“Never send a Man to do a Kid’s job”.
Truer words have ne’er been spoken and that’s why we here at the NOFS Video Vault like to approach everything with a child-like sense of awe and wonderment. There is nothing quite like seeing things through the eyes of a child unless of course, that child is the spawn of Satan, then things might look a little differently.
Welcome back to the Video Vault. As always, we’re glad you could join us. We have a wonderful offering for you tonight. A classic if you will. An 80s gem that in and of itself is a throwback to the classic monsters of the Universal Studios era. Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, Gil-Man (from the Black Lagoon, of course) and The Wolf Man, nards and all, are featured in this Goonies-esque horror adventure. Of course, I can only be talking about much-beloved The Monster Squad (1987).
Back of The Box Overview
A pack of five kids who belong to a club dubbed The Monster Squad, idolize the old monsters of the Universal Studios age. When they come into possession of a diary belonging to legendary monster hunter Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, their fandom reaches geek out levels, but all of that screeches to a halt when they learn that the fictional monsters they love are actually real. You see Dracula, the Mummy, the Gill-Man, and Frankenstein’s Monster are in town, something they do every once a century, in search of a magic amulet that can grant them ultimate power. Now the fate of mankind lies in the hands of these five youngsters.
Are You Ready To Rumble?
In this corner, weighing in at a combined weight of fifty-seven and one-half pounds, Sean “The Leader” Crenshaw played by Andre Gower! With him in his corner Patrick Rhodes (Robby Kiger), Horace (the late Brent Chalem), Rudy (Ryan Lambert) and finally, in the featherweight division, Phoebe Crenshaw (Ashley Bank), Sean’s little sister who desperately wants to be in this fight.
In the opposing corner, weighing in at a combined weight of five hundred and ninety-five pounds, the Prince of Darkness himself, Dracula (Duncan Regehr). Joining him in his corner is the Creature of Creep, the Cretin of Catastrophe, Gill-Man (Tom Woodruff Jr. of Pumpkinhead fame). Next, we have the Master of Disaster, the Werewolf of Wales, Vidal Sassoon’s number one customer; The Wolfman (Carl Thibault). Don’t get in this next fella’s way because he’ll put a curse on you. That’s right, this gent is just a tad bit cranky because someone woke him from his eternal slumber, he’s the Mummy (Michael Reid MacKay). And last but certainly not least, team Drac’s secret weapon, the Giant of Germany, the Sultan of the Supernatural, old Nuts n’ Bolts himself, it’s Frankenstein’s Monster (Tom Noonan).
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Officiating this battle royale are Stephen Macht (Graveyard Shift, 1990) as Detective Del Crenshaw, Michael Faustino (A Gnome Named Norm, 1990) as Eugene, Jonathan Gries (TerrorVision, 1986) as Desperate Man / The Wolfman, Mary Ellen Trainor (Ghostbusters II, 1989) as Emily Crenshaw, Stan Shaw (Jeepers Creepers 3, 2017) as Detective Rich Sapir, Lisa Fuller (TV’s Freddy’s Nightmares, 1989) as Lisa Rhodes, and Jack Gwillim (The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, 1964) as Abraham Van Helsing. Let’s get ready to rumble!
Theatres, VCR’s, DVD’s and The Wild World of Remakes
So right now you’re probably thinking, “My God, this sounds like Goonies with monsters! It has to be awesome, right?” Wrong… sort of. When The Monster Squad was released the reception was less than stellar. The opening weekend box office take was just over a million bones and that was with a release in over twelve hundred theaters. It seemed audiences and critics alike didn’t quite know what to make of the kid-friendly horror/comedy romp.
It wasn’t until 1988 when Vestron Video released the film on VHS (the movie’s only VHS release) did it start to gain a cult following. The movement slowly grew until the movie’s 20th anniversary in 2006 when a special screen was held in Austin, Texas at the Alamo Drafthouse. The two-night sold-out show saw stars, Andre Gower (Sean) and Ryan Lambert (Rudy) reunite with director Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps, 1986) with some fans coming from as far away as California to catch the spectacle.
In July of 2007, Liongate released a two-disc 20th Anniversary DVD of the film with a slew of extras including a 5-part 90-minute retrospective documentary, 2 audio commentaries, deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer, a TV spot, animated storyboards, and a boatload more. This DVD also had a tribute to Brent Chalem, who died of pneumonia in 1997 at the age of 22.
“[…] a fun ride that pokes fun at the old horror tropes of the classic era and even takes a jab or two at itself.”
A Blu-ray version of the film was released, again by Lionsgate in November of 2009, this disc contained the same extras as the above-mentioned DVD but the release is now out of print. But don’t fret, nor furrow one’s brow because in 2013 Olive Films released a barebones region A locked Blu-ray and in 2017 Hulu had it available for direct streaming.
A film can really tell its impact when talks of a remake begin the surface. That was the case in 2008 when the original producer of the 1987 film, Rob Cohen, approached studios after the rights to the film were back to Paramount Pictures. Plans to remake the film started there but it wasn’t until 2010 when it was announced that Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes, the production company notorious for remakes, had officially signed on to produce the film with Cohen signed on as director and Mark and Brian Gunn charged with writing the screenplay. Four years and copious amounts of negative fan reaction to Bay’s involvement ultimately lead to Platinum Dunes producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form officially calling the reboot dead in 2014.
Wolfman’s Got Nards
Actor Gower directed and co-produced a documentary that followed the impact and influence of The Monster Squad over the past thirty years entitled, Wolfman’s Got Nards (2018). It explores how the movie went from a cult to a classic and all of the details in between. Henry McComas co-produced and the doc was distributed by Pilgrim Media Group, Flitterpiper Entertainment, and 1620 Media Group. It toured the festival circuit, earning honors as an official selection for several festivals including Cinepocalypse and Salem Horror Fest.
If you’re into coming of age films like Stand By Me (1986), The Goonies (1985) or any other Corey Feldman vehicle from the 80’s you’re going to love The Monster Squad. While it doesn’t have the production value or the star power of the above mentioned, it stands on its own as a fun romp through childhood and movie fandom. It’s a fun ride that pokes fun at the old horror tropes of the classic era and even takes a jab or two at itself. The cast has charm and chemistry and the monsters are what you’d expect from a movie about kids fighting Dracula and Frankenstein.
I must say, this has been a fun trip down memory lane. I often get nostalgic here at the Video Vault. Being surrounded by all of this vintage horror cinema, I suppose nostalgia is an occupational hazard. Well, that and the risk of decapitation. Our video dropbox is in need of serious repair, you see, and I’ve come close a time or two myself… but you haven’t gotten me yet, have you, you no good, so-and-so… Pardon me. We have a contentious relationship, that damned box and I.
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