31 Days of Hell: Nostalgia's Got Nards: The Monster Squad (1987) - Reviewed

Fred Dekker's The Monster Squad was hands down one of my favorite films as a kid. I rented it from the little grocery store on the corner by my house so many times that one day when I brought the box up to the counter to rent it again, the owner presented me with my very own copy on VHS, telling me she'd copied it for me, as I'd paid for it ten times over in rental fees. I put my VCR to good use, watching it (at the very least) weekly, for years, but somewhere along the way, it was forgotten; such is the fate of so many childhood loves. Scrolling through Amazon Prime's available titles in preparation for Halloween this year, a familiar box cover brought back a flood of memories, and I knew I had to revisit the small town invaded by all of the baddies of the classic Universal Monsterverse, and the Goonies-esque group that was brave enough to battle them, once and for all.

Re-watching something that was meaningful to you as a child when you're a grown-up is often extremely disappointing; things that were amazing at age ten are usually much less so at 35, especially concerning special effects. Time is rarely kind to old CGI and practical effects, though the latter tend to be less terrible many years after they were created. This is true of The Monster Squad. The little bits of CGI used in this film are laughable 30+ years later, but the practical effects are still, well, effective. The monsters have excellent designs (the Mummy is particularly gnarly), and even the werewolf transformation works. I mean, it's no An American Werewolf in London, but, really, what is?  

The child actors in the film, paired with the fun, silly script, could honestly not have aged better. Every kid is believable and they have excellent chemistry, playing off of one another in a very natural manner. The witty one-liners hit, even if a few of them are now super dated and inappropriate by today's standards. But the kids in this film act and talk like real kids, and that definitely sets it apart from some of its peers. In addition to the excellent performances by the children, the performances by the monsters are just as good, if not better. Duncan Regehr's Dracula is cheesily menacing, devouring the scenery of every scene he's in like Dracula would devour the blood a freshly punctured artery, and Carl Thibault's Wolfman has some fabulous moments in both wolf and human form. However, no one can top the sweet way with which Tom Noonan plays Frankenstein's Monster, who, surprisingly, is truly the heart of the film. There is such genuine love, kindness and sorrow in this character, it's hard to imagine him fitting into this film, yet he does and here we are. 

It was great to revisit this childhood favorite and find it still had some bite, but the real test of time could only come from the reaction of one of today's children. I had the pleasure of re-watching this film with a pretty great eleven year old boy, and I'm happy to report that it is now one of his favorite Halloween movies. He wasn't deterred by the dated CGI, music, or fashion, he just loved the story and the way it was presented. A classic is a classic, regardless of its age, and The Monster Squad qualifies. 

--Josie Stec