Monday, July 4, 2011

Monster Squad

Tonight I wanted to do a movie I genuinely enjoy: Monster Squad. It's a comedy-horror film from 1987 about a bunch of kids and a holocaust survivor teaming up to fight classic Universal Monsters, and it has special effects by Stan Winston. Unlike the last couple of films I've reviewed, this one thankfully got a pretty wide release and is even currently available on bluray.

The film begins in Transylvania, a few hundred years back. This entire part of the film is done in the style of an old school vampire movie, and it's really... pretty, to me. There's something about seeing stereotypical Translyvania done with more detail, and seeing highly detailed bats flying around using the same techniques they used in the old Legosi Dracula movie. Basically we have Van Helsing leading a rampage against Dracula and his minions, going so far as to open up a black hole to suck him up. This seems like an odd way to dispose of monsters, and an especially dangerous one as we see innocent people get sucked into it. It seems even worse than the normal Captain Planet/Superman method of just throwing everthing into space or throwing it directly into the sun.

Flash forward to the 80s, where two very 80s kids get a lecture from their stereotypical No Fun Allowed principal. The kids in this film are extremely similar to the cast of the Goonies, to the point where I usually describe this film as "The Goonies versus Dracula." We even have our fat kid, named Fat Kid, but he doesn't do the truffle shuffle. Still, what this film has but the Goonies doesn't, is a stereotypical cool 80s guy. By 80s guy I mean 50s, as this teenager is basically The Fonz. Greasy black hair, black leather jacket, blue jeans, white shirt, black shades... he's always on a bicycle, which I'm amazed isn't a motorcycle. The kids are all big horror fans, and they have a lot of conversations about horror movie cliches and the like, which is kinda neat. Stuff like how to kill the various monsters, etc. There's also a really annoying little girl.

Meanwhile, on a cargo plane, Dracula's apparently in a box from Transylvania. First off, the cargo is corpses. Secondly, the plane looks like a WW2 bomber. Seriously. Why is a WW2 bomber carrying corpses as cargo? Dracula punches the co-pilot, steals a box labeled Frankenstein, and flees the plane. I'm not joking. He literally just suckerpunches a guy, turns into a bat, and flies off with the fucking crate labeled Frankenstein. I love seeing monsters just punch people instead of attacking them by their more expected means, and you're gonna see a lot of that in this movie. Wolfman's got claws and yet he never mauls anyone or rips anyone to shreds, he just beats people up, as does Dracula. I can't really fear a street fighting man like that. I mean with wolfman, it's partly the whole eating alive and mauling thing, he's like a bear. With vampires, it's you being sucked dry of your blood. "Guy punches you a bunch" just isn't that scary.

We get more scenes of the kids hanging out and doing kid stuff, discussing monsters, and letting The Fonz join their club, though he only wants to join because he can peep on one of the kids' older sisters. We also get the lead kid, Not Corey Haim, talking to his mom about his new package: a book written by Van Helsing. His mom confuses Dracula with Godzilla, asking "which one's the tall one." Is anyone really that retarded? We also get a nice little bit where the kid's talking about wanting to see the newest Not Friday The 13th film, and his dad talks about how the villain was blown up last time, proving that the villain's always going to come back. For some reason they wedge in that the kid's parents are fighting, but it doesn't figure much into the plot. We get a couple of scenes of them yelling at each other, but that's it.

They cut to a police department where a man attacks a bunch of cops and demands to be locked up before a cop shoots him to death. This then just as quickly cuts to a museum security guard being questioned over a mummy disappearing. This then becomes an almost Gilligan like cut when the cop says that a 2,000 year old dead guy just can't get up and go out by himself, cutting to... a mummy walking around at night. -This- then cuts back (so many fucking quick cuts) to a car carrying the corpse of the guy we just saw get shot to death becoming a terrible looking werewolf. Which just as fucking quickly cuts to the kid watching the new horror movie at a drive in through binoculars from his roof, which is just positioned perfectly to see that. Also his dad's there, having only left like 2 minutes ago. If this film has one big flaw, it's pacing. I'm getting whiplash. All of the monsters we've seen thus far (Dracula, Wolfman, Mummy) meet up in a swamp on Dagobah to raise an X-Wing with the use of Dracula's jedi training, except by that I mean they get The Creature from the Black Lagoon to raise Frankenstein's crate out.

