Growing up in my house, there were a lot of films, songs, shows, etc. that my brother and I consumed with such frequency and regularity, that we assumed that EVERYONE watched, listened to, read, etc. the same things. It wasn’t until we got a little older that we realized, “Wait… you mean other kids didn’t watch The Hilarious House of Frightenstein before school? And not everyone knows all the words to “Surfin’ Bird” by age 6? And what do you mean you’ve never heard of Santa Claus: The Movie?! Dudley Moore and the dad from Harry and the Hendersons is in it, I mean COME ON!” The Monster Squad is one such example of a film that was so much a part of my childhood development, it baffles me that it wasn’t standard in all kids’ Halloween traditions.
And when I say standard, I mean standard. Our Halloween routines were fairly predictable: dig the boxes out from under the stairs; go through them to see what decorations were useable, what needed replacing, etc. while dad made a new “spooky” mixtape; go pumpkin picking; battle the parents on whether we needed new costumes or we could use stuff from previous years; watch The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (HOLY CRAP THE WHOLE THING IS ONLINE I LOVE THE INTERNET SO MUCH RIGHT NOW), Ghostbusters, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, and The Monster Squad. Eventually, Ernest Scared Stupid and Hocus Pocus made the rotation as well. I honestly assumed everyone watched these flicks at Halloween, kinda like how everyone watched Rudolph and The Grinch and whatnot. Turns out, not so much. It wasn’t until university when I met other weirdos that had seen this flick before and loved it like I did. To this day, I get REALLY over enthusiastic when discussing the film and tend to freak anyone out when they say they’ve seen it because I immediately want to be their best friend.
First, how boss is that tagline? I freaking love it. Anyway! This is the story of Sean, a smart-ass nerdy kid who loves horror flicks.
He and I should probably get married. But I digress. Sean is the president of his own nerdy club called “The Monster Squad” whose members include Sean; his best friend/sidekick Patrick; their overweight friend who they literally call “Fat Kid” through the majority of the flick; Rudy, the bad ass who is way too old to be hanging out with these kids; Eugene, who is way too young to be hanging out with these kids; and Phoebe, Sean’s five-year-old sister who isn’t really in the club but wants to be and is around all the time so practically is.
These kids eventually stumble upon the diary of Abraham Van Hesling that happened to show up in their small American town. You know, as they do. Coincidentally, guess who else shows up in town?
It seems that Dracula wants to take over the world and to do it he needs Frankenstein’s monster, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Wolfman (who just happens to live in this town) and the Mummy to help him. So, they all gather in this small, unnamed town, searching for this magical amulet that is usually concentrated good but once every hundred years can be shattered and used for pure evil. Much like the diary, it somehow got here from Transylvania. (or maybe Germany?) IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW, GUYS, OK? All that matters is that it is up to The Monster Squad, Scary German Guy (that is how he is listed in the credits, THAT IS HIS NAME) and a turncoat Frankenstein (they all call him Frank, so even though I KNOW HE’S NOT CALLED THAT, I’m calling him that. Deal with it) to stop Dracula and his buddies from taking over the world. And if they can do it with a bitchin’ 80s montage well, then, all the better!
Thoughts as I watched:
* Fun fact: I have always and will always associate the Tri Star logo with the opening of this film.
Unrelated, the old school Disney logo opening always reminds me of Honey I Shrunk The Kids. Yeah, I’m odd…
* While the movie as a whole isn’t particularly scary, this whole opening at Dracula’s castle in Transylvania 100 years ago spooked me out as a kid.Very atmospheric, I dig it.
* Dracula turning from a bat into a FULLY DRESSED man, cape and all, always makes me chuckle.
THAT’S the lack of realism I take issue with – Drac’s clothes. Nothing else, apparently. I’m dumb.
* Van Helsing is supposed to be German; the girl is chanting in German; this beginning is taking place in Transylvania; So why does Van Helsing speak suck perfect English?
BECAUSE HE’S JUST THAT AWESOME, THAT’S WHY.
Or… the 80s. Close enough.
* Sean’s shirt needs to be my shirt and it needs to be my shirt NOW.
Why have I never bought and/or made this myself?! Perfect shirt.
* “Mrs. Carlson is a nice teacher and all, but she’s boring and has an odd-shaped head. That’s why Sean and the guys call her “Meow Mix”, cuz her head is shaped like a cat’s head. But I don’t sir, cuz how rude!”
Patrick is clearly the comedy relief.
* This is an educator that connects with kids. He is Mr. Belding and Mr. Kotter all rolled into one.
