It was the decade known for huge hair, skin tight jeans, leg warmers, and other fashion tragedies... but the 80's also has the distinction of being arguably one of the most fertile decades in movie history for kids films. For Generation X, the 80's provided a seemingly unending plethora of worlds to disappear into from the likes of Lucas, Spielberg, Zemeckis and from a little known director Fred Dekker came one of the most beloved unsuccessful films in creation: The Monster Squad ...
Written by the soon-to-be 80's Uber-screenwriter Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Last Boyscout) in conjunction with Dekker, The Monster Squad was written from Dekker's idea of â"What if the Little Rascals fought the Universal Monsters?" The result was a highly unique blending of old-school characters, updated and blended into a film that completely embodied the decade of excess... and it worked perfectly. Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, The Gillman, The Mummy, and the Wolf-man are pitted against a group of suburban kids the only ones who believe in their existence in a battle to find a mystical amulet. If the monsters find it first, they will rule the world; if the kids complete a ritual, spelled out for them in the Diary of Van-Helsing, then they can send the Monsters to â€˜Limbo' forever... and keep the world safe.
The script is an inspired blending of classic elements and 80's cynicism. The Monsters embody everything we love about their classic incarnations, along with some adult-worthy menace. The kids are likable, clever, inventive, and endearingly un-PC (swearing like sailors, and throwing insults). In addition, and quite remarkably, the story interweaves subplots of marriage problems and its impact on the kids, bullying, sexual awakening, as well as treading into the more hokey territories seen in the monster films of the 40's, seamlessly. This story never seems to be inconsistent in tone. The dialogue is witty, and natural, especially between the children and refreshingly irreverent.
Performances in this film are outstanding. Duncan Regehr who beat out Liam Neeson portrays Dracula with an integrity, intelligence and stone cold menace that makes for a truly insurmountable foe. Equally, notorious method actor Tom Noonan gives an original, ambiguous, and ultimately warming performance as Frankenstein's Monster. Playing Sean, the leader of the Monster Squad, Andre Gower naturally embodies the role with an ease and confidence that defies his age. His team-mates are equally believable, imperfect and relatable, and appear to have been cast to type it worked. Playing Sean's little sister, Phoebe, Ashley Bank at all of five for real delivers a three-dimensional five year-old, and a sharp instinct for comic timing.
This was only Dekker's second film. It doesn't show. His sophomore outing as effective in its blending of styles as the script was in subject matter. The humour is timed to perfection, the scares as well. Dekker also shows a particular panache for actions sequences, and fast pacing. Distinctly 80's is the mammoth/unsubtle amount of product placement, and obligatory cheesy pop song montage scene, but since everyone was doing them back in the day, these do nothing more give this generation X-er a warm feeling of nostalgia.
Not surprisingly, the awesome make-up interpretations of the classic monsters - that are at once recognisable but also original - were provided by the can-do-no-wrong Stan Winston.
What really helps all this film's many virtues pop is the production design, which is grounded in some weird way, like the characters, but at the same time epic... almost mythological. In the same realm, Bruce Broughton's score delivers granduer without being overblown.
The Monster Squad, sadly, did fall in the box office like a lead balloon. But with the advent of VHS coming in to full swing around the time it was made, it quickly developed a cult following that has only gained momentum as the decades have passed. If there were any definitive reason as to why one film makes a load of money, and another doesn't, then every film would be a box office champ. Gladly, though, with the advent of home entertainment, some movies that don't find their audience on the big screen get another chance. The Monster Squad's box office may have fallen well below its peers of the day, but the fact that it is still fondly remembered, and now 20+ years later has been released in a lavish 2 disc DVD release, has to testify to its worthiness among them. For a film that dares to be irreverent, that knows its homages to the hilt, and that entertains both kids and adults alike... look no further.
The filmmakers and select members of the cast take us through an hour + of how the film came to be, and what became of everyone beyond it. Sadly, one of the kids has passed on already. A worthy collection of extras that give the movie its long overdues.
Screen formats: Remastered 16:9 Widescreen
Subtitles: English; Spanish; Closed Captioned
Language and Sound: New 5.1 Dolby sound remix
* Commentary: 2 feature-length audio commentaries with cast and crew.
o Conversation with Frankenstein
o Monster Squad Forever 5 retrospective documentaries with a â€˜play all' feature.
* Deleted Scenes
* Other Works from Lionsgate
Number of discs: - 2 with Keepcase packaging
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