The effects on the monsters are... hrm. They're campy looking, but I feel this was purposeful. Everything looks like it's out of a 1930s horror film, and considering Stan Winston was behind this, I'm gonna assume that it was all intentional. It's actually kinda neat for that. Dracula's got his snazzy red and black cape and slick hair, Wolfman has no neck, etc. Again though, some will probably find these too cheap looking to take seriously, but this film -is- a comedy. Personally I don't think they're cheap, despite the campiness there's a lot of detail put into them.

The movie gets even cheasier here: Not Corey Haim hears his dad talking about someone claiming he was a werewolf, sees a note on the wall that someone called for him, someone named Alucard. Cue: Alucard is Dracula backwards! Yes, this just hit a Troll 2 moment. We also get a horror cliche: The youngest boy of the group tells his dad there's a monster in his closet. His dad opens the closet, doesn't look inside, and then closes it. We the audience get a good look at a mummy inside. ...Also the kid has Robotech pajamas, that is a lucky kid. His entire room is full of nostalgia to me. I have to ask though. Why was the mummy in the kid's closet? He even leaves after this scene, doesn't bother the kid or the dad.

Not Corey Haim gathers up the kids and tells them all about the monsters, and they form The Monster Squad (we have a title!) to investigate. Also for some reason there's some super creepy plantation with creepy Transylvanianish stuff built into it. We find out that Dracula needs Van Helsing's diary, and doesn't want to get it himself for plot reasons, so he sends Frankenstein's Monster out to do it. Meanwhile the kids take the diary to Scary German Guy, some scary German guy they're all afraid of for some reason. It turns out he's actually a really nice Holocaust survivor. Scary German Guy & Fat Kid sounds like the kind of 80s cop show I'd watch.

We find out from the diary that Dracula can be destroyed only once his amulet is destroyed, and the diary details how to do just that, but it can only be done every 100 years, but they need a virgin. But before they can begin their search, they end up joining Frankenstein's Monster, who isn't working with Dracula now for some reason. I mean he's a nice guy, but they never really explain why he doesn't try to get the diary. The movie has a lot of overly cutesy moments between Frankenstein's Monster and the little girl, which are... a little irritating at times, just trying too hard to be cute. For the most part, Frankenstein's Monster behaves like a big mentally challenged guy, which is... kind of an odd portrayal, but it works.

Since this is a lighthearted 80s film, one should have expected this: 80s new wave montage time! We get a big montage set to some really catchy 80s music wherein the kids sharpen stakes, make silver bullets, etc. in preparation for the storming of Dracula's Evil Plantation. Dracula's actor is kind of weak if you ask me. I'm fine with most of the actors in this film, but Dracula and the main kid's mom are the weak points for sure. Dracula's not really threatening nor charming, comes off more as a crappy sitcom dad from the early 90s or late 80s, like Alan Thicke's long lost brother or something, and the main kid's mom kinda reminds me of the mom from Troll 2, right down to always having this look of shock on her face.

Here's where the movie starts to enter meme territory. The kids investigate the area around the creepy plantation, and one of the younger kids sees the Creature... who steals and eats his twinkie before going back under water. The monsters in this movie almost don't seem evil, like... they're just... being dicks at worst. The older teen is busy blackmailing the Hot Older Sister of one of the kids, who he's been peeping on, into being the virgin that the group needs. Problem: She's obviously a slut. Also most of the characters are under the age of 13, I'd assume they're all virgins. Are you telling me that not even Fat Kid is a virgin? Did they all have an orgy at some point, like Stephen King's IT? Why can't any of them do it?

They go inside of the creepy plantation, only to have the roof cave in at the entrance and trap Frankenstein's Monster. Despite the huge noise this causes, the kids decide to stay there. Wolfman suddenly leaps in out of nowhere, and fat kid kicks him in the nuts, giving us this classic gem: "Wolfman's got nards!" The kids end up finding Dracula's secret lair, which involves pulling on an old confederate statue's arm and revolving the wall, they even hang a lampshade on it by referencing the Hardy Boys books when they do it. They find the amulet, which Dracula wasn't able to get to because it's surrounded by crucifixes. Maybe it was a bad idea to move it out of there, because the second they do Dracula attacks. Thankfully Fat Kid just happens to have garlic pizza on hand, which temporarily immobilizes Dracula, giving them all time to escape.

