director Fred Dekker
It’s been referred to as a slightly darker Goonies (1985), Fred Dekker’s 1987 kid-oriented horror-comedy, The Monster Squad is certainly one of those movies that probably works best for people who saw it for the first time at the right age. Had I seen this movie as a 10 year old, I might have thought it was terrific. I was 18 when it came out, and oddly enough 46 now when I finally saw it. So, you could say I missed that window.
A gang of kids who love monsters (and exclude girls), talk over the ways to slay Dracula or the Wolf Man suddenly find themselves facing modern reimaginations of Universal’s classic monsters. Not just Dracula and the Wolf Man, but the Mummy, a Gill Man, and Frankenstein’s monster. Not as vigilant and psychotic as The Lost Boys’ Frog brothers, they are dealing with a broader spate of monsters, of course. It makes sense that they should befriend at least one of the creatures (Frankenstein turns out to be a good guy monster) rather than being obsessed with monsters and only wanting to kill them.
The film was co-written by Dekker (whose 1986 Night of the Creeps also nodded and winked at classic horror films) and Shane Black, whose list of works include the first Lethal Weapon movies, Last Action Hero (1993), and more recently has had a real resurgence with writing and directing Iron Man 3 (2013). It also features some nice creature design work from the late, great Stan Winston (“the Creature” is pretty darn cool).
I did watch the film with my 11 year old daughter, who isn’t as dyed in the wool over classic horror films as I was at 11, but enjoyed the film herself. My inner 11 year old couldn’t be found to be as enthralled. It’s a good but not great effort. There’s a reason it’s a more obscure item overall, but I can see its charms as well.
I’m often struck in watching kids movies from the 1970’s – 1980’s how kids were depicted with so much more un-PC-ness. It’s one thing to have a “fat kid” in the movie, but another to have him called “Fat Kid” by his purported squadmates (it is a funny joke, I’ll cede that for sure.) Calling out “faggots” and other things, some of it is good to have cleaned up, but the unwashed and unabashed portrayals of this period are somewhat refreshing even in their potential for offense.