|The Monster Squad|
|Directed by||Fred Dekker|
|Produced by||Jonathan A. Zimbert|
|Edited by||James Mitchell|
|Music by||Bruce Broughton|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Box office||$3.8 million (US)|
The Monster Squad is a 1987 American black comedy horror film directed by Fred Dekker and written by Dekker and Shane Black, who met as classmates at UCLA. Peter Hyams was one of the executive producers. It was released by TriStar Pictures on August 14, 1987. The film features pastiches of the Universal Monsters, led by Count Dracula. They are confronted by a group of savvy kids out to keep them from controlling the world.
While being financially unsuccessful during its theatrical run and receiving mixed reviews from critics, the film has gained a positive reception from audiences and has become a cult classic in the years since its release.
The Monster Squad is a club of pre-teens who idolize classic monster movies and their non-human stars. Club leader Sean Crenshaw (Andre Gower), whose younger sister, Phoebe (Ashley Bank), desperately wants to join the club, is given the diary of legendary monster hunter Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Jack Gwillim), but his excitement abates when he finds it is written in German. Sean and the rest of the Monster Squad – his best friend and second in command Patrick Rhodes (Robby Kiger), clumsy overweight Horace (Brent Chalem), tough older kid Rudy (Ryan Lambert) and little Eugene (Michael Faustino), – go to visit an elderly man, known as the "Scary German Guy" (Leonardo Cimino), actually a kind gentleman and a former concentration camp prisoner, to translate the diary.
The diary describes, in great detail, an amulet that is composed of concentrated good. One day out of every century, as the forces of good and evil reach a balance, the otherwise indestructible amulet becomes vulnerable to destruction. With the next day of balance happening within a few days, at the stroke of midnight, the kids realize they must gain possession of the amulet and use it – with an incantation from Van Helsing's diary – to open a wormhole in the universe and cast the monsters into Limbo. As shown in the film's prelude, Van Helsing had unsuccessfully attempted this one hundred years ago in order to defeat his old adversary Count Dracula (Duncan Regehr); his apprentices then emigrated to the United States to hide the amulet, where it was out of Dracula's immediate reach.
Nevertheless, Dracula seeks to obtain the amulet so that he can take over the world and plunge it into darkness. To this end, he assembles several of his most dangerous and monstrous allies: The Mummy (Michael MacKay), the Gill-man (Tom Woodruff Jr.), The Wolf Man (Carl Thibault), and in addition, three school girls (Mary Albee, Joan-Carrol Baron, and Julie Merrill) whom the Count transforms into his vampiric consorts. Dracula then steals a crate from a B-25 Mitchell in flight, containing Frankenstein's monster (Tom Noonan), thus completing his army. However, Frankenstein's monster is reluctant to aid Dracula, and wanders into the forest where he encounters Phoebe. Rather than being afraid, she shows him the kindness he has always sought, and they become friends. After Phoebe proves to the Monster Squad that Frankenstein's monster is not evil, he chooses to help the boys instead of Dracula. The Wolfman, when reverting to human form (Jonathan Gries), is a recalcitrant follower of Dracula, and has been making calls to the police about the forthcoming carnage, which are dismissed as prank calls.
The amulet is buried in a stone room beneath a house that Dracula and the other monsters now occupy and where Van Helsing's diary was found. The secret room is littered with wards which prevent the monsters from taking it. The Monster Squad break into the house and acquire the amulet and narrowly escape Dracula's grasp. They confer with The Scary German Guy who informs them that the incantation must be read by a female virgin. As midnight approaches, the Squad makes their way to a local cathedral to make their last stand. Meanwhile, Dracula destroys their clubhouse with dynamite, drawing the attention of Sean's father, Police Detective Del (Stephen Macht), who has been charged with investigating the strange occurrences in town (as caused by Dracula's cohorts), but remains quite skeptical about their supernatural causes until he sees Dracula in person.
Unfortunately, the doors to the cathedral are locked, so the incantation must be read on the stoop, leaving the Squad vulnerable. They enlist Patrick's beautiful elder sister Lisa (Lisa Fuller) to help them, as she is the only virgin they know. However, the incantation fails since Lisa is actually not a virgin anymore. As the monsters close in, the Squad deduces that Phoebe must complete the task of opening the portal, and the German Guy attempts to help her read the incantation as the rest of the Squad fends off the monsters.
