Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage for the 3rd Annual ThatJaime Horrorfest put on by Next Projection’s own Jaime Burchardt, which runs from October 1st to October 31st. For more information this online horror film series visit thatjaime.com/horrorfest and follow ThatJaime Horrorfest on Twitter at @ThatJaimeHF.
There is an unspoken rule among the film obsessed that the 1970s were a golden age of cinema. It was a time when the director was auteur and typically foreign sensibilities were adapted and expanded upon by aspirational American directors. The exceptional caliber of this era of filmmaking is beyond question, but there is something magical about the decade that followed. The importance of the blockbuster was expanded, and the crop of auteurs inspired a new generation that took the bankrolls of studios to outlandish lengths. The action was greater and the one-liners more frequent. Franchises and modern day classics were launched. The Monster Squad is a somewhat obscure entry of the 80s persuasion, a film catered to the film obsessed with sensibilities of broad appeal.
The Monster Squad is a somewhat obscure entry of the 80s persuasion, a film catered to the film obsessed with sensibilities of broad appeal.
Sean (Andre Gower) is your typical preteen, awkward and desiring freedom from his parents. Sean and his friends also have a deep abiding love for all things classic monster. While Sean goes about his small town life, a mysterious box makes a trip from overseas. A curious pilot goes back to investigate his cargo and is greeted by Dracula. After dispatching the flight crew, Dracula and a few other mysterious boxes arrive in Sean’s town. Dracula is on the search for an ancient amulet that will allow him to plunge the modern world into darkness. Now only the Monster Squad stands between Dracula and the end of the world.
Before you even have the chance to say anything; yes, The Monster Squad reads as generic store brand The Goonies. Even the unnecessary “the” is sitting there in front of the title, ready to be ignored by countless generations of fans. Without even trying, images of a greedy studio executive salivating over the success of The Goonies hurriedly trying to find a way to produce a repeat are conjured. The Monster Squad takes everything about its predecessor and boils it down to its simplistic roots. Finding a director like Richard Donner is clearly off the table (as a side note, Donner directed The Goonies after Superman, so just chew on that one), and we assuredly can’t get a story credit from anyone nearly as esteemed as Steven Spielberg. When it comes to casting, let’s just troll the leftovers from our last casting call. Just grab generic adolescents and we’ll make sure they fit. Oh, and don’t forget that we need a fat one. Despite its absolutely derivative nature, the fact that The Monster Squad still manages to work speaks to the strength of its formula.
The Monster Squad, like The Goonies, taps into that nostalgic sense of adventure that exists within every preteen boy. There is a desire to seek out adventure, and regardless of whether or not the quests were embarked upon, we like to look back fondly and imagine ourselves there. The Goonies has its established characters, but more than that they are surrogate archetypes, simple shells for the entirety of the audience to latch onto. It is beloved by such swaths of people because everyone is offered a gateway. The Monster Squad sticks with this sensibility, and just makes them that much more mediocre. Even the nicknames lose their clever slant, and Chunk becomes Fat Kid. It borders on laziness. However, there is a sincerity in its presentation that refuses to allow it to slip by ignored.
The effects occasionally show their age and the acting never really crosses into the truly authentic, but everything is presented with such enthusiasm. The film is entertaining until the final shot, and never outstays its welcome.
Rather than the adventure serials, or pirate stories, The Monster Squad harkens back to the classic movie monsters of the Universal era. It chooses its monsters carefully and shows an intimate knowledge of their history. Few Draculas outside of Bela Lugosi strike as much fear as the Dracula of The Monster Squad. We are like a member of the titular group and answer monster trivia before characters get the chance. This is why the film picks up as soon as the monsters enter the story. Before they become the focus, you are forced to traipse through mediocre acting and stilted, often with a homophobic slant, dialogue (Shane Black apparently was still honing his screenwriting skills). There is a clear uptick in the tempo of the film as the group is able to put their knowledge into action and show the town that they are not just stupid kids. The effects occasionally show their age and the acting never really crosses into the truly authentic, but everything is presented with such enthusiasm. The film is entertaining until the final shot, and never outstays its welcome.
The Monster Squad is absolutely a product of its time. If The Goonies were released today, we assuredly would have been inundated with several more installments. But as it stands, The Goonies remains and we simply have to dodge the occasional rumor (threat?) of a years-later follow up. The Monster Squad exists as a generic makeshift sequel to the superior. While at its core, the film is every bit as mediocre as its imagined pitch; it refuses to go quietly into the night. There is an obvious appreciation of the monster films that are its inspiration and a clear attempt to not play every moment for laughs. The scares are solid and the action in the latter half of the film is nonstop and exciting. The Monster Squad manages to exceed its derivative label, and serves as a beginner’s guide to classic horror. At the very least, it taught us all that Wolfman, in fact, does have nards.
[notification type=”star”]78/100 ~ GOOD. The scares are solid and the action in the latter half of the film is nonstop and exciting. The Monster Squad manages to exceed its derivative label, and serves as a beginner’s guide to classic horror.[/notification]