filmed at the 2007 Monster Mania convention, and proves the films cult status. This is as complete a retrospective as you can get, and had plenty of behind the scenes footage as well. All the cast and crew have some great stories to tell.

A Conversation With Frankenstein is an amusing 'joke' piece, where Tom Noonan, completely in his role as the Monster of Frankenstein, discusses his career as a movie monster, and how ever since 1931s Frankenstein, he has become typecast as a monster. It is funny, but the joke wears thin quickly.

Deleted Scenes has some interesting extended and deleted scenes which wouldn't have added much to the film, but each scene shown has an interesting text introduction.

Animated Storyboard Sequence has a selection of storyboards from one scene (the Mummy attacks the car) which plays as a very rough cartoon, using the sounds from the actual filmed sequence as an aural backdrop.

Still Gallery is a scored slideshow of pics from the film.

There is both a TV spot and a full theatrical trailer for The Monster Squad, as well as three trailers from other Lionsgate releases: The Amazing Screw-on Head, The Invincible Iron Man and Happily N'Ever After.
The Verdict
A great kid's film a la Ghostbusters or Gremlins, and fans of monster movies will like it as well. This disc is packed to the gills with a bunch of extras that are great! Unlike a lot of 'monster jam' films, like some of the later Universal pics and Van Helsing, the monsters are still treated with reverence, and are rarely made to perform silly acts not befitting their characters. This is one for you, and the kids…The Monster Squad's got nards!
Movie Score
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