The Monster Squad
Before Van Helsing crapped up the idea of bringing all the classic Universal Monsters together in one film, The Monster Squad proved it could be done in an entertaining way. It also turned out to be a cool eighties movie that played off of all the traditions and culture of the time. It spoke to millions of kids who were obsessed with monsters. It also answered the question of whether or not the Wolfman has nards. Put Ghostbusters and The Goonies in a blender, and you get….The Monster Squad!
One hundred years ago, Abraham Van Helsing and his followers blow it. They were fighting to rid the world of vampires and evil, but after killing off a possum eating vampire and having a virgin open a portal to purgatory using a magic amulet, everything just goes to pieces. Van Helsing failed, just like the movie of the same name would fail years later. Okay, hopefully that will be the last time I mention how bad Van Helsing was. Stupid movie….
Back to the movie we’re supposed to be reviewing, it’s now present day, being 1988. Our Heroes are Sean and Patrick, who are in trouble because they’re spending too much time drawing bad pictures of Spiders with Human Heads for their Monster Club instead of doing work. Outside, the token fat kid, here called Fat Kid, or Horace, is getting bullied by Kevin Arnold’s older brother from The Wonder Years, who is starting to wail on him. Suddenly, Rudy arrives. Not Sean Astin’s Rudy, this Rudy is from Junior High. He smokes, he wears black, he swears, and he saves Horace because he’s cool. Rudy is the Corey Feldman of this Goonies, Jr. group. Kevin Arnold’s older brother is forced to eat a candy bar that had fallen on the ground and been stepped on. Revenge is sweet, and so is that Snickers bar, though the added gravel leaves a sour taste in your mouth. Sean and Patrick’s walk home introduces us to the concept of “wolf dork” (A friend of mine wrote his thesis on Wolf Dork, he majored in International Monster Studies at Caltech) and also shows up Scary German Guy’s house. Scary German Guy is a scary German guy, luckily enough, and not some confusing ironic nickname for, say, a friendly Tutsi princess. Fat Kid comes running up and tells them about today’s adventure with Rudy, and they agree to let him into their Monster Club under one condition: Monster Test.
Meanwhile, Dracula is on a cargo plane high above the city, where he makes a daring daytime escape, along with his coffin, and a crate containing Frankenstein’s monster. Eventually, Dracula will gather his forces, which consist of the entire Universal monster lineup. Back at the club, Rudy decides he wants to join based on the clubhouse’s view of the neighbor girl’s bedroom and her various states of undress. A new member is introduced here, young kid Eugene and his dog Pete. Sean’s little sister Phoebe also desires to join, but is forbidden. Sean’s parents are typical movie parents, the mother picks him up a diary written by Abraham Van Helsing yet is entirely in German, while also believing Godzilla fought Van Helsing. Meanwhile, his father is a cop trying to deal with the crazy guys in the town and his own marriage problems. The crazy guys are increasing as of late, including a guy ranting about being a werewolf, who is shot and killed at the station earlier, and a missing mummy from the museum. The extra work causes him to miss the movie Groundhog Day Part 12 that his son wanted to see. The Groundhog franchise has turned from Bill Murray repeating days over and over to a slasher flick, as Monster Squad takes place in a world devoid of Wes Anderson or Lost in Translation. The werewolf guy returns to life in the coroner’s vehicle, as only a silver bullet kills a werewolf.
The Monsters gather for one of the greatest collection of Universal monsters on screen since Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Gillman from the Creature movies has been redesigned so he’s more Gill, less man. The Mummy’s first stop on his reign of terror is Eugene’s closet. Eugene is played by the brother of the actor who plays Bud Bundy on Married with Children, because this information is vital to your existence. Sean recognizes the need of a monster fighting group due to the reports of missing Mummies, Werewolf guys, and his own paranoid fantasies. Dracula has used Dracula ESP to find out the children have Van Helsing’s diary, and sends Frankenstein to go get it back. Wait a minute, during the monster test they made a big deal about how the monster’s name WASN’T Frankenstein, and now it is! The kids go visit Scary German Guy, and get him to help translate the diary. This also helps explain the plot in pure concentrated doses:
There is a powerful amulet that you see Dracula finding shortly later and was the amulet at the beginning of the film, that is pure concentrated good. Every 100 years at the stroke of midnight, the amulet can be destroyed. Evil will rule if the amulet is shattered, but the amulet can also open a portal at the same time to limbo, which will swallow evil. And the last date in the diary was 100 years ago tomorrow. So, is it midnight regardless of time zone, or are we on a Greenwich-mean time here? And what about the international dateline? Magical Amulet’s fail to explain simple problems like these. Frankenstein shows up then, now a friend of Phoebe and soon the rest of the group. That gives them the proof they need to know they are right about the monsters. The kids know they need to prepare. What is the best way to prepare for danger in an action film, especially in the eighties? Yep: MONTAGE!
“Rock until you drop! Dance until your feet fall off!”
