The Monster Squad
|The Monster Squad|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Fred Dekker|
|Produced by||Jonathan A. Zimbert
Neil A. Machlis
|Written by||Shane Black
|Music by||Bruce Broughton|
|Edited by||James Mitchell|
Home Box Office
Keith Barish Productions
TAFT Entertainment Pictures
|Distributed by||Tri-Star Pictures|
|Box office||$3,769,990 (USA)|
The Monster Squad is a 1987 horror comedy film written by Shane Black and Fred Dekker and directed by Fred Dekker (who also wrote and directed Night of the Creeps). It was released by Tri-Star Pictures on August 14, 1987. The film features the Universal Monsters (re-imagined by a team of special effects artists including Stan Winston), led by Count Dracula. They, in turn, combat a group of savvy kids out to keep them from controlling the world. This is also a twist on horror films as it re-imagines classic monsters unleashed in a 1980s setting.
The Monster Squad is a society of young pre-teens who idolize classic monsters and monster movies and hold their meetings in a tree clubhouse. Club leader Sean (Andre Gower), whose five-year-old sister Phoebe (Ashley Bank) desperately wants to join the club, is given the diary of legendary monster hunter Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Jack Gwillim), but his excitement abates when he finds it is written in German. Sean, his best friend Patrick (Robby Kiger), and the rest of the Monster Squad visit an elderly man, known as the "Scary German Guy" (Leonardo Cimino), actually a kind gentleman, to translate the diary. When one of the Squad compliments the German man on his knowledge about Van Helsing's battle with monsters, he wryly implies that he has some experience with monsters"and his shirt sleeve briefly reveals a Concentration camp number tattoo.
The diary describes, in great detail, an amulet that is composed of concentrated good. One day out of every century, as the forces of good and evil reach a balance, the otherwise indestructible amulet becomes vulnerable to destruction. With the next day of balance happening within a few days, at the stroke of midnight, the kids realize they must gain possession of the amulet and use it — with an incantation from Van Helsing's diary — to open a hole in the universe and cast the monsters into Limbo. As shown in the prelude, Van Helsing had unsuccessfully attempted this one hundred years ago in order to defeat his old adversary Count Dracula (Duncan Regehr); his apprentices then emigrated to the United States to hide the amulet, where it was out of Dracula's immediate reach.
Nevertheless, Dracula seeks to obtain the amulet before the Monster Squad does, so that the Count can take control of the world and plunge it into darkness. To this end, he assembles several of his most dangerous and monstrous allies: The Mummy (Michael MacKay), The Gill-man (Tom Woodruff Jr.), The Wolf Man (Carl Thibault), and in addition, three school girls (Mary Albee, Joan-Carrol Baron, and Julie Merrill) whom the Count transforms into his vampiric consorts. Dracula then steals a crate from an old World War II bomber in flight, containing The Frankenstein Monster (Tom Noonan), thus completing his army. However, Frankenstein is reluctant to aid Dracula, and wanders into the forest where he encounters Phoebe. Rather than being afraid, she shows him the kindness he has always sought, and they become friends. After Phoebe proves to the Monster Squad that the Frankenstein Monster is not evil, he chooses to help the boys instead of Dracula.
The amulet turns out to be buried in a stone room, under a house that Dracula and the other monsters now occupy and where Van Helsing's diary was found. The secret room is littered with wards which prevent the monsters from taking it. The Monster Squad finds and removes the amulet and narrowly escape Dracula's grasp. The German man informs them that the incantation must be read by a female virgin. As midnight approaches, the Squad makes their way to a local cathedral to make their last stand. Meanwhile, Dracula destroys their clubhouse with a stick of dynamite, drawing the attention of Sean's father, Police Detective Del, who has been charged with investigating the strange occurrences in town of late (as caused by Dracula's cohorts), but remains quite skeptical about their supernatural causes. Del is further puzzled when he receives a warning from the Wolfman that his family is in danger, as in his human form, the Wolfman is merely a reluctant pawn of Dracula.
Unfortunately, the doors to the cathedral are locked, so the incantation must be read on the stoop, leaving the Squad vulnerable. The Monster Squad enlists Patrick's older sister (Lisa Fuller) to help them, as she's the only virgin they know who speaks German. Unfortunately, with time running out, the incantation fails since Lisa is actually not a virgin anymore. As Dracula's Brides and the other monsters close in, the kids deduce that five-year-old Phoebe must still be a virgin, and the German Guy attempts to help her read the incantation as the rest of the Squad fends off the monsters.
In the ensuing battle, the vampiresses, the Mummy, the Gill-man, and the Wolfman are killed. Dracula arrives and is about to kill Phoebe when the Frankenstein Monster intervenes, impaling him on a wrought-iron fence. Phoebe finishes the incantation, opening the portal which begins to consume the bodies of the monsters. Dracula, still alive, attempts to drag Sean in with him, but Sean stabs Dracula with a wooden stake before Van Helsing appears, having briefly escaped from Limbo, and takes Dracula to his doom. Although Phoebe tries desperately to hold on to him, the Frankenstein Monster has no choice but to enter the portal, but accepts a gift of a stuffed animal to remember Phoebe. The portal then closes, ensuring the world's safety.