The main kid's dad and his annoying deputy, who is something of a black stereotype for horror films at the time, get a call about the wolfman and go out to investigate, while the kids end up encountering The Mummy as they're driving around in Scary German Guy's car. This scene's kinda amusing. Basically they attach part of his banddaging to an arow, shoot it into a tree, and it all unravels until the Mummy is just a skull. Kinda neat. It cuts back to the two cops, this time as they collide head on with Dracula's car, only it phases through them entirely. They rush to the one cop's home to check on the lead kid, but Dracula gets their first. Dracula, get this. LIGHTS A BUNDLE OF TNT AND TOSSES IT INTO THE KIDS TREEHOUSE. He says "Meeting adjourned" and walks away as it blows up. I am not fucking kidding. I am not joking. I laughed so fucking hard. He then throws another bundle of TNT under the cop's car, killing the black cop but not the kid's dad. Dracula seems to be under the impression he's in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, and I fucking love it.

The kids reach a church, but find that the doors are locked because it's closed. So they have to perform the ceremony outside, but all of the monsters are walking towards them in slow-mo. Scary German Guy has to coach "the virgin" through the german incantation to open the portal, and she's a bimbo so it takes several attempts. During this we see the older teenager of the group taking on Dracula's Brides by stabbing them through the heart with arrows. The main kid's dad also scores a shot on Dracula in bat form, which leads to an odd shot of part-human part-bat Dracula which looks kinda lame and kinda funny. Wolfman attacks him, but the dad stuffs TNT down the front of his pants and pushes him out of a window, exploding him. What is with the hatred for Wolfman's balls? Wolfman begins regenerating as the incantation is finished, but the black hole doesn't open because, surprise surprise, the slutty bimbo isn't actually a virgin.

Older teen shoots the wolfman through the heart with a silver bullet after he fights a bunch of cops Captain Kirk style, causing the wolfman to turn back to a human, say "Thank you?", and then die. I do mean "thank you?" because the actor sounds so damn confused in his line reading, it's seriously a question. Fat Kid takes a rifle from a cop, and then shoots The Creature right through the heart, killing it instantly. Two bullies from earlier compliment him for it, only for him to cock the rifle and tell them his name is Horus, not Fat Kid. There's a lesson for you fat kids out there: If you want bullies to stop making fun of you for being fat, you have to kill something.

This just leaves Dracula, who kills a bunch of cops just as the group realizes that the kids are virgins, so they get the little girl to read the incantation. But she's a little girl, and is so slow at it, that Dracula ends up grabbing her and stopping her, and calling her a bitch for some reason. Then Frankenstein's Monster shows up out of nowhere, grabs -him-, and throws him so that he impales on a metal spike. So the little girl opens up the black hole, which sucks up a bunch of park benches, a fence, and starts to suck up Dracula and one of the kids, because Dracula can survie imaplement through the heart now. He gets stabbed in the heart again by a stake, but it doesn't kill him either. Thankfully Van Helsing shows up out of nowhere, pulls Dracula into the black hole, and gives the kids a big thumbs up the entire time. Then the movie decides to make the younger audience cry by having Frankenstein's Monster get pulled in while the little girl cries about it, but she throws him her plush dog so he won't be lonely. And there wasn't a dry eye in the audience.

The movie's ending is kinda funny. One of the younger kids, the one who lost a twinky and had the mummy in his closet, wrote to the army asking for help earlier. The film ends with the army showing up, asking for Eugene, prepared to fight monsters. The credits roll, and we get a rap song that sums up the plot of the movie. I miss when movies did that. All movies did that. Imagine if Schindler's List ended with a hip-hop song that recapped the film for us, it'd be awesome. Still, nothing will ever beat Ninja Rap, from TMNT2.

Altogether, this is a great movie, and easily one of my favorite horror-themed comedies. The pacing is pretty bad, and there's a couple of bad actors, but it's still some cheesy good fun. If you like The Goonies, and you like classic Universal monster movies, I'd recommend it.

1 comment:

  1. You start out by saying this is a movie you "genuinely enjoy" then proceed to tear it down every step of the way even calling "Dracula's actor is kind of weak". For someone who claims to like this movie you have a ass-backwards way of showing it. Anyone reading this would be more likely not to watch this movie than they would to watch it. So for anyone who reads this: The Monster Squad is a great movie. It's a kids versus monsters tale that's on par with The Goonies as a young person action adventure film. Duncan Regehr, who plays Dracula, gives a great performance as the Transylvanian Count. Wizard magazine named Regehr the “greatest Dracula of all time” for his chilling performance in The Monster Squad. Another magazine ranked him as the second greatest Dracula ever just behind the legendary Bela Lugosi. Oh and by the way, he's also one of the greatest actors to ever don the mask and cape and play Zorro. The Monster Squad features a great cast and a fun story that pays homage to the great monsters of the Universal studios monster movies of the 30s & 40s. It's well worth the time to watch it. You'll be glad you did.