Saturday, November 25, 2017

Movie #434: The Monster Squad

The Monster Squad is one of a number of 80s-era "group of kids has adventures" movies (other examples include The Goonies, Explorers, and to some extent Stand By Me). It's directed by Fred Dekker, the genius who also gave us Night of the Creeps (we'll get to N eventually). It stars Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht, Brent Chalem, Ryan Lambert, Ashley Bank, Duncan Reghr, Tom Noonan, Jonathan Gries, and Leonardo Cimino.

Sean (Gower) and Patrick (Kiger) are two buddies in white-as-fuck suburbia who have a "monster club," along with their buddy Horace (Chalem), whom they cheerfully call "Fatkid" because "Chunk" was already taken, I guess, a little kid named Eugene (Michael Faustino) whose there for reasons I can't fathom, and, reluctantly, Sean's little sister Phoebe (Bank). They recruit local tough guy Rudy (Lambert) after he protects Horace from some bullies, but this barely has a chance to solidify before the monsters arrive.

The "monsters", in this case, are the basic Universal variety: a Talbot-style werewolf (Gries), the Creature from the Black Lagoon (Tom Woodruff, Jr.), a mummy stolen from a local museum (Michael Mackay), Frankenstein's monster (Noonan), who was conveniently being transported over this particular spot in a plane, and Count Goddamn Dracula (Reghr) himself. These rather ineffectual monsters are trying to retrieve a magic amulet that, once every century, can be destroyed and shift the balance of the world towards evil or something.

So, this movie is pretty ridiculous on its face, and it's got some cringe to it. There's a lot of casual homophobia thrown around ("faggot" and "homo" get used as slurs pretty freely), there's a shitload of sexism getting thrown around (the good guys' plan hinges on having a virgin read a passage, and it never once occurs to them that it doesn't have to be a virgin girl - maybe it does, but that's never stated - and then that transitions nicely into some slut-shaming for Patrick's sister (Lisa Fuller) because she isn't a virgin LOL. So that's all kinda difficult.

There are some good points, too, though. Reghr's portrayal of Dracula is nicely intense and menacing. Noonan's portrayal of Frankenstein's monster is funny and sad. There are some nice homages to the original Universal films, if you know what to look for. My favorite bit in the movie, though, is when the kids seek out their reclusive German neighbor, "Scary German Guy" (Cimino), he helpfully translates the diary of Van Helsing (don't ask), and displays his own knowledge of monster lore. When Horace comments on him knowing a lot about monsters, he agrees, and the camera pauses on his wrist, showing a concentration camp tattoo. It's never mentioned or explained or given context, but it cements the character in a way that's really better than this movie deserves.

Anyway, the problematic stuff in this movie bugs me because it's otherwise fun and campy with some solid moments, so I dunno. 80s, man.

My Grade: B
Rewatch Value: Medium-high

Next up: Monsters, Inc.