Saturday, October 17, 2009

October Horror Fest #17: THE MONSTER SQUAD

Many of our most cherished cinematic moments are from childhood; the first movie you went to see in the theater, or something the whole family would watch every Christmas. Me, I remember the Saturday morning movie on WB 11. In October it was usually a horror movie; I remember being scared shitless by Poltergeist II and Rawhead Rex. But this same Saturday time slot also brought the two best "kids scary adventure" movies into my life: The Goonies and The Monster Squad.

It didn't quite have the impact of the Spielberg-produced classic from two years before, but definitely had a lot going for it: directed by Fred Dekker (House, Night Of The Creeps), written by Shane Black (the Lethal Weapon series) and the magic touch of special effects wizard Stan Winston (Terminator, Aliens, Predator, every awesome movie ever).

The story is fun and original, much like The Goonies: a group of neighborhood kids discover Van Helsing's diary, and find out that a secret amulet holds the key to keeping evil in limbo. Every 100 years, the amulet is vulnerable to forces of darkness, and that just happens to be tomorrow night. A man bursts into the local police station screaming that he's a werewolf, a mummy disappears from the local museum, and Dracula is blowing up the kids' treehouse. Time to kick ass!

After 20+ years and the fact that this is really a kid's movie, The Monster Squad really holds up well. The creature effects are brilliant, there are classic lines galore ("The Wolfman's got nards!" "I thought you were a virgin! Well, Steve doesn't count.") and all the young actors play their parts perfectly. One forgets sometimes that these are young kids, and good acting isn't easy. Also of note is Duncan Regehr's portrayal of Count Dracula' many consider it to be the best portrayal of that character on film. Not bad for a kid's movie.

Sadly, a movie like this wouldn't succeed if it were released today. It seems like MTV, Pixar and the Twilight franchise have a stranglehold on the tween audience. But that's what a cult film is all about; staying below the radar and building a dedicated following. That's what The Monster Squad has done over the years. It was finally released on DVD in 2007, and has enough special features to satisfy every fan of this great movie.

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