* I always block out the part where Sean repeatedly refers to his principal as a homo. I know he’s a 12-year-old in the 80s, but… ugh. It makes me sad.
Horace Fat Kid…
It can’t be easy having Kevin Arnold’s big brother as a bully.
Don’t worry Fat Kid, Rudy’s got your back!
You can tell he’s a bad ass on account of the leather jacket and the fingerless gloves and the sunglasses and the greased up black hair and the smoking on school grounds… Oh, and the fact that he looks at least three years older than everyone else. And when he tells you to eat a squished up candy bar, you damn well better eat that squished up candy bar!
* Sean and Patrick argue about whether or not Wolfman can drive a car or has genitalia. I once argued with a friend about whether or not it’s physically possibly for a vampire to have sex if their heart doesn’t beat. I AM THESE KIDS.
* I’m not entirely sure how Rudy fits into this group. He seems to know Fat Kid, and wants to stand up for him and such, but Sean and Patrick and even five-year-old Phoebe know him purely through his reputation.
So… why is this junior high kid hanging out with 12 year olds? Did Fat Kid teach him how to read or something? Whatever, I still love him. HE’S SUCH A DREAMY BAD BOY YOU GUYS!
* Where is this plane full of corpses coming from? How did Frankenstein get on the manifest? And where was it going before Dracula got himself and the crate dopped out the chute in the bottom of the plane’s cargo hold? OH WELL, DOESN’T MATTER, THE CRATE LANDED IN PRECISELY THE RIGHT SWAMP, NO WORRIES.
* Rudy is in junior high; he is CLEARLY cool. Why on earth would he even want to BE in this nerdy Monster Club?
Oh, right. Nevermind then.
* Sean’s mom just happened to buy a book at a local garage sale from “that old house on Shadowbrook Road” that was written by Van Helsing. Yeah, THAT Van Helsing. His personal diary just happened to find its way to a small town garage sale. “Now, he’s the one that fought Godzilla, right?”
Ok, Mom? You don’t have to know monster movies but could you at LEAST know your literature? I mean, really.
* I still don’t entirely understand this moment.
Always freaked me out. Weird and unnecessary.
* Meet Sean’s dad:
He’s a grizzled cop who loves his family but always puts work first. He’s in marriage counseling and has a sassy black partner.
Sean’s dad is an 80s action movie stereotype.
* I love that there is absolutely no explanation as to why there is a werewolf living in this town, or why this mummy suddenly came to life, or where the creature in the swamp came from. DON’T MATTER! THEY’RE HERE NOW! ENJOY THE RIDE!
* Sean watching a drive-in movie on his roof is my dream. DREAM.
Is there anything better than the notion that you can watch drive-in movies FREE from your roof with binoculars and McDonald’s? Answer: No there is not. I want this to be my life one day. This flick has me dreaming the impossible dream.
* Sean sees this message from his mother:
He is immediately suspicious and sets out to decode the OBVIOUSLY fake name.
Ok, first of all, Sean’s mom refers to it as the “Van Halen” diary in her note. Sean’s mom is unrealistically dumb. Second, Dracula? That was the lamest attempt to disguise your name EVER. It’s not even really an anagram! It’s just your name backwards! A little effort please sir!
* I am kind of in love with little Eugene’s dad. When his son says there are monsters in his room, his dad immediately busts into his room and begins shooing invisible monsters out to protect his son; he is a wonderful dad. When he’s told he missed one in the closet, he gets a little snarky, much like I would if woken up in the middle of the night because of monsters.
* The group decides to team up and take down these monsters. Only this ragtag group of kids could possibly take out centuries-old creatures of evil!
* “Gentlemen, I’d just like to say three words to you: Scary. German. Guy.”
I love Scary German Guy. I love that his name is Scary German Guy. I love that he is ok with these kids calling him Scary German Guy. I love that he just totally goes along with these kids, helping them translate German diaries and driving them to abandoned houses and churches, without blinking an eye. I love that monsters don’t faze him. I love that he is introduced to us as a rather ominous figure…
…only for it to be revealed that he is just a sweet ol’ grandpa type.
Yep, nothing scarier than free pie! Fat Kid’s right, Scary German Guy is bitchin’!
* Frankenstein meeting little Phoebe by the lake is actually kind of clever.
Naturally, the charms of a five-year-old girl are greater than the magical influence of a centuries old super villain, so Frankenstein is now on the Monster Squad too.
* When Frank realizes he’s scary?
