Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Monster Squad

   Taking a break from the bizarre and grisly stylings of the J-horror genre for more conventional spookiness, I decided to finally pop in The Monster Squad. A movie that, by all means, I should've seen ages ago. It's right up my alley, halfway between The Lost Boys and The Goonies, and a massive love letter to the classic Universal monster movies. I've also had the movie on blu ray for two years and never watched it. Tsk tsk. Bad Joseph. Get it together, man. As I expected, I really liked the movie, but even more enjoyable was seeing my little brothers' reactions to it. That's what really made The Monster Squad a blast.

   What's not to love about a movie where a group of neighborhood kids do battle against the surprisingly vicious monsters of yesteryear? It's a movie that you're either down with, or you're not, although I can't imagine anyone not being down with it. Maybe someone who hates movies from the 80's? But, that's crazy talk, right? The Monster Squad is a big ball of fun from an era where movies could have kid protagonists and not be panderingly stupid or insulting to people with a respectable IQ. It's simple, but not plain or boring. It's full of humor, wit, and spooky adventure. Easy viewing for anyone with kids who still wants to enjoy a fun and creepy movie.

   It also gets it's mileage out of it's PG-13, reminding everyone that it's the perfect rating for those movies that are just family friendly enough to stave off an R rating, but too scary for a PG. The monsters aren't there for comic relief, with the momentary exception of Frankenstein's monster. Dracula is a scary sonofabitch, ditto on the Wolfman, and the creature from the black lagoon. The only one who didn't really do much for me was the mummy, but not for lack of decent effects. All of them look great, and who could expect anything less with Stan Winston himself having made the monsters?
   Then of course, being the one with the least amount of makeup appliances to endure, Duncan Regehr knocks it out of the park as Dracula. The story doesn't require a lot of smooth talking on his part, leaving him free to just be as villainous and scary as possible. The kids are fun to watch, reminding me of my own childhood. I don't know how many times I tried to set up a 'monster club' with a few buddies of mine. The leader of the group has a good relationship with his dad, which leads to one of my favorite scenes in the movie as they argue about the latest installment of the kid's favorite horror franchise. "He always comes back from the grave!"

   The special effects, creature effects, and atmosphere of the movie are all classic 80's goodness. It'd be easy to watch this alongside The Goonies for a perfectly spooktacular movie night with the brats. It's energetic, and authentic in a great way. I mean, it was written in part by Shane Black. He does great things with the material, and perfectly captures the juvenile and unfiltered way that kids talk when they're not around stuffy teachers or boring parents. The movie toes the risque line, teetering somewhat closer to Fright Night instead of The Goonies, but that's okay with me. It should be considered mostly essential viewing for genre fans.

   Pound for pound, The Monster Squad expertly entertains with a healthily hokey helping of slime, blood, lightening and cemetery fog. It also delivers some great laughs, and wonderful sight gags. The movie is fast, witty, spooky and a lot of fun. You'd be nuts, like me, to keep this gem on the shelf for two years. Fully recommended!

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