Yeesh. At least the visuals are entertaining, though Rudy seems to be doing all the work, from making stakes, to making silver bullets, to stealing bows and arrows. Eugene writes the army, and Patrick makes business cards, while Fat Kid and Sean look at a map. They also need to get a virgin to recite a phrase to open the portal, so they immediately go for the chick who’s been stripping in the window, Patrick’s sister, because nudity screams virginity. They tactfully find out her secrets: “Have you ever….been dorked?” Finally, blackmail gets her to go along.
Fat Kid and Sean take Frankenstein and enter the Spooky House that all the Monsters are hanging out at. Frank is immediately buried and killed by a bunch of falling ceiling pieces. WOLFMAN ATTACK! Luckily, the “Wolfman gots nards!” as Fat Kid finds out by kicking action. Dracula and some Vampire Wenches appear, and Sean finds a secret lever that gets them to a lower level, and allows them to grab the amulet. Dracula is below as well, but some Garlic Pizza Fat Kid had in his coat allows for escape to the car outside full of other squad members and driven by Scary German Guy. Mummy manages to get on the car as well, and is causing quite a stir, until Rudy arrows one of the Mummy’s wrapping to a tree. As the car speeds off, Mummy comes unwrapped, because Egyptians used only one really really long wrapping. Soon the Mummy is nothing but a skull. “See you later, band-aid breath!”
Dracula bombs the clubhouse, and also bomb’s Sean’s Father’s partner. He says to Sean’s Father “I will have your son,” telling us that not only is he Dracula, but he is also Michael Jackson. The kids are headed to a church downtown, but it’s locked. The Vampire Wenches arrive, and Rudy fights them. Meanwhile, Patrick’s sister is beginning her recitation of the magic spell, but things are complicated because she’s a moron. Dracula is arriving, but is hit by bullets from Sean’s dad and crashes into the church. Sean’s dad goes in to finish him off, but Wolf-man and his nards and wolfdork are also inside, and Sean’s Dad stuffs dynamite down his pants, giving us Kibbles and Wolfbits. Wolf-man isn’t stopped by such dramatic action and begins regrowing. Patrick’s Sister fails again, and then we find out Steve doesn’t count. Well, he does as far as the amulet is concerned. Cops start arriving at this point to be killed immediately by whatever monster has arrived at this point, currently it is Wolf-man. Rudy stops Wolf-man by shooting him with a silver bullet.
Eugene figures out Phoebe is a virgin (or a “vershion”) and they begin reciting the spell anew. Next up on our monster tour is Gillman. Gillman starts cutting through police officers like a hot knife through butter, until he reaches Fat Kid. Fat Kid grabs a shotgun and blows away Gillman in one shot. This impresses Kevin Arnold’s older brother, and Fat Kid confidently tells him “My name, is Horace!”
Dracula arrives, being the only monster left alive (or unalive, since he’s undead.) Dracula is also oozing electricity, and more cops arrive to be instantaneously killed by King Vampire there. Drac makes his way to where the amulet is, and demands it from Phoebe. But….Frankie says “Relax!” Actually, Frankie says “Bogus” as Frankenstein stops Dracula, allowing Phoebe to finish the spell and open the portal. The portal begins to randomly suck things into it. Dracula grabs Sean in an attempt to take him with him as a final snack, but Van Helsing emerges from the portal, and saves the day! This is a phrase never uttered about the other Van Helsing. Two thumbs up between Sean and Van Helsing seal their connection. The portal won’t close, as it demands Frankenstein as well. Why? Because it’s a greedy harlot. The portal is supposed to be good, but is violating one of the seven deadly sins and being gluttonous. Why should Frank be sucked away? He’s good. But now, he’s dinner for a black hole. So we must say goodbye to Mr. Stein.
They day is saved. Finally, the army shows up, having received Eugene’s letter. Good to see the Army is finally brought into action in one of these films, even if it is too late to do anything. The army is only ever even used in giant monster movies. In a small scale monster movie, they would have been an effective fighting force (especially against Gillman, who went down in one shot.)
Cue song. “M-m-m-m-m-monster Squad!” As the song plays, we can go over this film. Lots of monsters, lots of kids doing stuff/fighting monsters, lots of bad eighties songs, lots semi-adult humor, lots of kids swearing, and violence galore, no wonder this is a modern classic. Did that song lyric just say there was ‘No Saved by the Bell”? I hope they don’t mean the TV show. I need my dose of Screech. Uh, back to the movie. Growing up as a kid in this decade was the pop-culturally richest in history, as movies like this demonstrate. It’s far better than ET with CGI walkie-talkies. On a sad note, the actor who played Fat Kid, Brent Chalem, died of pneumonia at age 22, which is a real shame. Fat Kid will forever remain in our hearts and minds. A true hero, Fat Kid. Monster Squad is to be enjoyed, and Fat Kid to be remembered with honors.
UPDATE: – The pictures have been improved thanks to an HDTV broadcast. Since DVDs of Monster Squad will probably never come out, this is the best we’ll get until that fantastic day. I’m also including a few more pictures than before. As another bonus, the Monster Squad Theme Song in mp3 format from the closing credits is also included!
Rated 8/10 (Spider with Human Head; Skull Hood Ornament; What real monsters do…; Blackmail picture; Garlic!; Arrow!; Gillman’s wounds; See you later, Band-aid breath!)