Sponsor

1001 Overlooked Movies - The Monster Squad (1987)

A gang of monster-obsessed kids come up against the real thing.

Directed by: Fred Dekker
Starring: Andre Gower, Roby Kiger, Duncan Regehr, Tom Noonan, Brent Chalem


All Hail 'The Monster Squad', possibly the best kids horror film you have never seen. Created by Black & Dekker. That's director Fred Dekker, creator of the nifty 'Night of the Creeps' and the stinkier than a Camembert-smeared tramps vest 'Robocop 3', and Shane Black, the yo yo creator of eighties action series 'Lethal Weapon' and now a box office success directing 'Iron Man 3'. This should have been a barnstorming success however, with a gross of just over $3 million in the States and a decidedly low key release in the UK, this film has undeservedly slipped from the public view. With a new US Blu Ray release, it's ripe for reappraisal.
The Monster Squad of the title are a group of pre-adolescents, a gang devoted to horror and gore, whose knowledge of the Arcane and Fangoria come in handy when their small town is invaded by a who's who of Universal's horror back catalogue looking to take over the world with a special amulet. If the likes of JJ Abrams was to pitch this today the studios would be throwing money at him. A film with Dracula, The Mummy, Wolfman, Frankenstein's Monster and the Gil Man (guessing they didn't have the rights to 'Creature from the Black Lagoon') being made now would have the fanboys frothing and the Internet abuzz with excitement.
Maybe it was just too quirky for its own good. Visually it still looks solid and the make up effects from the Stan Winston studio still hold up today. OK, the songs are an audible travesty but that pretty much covers most eighties Hollywood films. What it does have is a sharp-as-a-razor script with genuinely funny moments, a surprisingly filthy mind for a kids film, and it does that immensely difficult balancing act for this type of thing in making the film funny when it's supposed to be and also genuinely scary and frightening at the same time.
This is a film so clearly invested with love by the creators for its genre, so infused with the sheer pleasure of childhood old school horror marathons that it's impossible not to be swept up in its charms. Its awkwardness and idiosyncrasies made it so distinct from so much of the Amblin blandness that Spielberg's family unit was churning out and more in tune with the spiky "anything goes" sensibilities of Joe Dante at his best. It's difficult to imagine a modern day kids film revealing that town Bogeyman “Scary German Guy” is in fact a holocaust survivor with the lines “Man, you sure know a lot about monsters”, “Now that you mention it, I suppose I do”,  before closing a door to reveal his Concentration Camp tattoo.
Far better than the overly earnest 'Super 8', far more caustic than 'The Goonies', this is a film to watch with a nostalgic glow as an adult or, even better, sitting down with your kids and creating a whole new generation of horror fans.
Ill served by Universal's recent horror retreads, you can't help but think they would have been improved by Emily Blunt kicking Benicio Del Toro in the unmentionables and uttering the immortal line “Wolfman's got nards”.


The official '1001 Movies' list includes the following movies from 1987 - Yeelen, Wings of Desire, Project A Part II, Babette's Feast, Raising Arizona, Full Metal Jacket, Withnail & I, Good Morning Vietnam, Au Revoir Les Enfants, Broadcast News, Housekeeping, The Princess Bride, Moonstruck, The Untouchables, Red Sorghum, The Dead, Fatal Attraction, A Chinese Ghost Story


Jason Abbey

discussion by