In the ensuing battle, Dracula's consorts, the Mummy, the Gill-man, and the Wolfman are defeated. Dracula arrives to destroy the amulet when Frankenstein's monster intervenes, impaling him on a wrought-iron cross. Phoebe finishes the incantation, opening the portal which begins to consume the bodies of the monsters. Dracula, still alive, attempts to drag Sean in with him. Sean impales Dracula with a wooden stake as Patrick grabs Sean before he can be sucked into the portal. Having briefly escaped from Limbo, Van Helsing appears, gives a thumbs up to Sean on a job well done, and pulls Dracula to his doom. As Frankenstein's monster is drawn into the portal, Phoebe holds onto him and pleads for him to stay. Knowing he doesn't belong on Earth, Frankenstein's monster lets go of Phoebe's hand, but accepts her gift of a stuffed animal to remember her by. The portal then closes, ensuring the world's safety.
In the aftermath, the United States Army arrives on the scene, having received a letter from Eugene earlier on asking for their help against the monsters. When the confused general fails to make sense of the situation, Sean steps forward and presents the man with his business card, identifying himself and his friends as "The Monster Squad".
Though the film was a financial failure on its initial release, it subsequently developed a cult following. Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 62% of 26 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 5.88/10 With the site's consensus stating, "A fun 80's adventure with a slightly scary twist, The Monster Squad offers tween-friendly horror with just enough of a kick". Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that it is "fun for the kid in all of us". Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "a feature-length commercial for a joke store that sells not-great, rubber monster masks".
The film was first released by Vestron Video in 1988 on VHS and LaserDisc. It was the film's only VHS release.
A 20th Anniversary Reunion of The Monster Squad was held with cast members and Director Fred Dekker in attendance in April 2006 in Austin, Texas at the Alamo Drafthouse. This reunion was put together by the staff at Ain't It Cool News, who were longtime fans of the film and on a whim decided to contact and try to connect the cast for a special screening. Two shows were held at the theatre; both sold out with lines formed around the block; some audience members flew from as far as California to watch the film. It was at this screening that Dekker had urged any interested fans to write the copyright holders via snail-mail. Ain't It Cool News also broke the news of the DVD release in January, 2007. Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures approached Lionsgate Studios to produce and release the 20th anniversary edition.
The Monster Squad two-disc 20th anniversary special edition DVD was released by Lionsgate on July 24, 2007, and contains a wide range of special features including a 5-part 90 minute retrospective documentary, 2 audio commentaries, deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer, a TV spot, animated storyboards, and more. In 2007 a soundtrack album was made available from the Intrada label; La-La Land Records issued one in 2015 with additional material, including the Michael Sembello-produced songs.
The Alamo Drafthouse held two sold-out screenings of The Monster Squad on January 9, 2010 with stars Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert, and Jon Gries along with writer Shane Black and director Fred Dekker all in attendance. The screenings were celebrated with a limited edition poster by artist Tyler Stout.
The special edition DVD also makes a few references to the death of Brent Chalem, who died of pneumonia in 1997. Chalem played the character Horace.
Lionsgate released a region-free Blu-ray version of the film on November 24, 2009, which contains the same extras as the above-mentioned DVD. This edition is now out of print. On February 19, 2013, Olive Films released a region A locked Blu-ray, which does not include any extras. It was available via direct streaming on Hulu in October, 2017.
In 2018, Gower directed and co-produced Wolfman's Got Nards, a documentary that explored the film's influence over 30 years and how it had gone from a cult favorite to a classic. Henry McComas is the other co-producer of the documentary, which was distributed by Pilgrim Media Group in cooperation with Flitterpiper Entertainment and 1620 Media Group. It earned honors as an official selection for a number of film festivals including Cinepocalypse and Salem Horror Fest.
In 2008, Rob Cohen, who served as a producer on the original film, said that the rights to the film were back with Paramount and there were plans to remake the film; however, he had no desire to direct it. In 2010, it was announced that Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes had officially signed on to produce the film with Cohen now confirmed to direct and Mark and Brian Gunn writing the screenplay. The announcement of a remake and Platinum Dunes involvement was not met with much positive reaction from fans of the original. In 2014, Platinum Dunes producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form confirmed that the remake was no longer happening.