This film marked the second credit for director Fred Dekker (following NIGHT OF THE CREEPS) and screenwriter Shane Black (following LETHAL WEAPON). Their concept was a strong one: The Little Rascals meet the classic Universal monsters (Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, etc).
Executive produced by the prolific director/cinematographer Peter Hyams (of OUTLAND, 2010, THE RELIC and many others), THE MONSTER SQUAD was a critical and commercial flop upon its release by Tri Star in 1987, but has amassed a fanatical following in the years since. Perhaps a bit too fanatical: the film was given a tricked-out special edition DVD release in 2007 and is now regarded in many circles as a misunderstood masterpiece. That it’s definitely not, although it is entertaining without question.
Three twerps have formed the Monster Squad, led by the precocious Sean. The Squad’s biggest problem at the moment is the possible induction of a new member: a junior high school-aged tough guy named Rudy. The squad is called into action, though, when none other than Count Dracula falls out of a plane and recruits his buddies The Mummy, the Wolf Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Frankenstein’s Monster to help retrieve an ancient amulet that will allow Drac to control the world.
To counter the Count the Monster Squaders visit an individual known as “Scary German Guy,” a holocaust survivor who knows all about the powers of the amulet. In the meantime Frankenstein’s Monster cozies up to Sean’s little sister Phoebe, who’s always wanted to join the Monster Squad. Frankenstein, or Frankie, befriends the group, and they, armed with knowledge bequeathed by Scary German Guy, arm themselves for the inevitable confrontation with Dracula and his goons.
Along for the ride are a cute neighborhood girl (the requisite virgin) and Scary German Guy, who provides transportation. In the epic skirmish that ensues, Monster Squader Horace uses a garlic lathered pizza slice to burn Dracula’s face, Rudy causes the Mummy to unravel, and even Frankie gets in some licks against his onetime cohort Dracula.
This is very much a kids’ movie, and best appreciated by that age group—or, better yet, adults who initially viewed it as kids. For grown-up audiences there are a few compensating factors, notably the hilariously foul dialogue of screenwriter Shane Black (sample: “Don’t be chicken shit!,” spoken by the protagonist’s little sister). The violent action of the third act is also quite diverting, which includes impalements, neck-snapping, gunshots and the requisite eighties action movie explosions. In fact, the film probably works better as an actioner (Shane Black’s specialty) than a horror fest.
Filmmaking-wise it’s lots better than director Fred Dekker’s previous effort NIGHT OF THE CREEPS. In THE MONSTER SQUAD Dekker balances comedy and darkness fairly well, carries off the action sequences with considerable flair, and coaxes some decent performances from his underage cast.
The film overall is part of a select group of 1980s-era kid films that have become cherished classics among children of the eighties, including THE GOONIES, EXPLORERS and THE LOST BOYS. If you weren’t a kid during that time (or were and don’t understand the appeal of those films) then, quite simply put, THE MONSTER SQUAD is not for you!
THE MONSTER SQUAD
Taft Entertainment Pictures/Keith Barish Productions
Director: Fred Dekker
Producer: Jonathan A. Zimbert
Screenplay: Shane Black, Fred Dekker
Cinematography: Bradford May
Editing: James Mitchell
Cast: Andre Gower, Duncan Regehr, Stephen Macht, Stan Shaw, Tom Noonan, Ryan Lambert, Ashley Bank, Michael Faustino, Mary Ellen Trainor, Leonardo Cimino