There is a small collection of movies from my childhood which I regard as sacred, must-watch material for every mouth-breathing Homo sapien in this country. These are movies that I usually recorded off of HBO and subsequently wore out the videotape by watching it 900 times, give or take a few. This collection of movies includes classics such as The Last Dragon, Princess Bride, The Goonies, and The Karate Kid. Well, part I and II anyway; I never really bought into part III. Terry Silver, the owner of a nuclear waste dumping company while also owning the Cobra Kai dojos, was just a ridiculously over-the-top villain—even for a Karate Kid movie. This guy should have been overrunning small nations and subjecting them to tyrannical dictatorships, not wasting all that evil on something as petty as fucking with Daniel-san. But I digress; these movies make up a significant part of my Top 20 of all time. What other movies are on this exclusive list? Well, that's another story for another time. This article is to celebrate the long awaited DVD release of another classic from my Top 20.
”We're the Monster Squad.”
Last week, Lionsgate Entertainment finally gave in to the desperate pleas of fans and released a 2-disc DVD widescreen version of The Monster Squad. If you are a complete loser and have never seen The Monster Squad movie, let me just warn you that I am about to spoil the hell out of it so stop reading now. Not that the plot is thick with intrigue and surprise twists; the kids beat up the monsters and save the world from the evil reign of Dracula. Big surprise. But it's not the ending, it's the journey.
The Monster Squad was released in 1987 and, looking back, it was probably my introduction to obscenities in movies. Everybody curses in this movie. The kids, the parents, the cops, hell even the five year old girl curses, “C'mon, don't be chicken shit.” Granted, none of this was anything new to a kid past the third grade—P.E. was actually the best place to learn the sweetest new curse word combos. But seeing kids on TV that were like me use them so freely and joyfully just validated the use of lovely obscenities. My parents get on my case for writing the word fuck in most of my articles. Don't blame me, dad. Don't blame yourself for not washing my mouth out with soap enough. Blame Monster Squad.
The story focuses on a group of kids who are obsessed with anything dealing with monsters. They are led by Sean (Andre Gower), the main protagonist of the story, whose head is incredibly large in relation to the rest of his body. He is a living, breathing bobble-head doll and might have passed for a monster himself. Sean is given the diary of Van Helsing as a present from his mother. Unfortunately for Sean, the diary is written in German, so the monster club has to employ the services of the Scary German Guy (Leonardo Cimino) to translate the diary. Meanwhile, Dracula is busying himself stealing the carcass of Frankenstein, taming Wolfman, and gathering some other scrub monsters like Gill-Man and the Mummy.
The diary reveals that every 100 years a battle between good and evil occurs. If evil wins the balance of power, then apparently Dracula and his minions will rule the world. And to make matters worse, the 100 year anniversary of the last battle is the very next day! Dracula really desires this diary, which contains the text needed to unlock the power of the amulet that holds the balance between good and evil. Dracula attempts to get this diary from Sean by calling up his parents under an assumed name and offering “$$$” for it. Sean, who likes to stay up late at night making anagrams out of phone messages, foils this plot by discovering that Alucard is actually Dracula spelled backwards. Sean, now wise that Dracula is after him, mobilizes the monster club into the asskicking force that is the Monster Squad. Dracula, on the other hand, decides to send the loveable Frankenstein to kill Sean and retrieve the diary. Frankenstein then proceeds to make friends with the kids and is taught late 80's slang like “Bogus.”
The Monster Squad splits up with two of the guys seeking out a virgin and the other three invading Dracula's stronghold to steal the amulet. It is here that one of the greatest scenes in cinematic history occurs:
Sean: "Kick him in the nards!"
Fat Kid: "He doesn't have nards!"
Sean: "Do it! Do it!"
Fat kid kicks Wolfman in the nards
Fat Kid: "Wolfman's got nards!"
The group of three kids proceeds to stumble their way to the amulet, scorch Dracula with garlic pizza, and make their way out of the dungeon. The diary claims that it needs a virgin to say the magic words that will open up the portal that will suck up the monsters. A kid from the other group decides to ask his older sister to do the reading since she knows German. When the two groups meet up and head to a church to open the portal, the older sister reads the incantation after which nothing happens. The Monster Squad discovers that the older sister lied and is not a virgin. They come to the realization that the five year old girl, Phoebe, is a virgin and have her parrot the words that the Scary German Guy reads.
It would be another year or two from when I first saw this movie back in 1987 before I would learn what being a virgin meant. My initial reaction to learning the true definition of virgin was “Ooooooh, now The Monster Squad makes way more sense!” Up until that point, I believed that virgin meant brunette. My parents may or may not have led me to believe this—my memory is a bit fuzzy on how I came to the virgin equals brunette conclusion.
The special effects in Monster Squad definitely have not stood the test of time. Dracula transforms from a bat to his human form in a mere three step process: Bat, Man-Bat (more bat than man, unlike Batman who is more man than bat), Dracula. The same can be said for Wolfman whose transformation from man to werewolf does not fare much better.
Dracula is a bat
Dracula is a man-bat
Dracula is Dracula
Frankenstein looks relatively passable, but Gill-Man looks like a cheesy villain from the Power Rangers. They could have easily removed Gill-Man from the movie entirely and I think the film would have been better for it. He adds nothing to the plot; he looks stupid, he's weak and has no powers other than breathing underwater, which he never uses to his advantage. Fat-Kid kills the dude with one freakin' blast from a shotgun—ONE! Even the Wretches from Gears of War can take more damage than Gill-Man.
Gill-Man: Weakest monster ever.
Outside of the special effects, the Monster Squad has aged very well; much better than most other 80's classics. Sure, I love the movie for more nostalgic reasons than anything else, but even if the movie was released today I would still find it an enjoyable way to spend 900 evenings. If you are one of the few people alive that have never seen the Monster Squad, then at least rent it. If you have seen it before, then you know what a classic this movie is—go out and buy it already!