Phoebe’s face is my face when he’s sad. Poor Frank =(
* I’ll never understand why the Mummy attacking the car is scary. I mean, he’s dead, yeah, but he’s just dust and rags and bones. What is he going to do? Grab you, and… then what? Eat you? Is that what mummies do? Isn’t he supposed to have magic powers or something? This one clearly doesn’t. Rudy has to right idea:
Unravel that bitch and he’s not much to worry about. “See ya later, Band-Aid breath!”
* Drac is tired of this bullshit. KIDS ARE NOT THAT HARD TO KILL, FELLOW MONSTERS. WATCH AND LEARN.
Drac’s kind of a BAMF.
* “Where are you going, Rudy?”
Rudy is at his most bad-ass in this moment. He pushes pass the other kids and struts right up to the vampire mistresses coming to destroy them.
That is one cool kid.
* The poor Wolfman’s junk.
It really takes a beating in this flick. And of course, this doesn’t even stop him. Rudy tried to tell you guys, there’s only ONE way to kill a werewolf!
Silver bullets, bitches! PS, Rudy thus far has dispatched five monsters or so. No one else has done squat.
I nominate Rudy as the new club president. Sorry, Sean.
* I love that the “virgin” they get to read the incantation is Patrick’s sister, who they refer to as being trampy numerous times in the flick. When it doesn’t work, she admits that she’s not actually a virgin. “Well, Steve! But he doesn’t count!”
But what really kills me is that they seem to think only virgin chicks are applicable, since they skip over all the 12 year old boys running around and immediately get the 5-year-old to read it.
Yep. Makes sense.
* Duncan Regehr might be the best incarnation of Dracula I’ve seen. He’s ruthless, he’s scary, he’s kinda sexy…
Ok maybe not that sexy. But I dig him nonetheless.
* The kids finally get the portal open! The monsters are being dragged into Limbo! But wait! Dracula’s got Sean and is dragging him with him! Oh noes!
DON’T WORRY SEAN, VAN HELSING’S GOT YOUR BACK.
That’s right. Van Helsing came out of Limbo to grab Dracula and give Sean the thumbs up. THAT JUST HAPPENED.
* I love that a five-year-old is able to hold onto a 7 foot monster’s finger and keep him from being sucked into the vortex.
At least, for a time. But even the strength of a five-year-old’s love isn’t enough to resist the pull of a vortex. Frank is taken. But at least he gets to take a friend with him!
I have so many. But first? THIS. MONTAGE.
It might be my all-time favourite montage. Keep in mind, everything that happens in it happens in ONE day. ONE DAY! And that song sounds like it was written specifically for a montage. It is PERFECT montage music. It could only exist in an 80s film montage. MONTAGE! That whole scene is a thing of beauty, I love it beyond description.
Second place? It’s a tie. And both parts involve poor ol’ Fat Kid.
“Wolfman’s got nards!” Best line in the history of monster movie cinema. I love it so much. Nards might be the most underappreciated euphemism for male genitalia I have ever heard. And Fat Kid’s face!
He is just so stunned. And probably a little afraid of the concept of werewolf reproduction. Can’t blame him for that.
And then… there’s this glorious, glorious moment:
The gun cock! The musical sting! The kid’s face! Oh my God it’s beautiful!
Fat Kid is dead. Long live Horace!
Oh, and then there’s the ending. It’s not one of my favourite parts necessarily, but you need to see the montage to appreciate it. Because in that montage, Eugene writes an ADORABLE letter to the army:
That’s the the one. And once all the chaos is done and the vortex is closed, guess who shows up?
The army not only responds to Eugene’s letter, THEY RECEIVED IT THE DAY IT WAS SENT AND MOBILIZED IMMEDIATELY. I don’t think you understand how hilarious and ridiculous and absolutely PERFECT this is.
When they see there’s nothing left for them, they demand answers!
CLOSE ON A BITCHIN’ 80S RAP SONG!
Why I love it:
Because it’s just… incredible. It’s incredible. It’s a love note to every monster movie ever made. It’s a time capsule of 80s gloriousness. It’s the perfect movie for kids that are too young for REALLY scary movies, but too old to watch Disney or cartoons (For the record, I am a firm believer that you are NEVER too old for Disney or cartoons). Plus, you get all kinds of naughty PG 13 swearing and violence! It’s a movie that reminds me of my childhood, of how much I loved the weird and scary, how nerdy I was and how I would have killed for a club like Sean’s with a bunch of nerdy friends to talk about monsters with. I love it because even as an adult, I can still relate to that inner nerdy kid who could talk monsters all day every day.
When next we meet: Cabin in the Woods!