I first encountered 'Monster Squad' when I was ten years old. I vividly remember seeing the red and yellow hand drawn cover in my local video store, it instantly brought to mind the old DC horror comics that I happened to be reading, snatching it from the shelf I hurried home to consume its contents as fast as I could.
As I watched, and re-watched, it struck me even at a young age, what an incredible concept this was. At the time I was just getting into horror movies, in particular the old Universal movies with Karloff and Lugosi. I spent many a Saturday afternoon hidden away watching these black and white classics, being especially enamoured with the 1941 version of the 'Wolf Man'. So the sight of all these iconic monsters appearing on screen at the same time, well just about blew my little mind, of course this was exactly the response that both writer Shane Black and director Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps) had wanted to achieve, when the movie was shown back in 1987. They set out to invoke that feeling of being a kid, when believing in things like monsters and ghosts, was taken very seriously. Unfortunately, when the movie was released it performed very poorly at the box office, halting Dekker's career. It would seem, the general public wasn't ready for an adult-themed kids movie, filled with danger and genuine peril. It took a long time, but through word of mouth, the movie finally found the audience and deserved cult status it now holds.
Beginning in Transylvania 100 years ago, we see Van Helsing face off against his arch nemesis Count Dracula, for the last time. Together with a band of angry villagers (with cliche torches in hand) Van Helsing storms the castle in the hope of vanquishing him from our world forever, by opening a vortex using an ancient text, that must be used in conjunction with a mystical glowing amulet. The catch being, it must be read by a virginal child, unfortunately as the caption on the screen puts it, "They blew it". Dracula manges to elude his captors, instead sending Van Helsing along with the girl and the villagers into the vortex, leaving him free in our world.
In the present (1987), we meet 12 year old Sean and Patrick who are 'diehard' monster fans, along with their friend Horace- aka 'fat kid' - who enlists new member Rudy. Soon after discovering Van Helsing's diary, Sean learns that his childhood fascination with fictional monsters is in-fact very real, and very close to home, as the nefarious Dracula has literally just flown into town, in search of the powerful amulet. Soon he begins to gather all the classic monsters: Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, and Frankenstein, to aid him in his search. With the faith of the world in jeopardy and nobody willing to believe them, it’s left up to Sean and his monster obsessed Squad, to stop the forces of evil once and for all. With help from the unlikely 'Scary German Guy', they arm themselves to the teeth ready to use all their monster knowledge in the final battle of good vs evil...now if only they could figure out how exactly does that dog get into the tree house?
Admittedly there are numerous faults here, from gaping plot holes you could fit a bus through, such as the appearance of the army somehow summoned by a note-written in crayon by a five year old. The most nagging problem of all though is: How long would a real group of bumbling teens last against a group of super strong and almost invulnerable monsters? Not very, I would imagine. What keeps this movie ticking past these problems is Black’s wonderfully snappy script, handled perfectly by the young inexperienced cast. The dialogue is bursting with cheesy quotable gems like: 'Wolf man's got nards', 'Three words. Scary. German. Guy', that help keep the film's tongue firmly in it's cheek.