In the aftermath, the United States Army arrives on the scene, having received a letter from Eugene (Michael Faustino) earlier on asking for their help against the monsters. When the confused General fails to make sense of the situation, Sean steps forward and presents the man with his business card, identifying himself and his friends as "The Monster Squad". Sean then celebrates with the rest of the group as the film closes.
- Andre Gower as Sean Crenshaw, leader of the Monster Squad
- Robby Kiger as Patrick, Sean's second-in-command and lieutenant of the Monster Squad
- Brent Chalem as Horace ("Fat Kid"), Sean's third-in-command and sergeant of the Monster Squad
- Ryan Lambert as Rudy, Sean's corporal of the Monster Squad
- Michael Faustino as Eugene, Sean's private first-class of the Monster Squad
- Ashley Bank as Phoebe "Phoebe the Feeb" Crenshaw, Sean's younger sister and private and only female of the Monster Squad
- Duncan Regehr as Count Dracula
- Tom Noonan as the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula's second-in-command, later joined the Monster Squad
- Carl Thibault as the Wolf Man, Dracula's sergeant
- Tom Woodruff Jr. as the Gill-man
- Michael MacKay as the Mummy
- Jonathan Gries as Desperate Man/The Wolfman
- Stephen Macht as Detective Del Crenshaw, Sean and Phoebe's father
- Mary Ellen Trainor as Emily Crenshaw, Sean and Phoebe's mother
- Leonardo Cimino as Scary German Guy
- Jack Gwillim as Dr. Abraham Van Helsing
- Stan Shaw as Detective Rich Sapir
- Lisa Fuller as Patrick's sister
- Gabriel Dean as Wiley "the Worm"
- Jason Hervey as E.J.
- David Proval as Pilot
- Daryl Anderson as Co-Pilot
Though the film was not a success on its initial release, it subsequently developed a cult following. Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 53% of 17 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 5.4/10. Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that it is "fun for the kid in all of us". Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "a feature-length commercial for a joke store that sells not-great, rubber monster masks".
A 20th Anniversary Reunion of The Monster Squad was held with cast members and Director Fred Dekker in attendance in April 2006 in Austin, Texas at the Alamo Drafthouse. This reunion was put together by the staff at Ain't It Cool News, who were longtime fans of the film and on a whim decided to reach out and try to connect the cast for a special screening. Two shows were held at the theatre; both sold out with lines formed around the block; some audience members flew from as far as California to watch the film. It was at this screening that Dekker had urged any interested fans to write the copyright holders via snail-mail. Ain't It Cool News also broke the news of the DVD release in January, 2007. Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures approached Lionsgate Studios to produce and release the 20th anniversary edition.
The Monster Squad two-disc 20th anniversary special edition DVD was released by Lionsgate on July 24, 2007, and contains a wide range of special features including a 5-part 90 minute retrospective documentary, 2 audio commentaries, deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer, a TV spot, animated storyboards, and more. A soundtrack album is available from the Intrada label.
The Alamo Drafthouse held two sold-out screenings of the Monster Squad on January 9, 2010 with stars Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert, and Jon Gries along with writer Shane Black and director Fred Dekker all in attendance. The screenings were celebrated with a limited edition poster by artist Tyler Stout.
The special edition DVD also makes a few references to the death of Brent Chalem, who died of pneumonia in 1997. Chalem played the character Horace.
Lionsgate released a region-free Blu-ray version of the film on November 24, 2009, which contains the same extras as the above-mentioned DVD. This edition is now out of print. On February 19, 2013 Olive Films released a region A locked Blu-ray, which does not include any extras at all.
- Palopoli, Steve (2006-05-24). "Cult Leader | The Monster Squad". Metroactive. Retrieved 2014-11-07.
- "The Monster Squad (1987)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-11-07.
- Thomas, Kevin (1987-08-14). "Movie Review : 'Monster Squad' Is Fun For The Kid In All Of Us". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-11-07.
- Canby, Vincent (1987-08-14). "The Monster Squad (1987)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-11-07.
- "Ain't It Cool News: The best in movie, TV, DVD, and comic book news". Aintitcool.com. Retrieved 2012-11-30.
- "The Monster Squad : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Dvdtalk.com. Retrieved 2012-11-30.
- "The Monster Squad DVD Specs *UPDATE*". Horror-movies.ca. Retrieved 2012-11-30.
- "Brent Russell Chalem; Actor and UC Graduate". latimes.com. 1997-12-13. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
- The Monster Squad at the Internet Movie Database
- The Monster Squad at AllMovie
- The Monster Squad at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Monster Squad at I-Mockery (also includes rare Monster Squad Commodore 64 game)
- Recent Q&A with cast and crew
- The Monster Squad at Comic Con 2007 at Dread Central