‘The Monster Squad’ Scares Up Nostalgia

The premise behind The Monster Squad is one we often have as children, thinking what it would be like if we actually battled the monsters of yesterday movies.

I remember a story filmmaker Rob Reiner said about how the old Bela Lugosi Dracula left such an impression on him, he was afraid to go out at night when his parents told him to take out the trash, he would feel Dracula was lurking to get him.

The kids at the basis of The Monster Squad are what would be called tweens nowadays mostly. They’re too young to really be interested in girls but their parents and other adults, mainly those at school, expect them to be focused on other more important things.

Andre Gower and Robby Kiger play Sean Crenshaw and Patrick Rhodes, two young kids, who live on the same block, hang out together and talk about monster movies and folklore. They get in trouble at school for drawing new monsters, such as a spider with a human head.

Other members of their club are Horace, aka “Fat Kid” (Brent Chalem), an obese child who recruits an older student, Rudy Holloran (Ryan Lambert) who comes to his aide to stop some bullying. Rudy is in junior high and wears leather clothes and smokes cigarettes. There’s also Eugene (Michael Faustino), who is younger and his pet Beagle, Pete. Eugene is elementary school age and the movie never says why he’s hanging out with the older kids, but I’m guessing it’s because he lives on the same street or block as Sean and Patrick.

It just so happens that there really is a Count Dracula (Duncan Regehr) who’s has set up camp a dilapidating mansion near where the club meets. Below the mansion is an amulet that Dracula needs to take over the world, but the only thing is he can only possess it for a brief time every 100 years.

When Sean’s mother, Emily (Mary Ellen Trainor) buys a diary that supposedly belonged to Abraham Van Helsing, Sean and the others in the squad track down a Boo Radley-like recluse who they refer to Scary German Guy (Leonardo Cimino), a Holocaust survivor, to help them translate.

They need to have a virgin read an incantation from the diary that will cause the amulet to open a limbo wormhole dragging all the evil into it.

Other strange things are happening in their town. Jonathan Gries plays a deranged man who claims to be a werewolf and is shot while taking a deputy’s gun wanting to be locked up. But he actually is the Wolfman.

And Sean’s detective father, Del (Stephen Macht), is called in to investigate the disappearance of a mummy from the local museum. The Mummy later somehow gets into Eugene’s room and closet to scare him causing him to seek his father who blows him off.

When the movie came out in August of 1987, people dismissed it as a rip-off of The Goonies, which also featured Trainor. But Dekker and his co-writer Shane Black, said they saw the Squad as more of the Our Gang/Little Rascals type of kids and how they would handle the old movie monsters. It’s no different than Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein except updated for 1980s audiences.

Stan Winston does have some impressive make-up work on the movie. The look of the Wolfman is actually based on his own facial features.

With the PG-13 rating, it’s geared more toward children. Frankenstein’s Monster actually befriends Sean’s younger sister, Pheobe (Ashley Bank) and soon becomes to help the Squad. And the Wolfman in his human form is actually a man grabbling with his curse and tries to warn Del of the impending danger.

The Mummy and Creature from the Black Lagoon are actually minor characters and only appear in a few scenes. I think I remember the filmmakers saying because of licensing issues with Universal, they were only able to use them in a limited capacity. This is ironic, because the climax takes place on the old Universal Courthouse Square backlot.

This was made by Taft Entertainment Pictures and Keith Barrish Productions and later distributed by TriStar. With a budget of $12 million, this only made just under $4 million and was a financial and critical failure. But since then, critics and fans have found a better appreciation for it.

Regehr’s performance of Dracula is considered one of the best interpretations and in a 2009 poll by Wizard magazine, he was named one of the best movie villains. Regehr does a good job portraying the character with a dignified but demented character. One of the best lines is when he says he’s going to go have a bite and then walks into a room where three young women are being kept.

Regehr was so concerned about scaring the young Bank, that he kept himself in make-up hidden from her until he had to flash his fangs at her. Bank’s reaction was geniune.

Noonan, who has often portrayed bad guys, turns the mistaken monster into a gentle giant.

Many of the Squad actors didn’t have much after this movie. Gower and Kiger were good friends in real life. Gower still acts in many lower budget movies but Kiger has reportedly not been in anything since 1990. Chalem, sadly, died of pneumonia in 1997. Lambert was already on the show Kids Incorporated and has appeared in movies and TV shows periodically since.

Faustino appeared in movies and TV shows, most notably Married…With Children, which starred his older brother, David, as Bud Bundy, but hasn’t appeared in anything since 1995. Bank also still acts in movies and TV shows.

Gries, who had played Lazlo, the man hiding in the boiler room in Real Genius, would go on to appear in multiple movies and TV shows, but he is probably most famous as Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite.

Macht also continues to appear in movies and TV shows. Probably his most notable role in my opinion is the really awful Graveyard Shift, where he delivers a performance so off the wall, it’s worth watching the whole movie.

Sadly. Dekker never really had much of a great career following this. He was tapped to write and direct RoboCop 3, which was filmed in 1990 in the Atlanta area but shelved for three years following the bankruptcy of Orion Pictures. His partner, Black, had a more successful career, as a writer and director.

Last year, I found myself talking to Dekker’s brother, Christopher, on social media about how they would make their own version of movies growing up. In many ways, there’s a lot of Dekker and his friends, in the portrayal of the Squad.

While the plot does have a lot of things working as a convenience with everything just happening in one town with little to no explanation why, you really shouldn’t be looking for answers when monsters are walking around.

I understand that Dekker cut about 15 minutes at the suggestion of getting it under 90 minutes. It’s a short movie, yes, but still enjoyable.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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