The Monster Squad

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The Monster Squad
Monstersquadposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Fred Dekker
Produced by Jonathan A. Zimbert
Written by
Starring
Music by Bruce Broughton
Cinematography Bradford May
Edited by James Mitchell
Production
company
  • Taft Entertainment Pictures
  • Keith Barish Productions
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release date
  • August 14, 1987 (1987-08-14)
Running time
82 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million[1]
Box office $3.8 million (US)[2]

The Monster Squad is a 1987 horror comedy film written by Shane Black and Fred Dekker and directed by Dekker (who also wrote and directed Night of the Creeps); Peter Hyams was one of the executive producers. It was released by TriStar 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.

While not being a major success during its theatrical run and receiving mixed reviews from critics, the film has gained a positive reception from audiences and has become a cult classic in the years since its release.

Plot[edit]

The Monster Squad is a club of pre-teenagers who idolize classic monster-movies and their non-human stars. They hold meetings at a tree-clubhouse in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 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 and a former concentration camp prisoner, to translate the diary.

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 film's 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 so that he 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 a B-25 Mitchell in flight, containing Frankenstein's monster (Tom Noonan), thus completing his army. However, Frankenstein's monster 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 Frankenstein's monster is not evil, he chooses to help the boys instead of Dracula. The Wolfman, when reverting to human form, is an recalcitrant follower of Dracula, and has been making calls to the police about the forthcoming carnage, which are dismissed as prank calls.

The amulet turns out to be buried in a stone room beneath 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 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 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 until he sees Dracula in person.

Unfortunately, the doors to the cathedral are locked, so the incantation must be read on the stoop, leaving the Squad vulnerable. They enlist Patrick's beautiful elder sister Lisa (Lisa Fuller) to help them, as she's the only virgin they know. Unfortunately, with time running out, the incantation fails since Lisa is actually not a virgin anymore. As the monsters close in, the kids deduce that five-year-old Phoebe must complete the task of opening the portal, 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, Dracula's consorts, the Mummy, the Gill-man, and the Wolfman are defeated. Dracula arrives and is about to kill Phoebe when Frankenstein's 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. Sean impales Dracula with a wooden stake; then Van Helsing appears, having briefly escaped from Limbo, and pulls Dracula to his doom. Frankenstein's monster willingly goes into the portal, but Phoebe holds onto him. Frankenstein's monster shakes her off as she belongs on Earth, but accepts a gift of a stuffed animal as thanks. 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 Squad member 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".

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

Though the film was not a success on its initial release, it subsequently developed a cult following.[3] Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 56% of 18 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 5.4/10.[4] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that it is "fun for the kid in all of us".[5] Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "a feature-length commercial for a joke store that sells not-great, rubber monster masks".[6]

Home video[edit]

The film was first released by Vestron Video in 1988. It was the film's only VHS release.

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 contact 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.[7] 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.[8][9] In 2007 a soundtrack album was made available from the Intrada label; La-La Land Records issued one in 2015 with additional material, including the Michael Sembello-produced songs.

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.[10] 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.

Remake[edit]

In 2008, Rob Cohen, who served as a producer on the original film, said that the rights to the film were back with Paramount and there were plans to remake the film however he had no desire to direct it. In 2010, it was announced that Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes had officially signed on to produce the film with Cohen now confirmed to direct and Mark and Brian Gunn writing the screenplay.[11][12] The announcement of a remake and Platinum Dunes involvement was not met with much positive reaction from fans of the original. In 2014, Platinum Dunes producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form confirmed that the remake was no longer happening.[13][14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]