Tom Noonan, Michael Reid MacKay, Duncan Regehr, Carl Thibault, Tom Woodruff Jr. © Lions Gate Home Entertainment
[WARNING: Some minor plot details are given here.]

Now considered a cult classic, The Monster Squad has stood the test of time. Like with most good horror movies, the main stars here aren’t exactly the humans. Sure, they are mostly likable (though sometimes deviant) characters, but virtually everyone wants to see the bad guys. Here those are Count Dracula (Duncan Regehr), Frankenstein’s monster (Tom Noonan), The Wolfman (Jonathan Gries/Carl Thibault ), Gill-man (Tom Woodruff Jr.) and a Mummy (Michael MacKay). However, this film has a surprising variation: Frankenstein’s monster ends up switching sides! In other words, The Monster Squad“isn’t afraid to defy expectations a little.

On that note, despite its constant comparisons with The Goonies, The Monster Squad stands on its own pretty well. In addition to taking place in Baton Rouge (while The Goonies occurs in Astoria, Oregon), the Monster Squad has to deal with forces of a supernatural nature. It may have vestigial aspects of a Goonies rip-off, but those kids didn’t need help from the diary of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing! I also like the so-called “Scary german Guy” (Leonardo Cimino), who the kids eventually learn to trust. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they needed him to translate Van Helsing’s text from German to English. Another great aspect of this film? These kids were already into horror lore, well before some actual bad guys ever show up. It’s a tribute to all the misfit horror kids who had an early interest in the macabre, and the just plain weird. As one might expect, it’s more playful than scary.

Monster Magic

The question is: What does The Monster Squad really get right? Why isn’t it considered a total dud? Well, I wouldn’t say it’s an absolute masterpiece. It’s just consistently good. It also has story elements which, although they’d never get green-lit today, quite perfectly represent the casual moral standards of 1980s cinema. At the same time, it’s not ultra-shocking or offensive. The movie makes some surprising choices, aside from Frankenstein’s monster being good.

I like that they made the Wolfman bizarrely tough, to the extent where he seemed almost indestructible. In contrast, they made the Mummy laughably weak, turning into ancient dust at a point of mild adversity. It’s either a potentially comical moment or one for sheer disappointment. It depends on how committed you are to the Mummy as a villain.

Obviously I could go on and on about the actors, treating it like a Wikipedia page, but I’ll just note that Jonathan Gries — who plays the humanized Wolfman — went on to play Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite. In other words, he has two unique, solid cult classic films on his resume. Not bad, right? I would recommend watching The Monster Squad while chowing down on your favorite snack, probably with your favorite buddies (the kind who get movies like this), and just having a good time. Also, if you’re in a band, Dynamite Dracula might be a fun name, and an homage to certain scenes in The Monster Squad. Finally, I have to say that, yes, the Wolfman’s got nards.

What are your thoughts on The Monster Squad? Let us know in the comments!

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Wade Wanio is an author.

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