The Monster Squad (1987) is a scary movie for kids.
One hundred years ago in Transylvania, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing and a group of freedom fighters conspired to rid the world of vampires and monsters. They failed. Flash forward to current day. A group of misfit middle schoolers – Sean, the leader; Patrick, Sean’s best friend; Horace, also known as “fat kid”, Rudy, the bad boy from Junior High; and Phoebe, Sean’s younger sister. They run a monster club called “The Monster Squad” out of Sean’s tree house. They’re obsessed with everything monster related. So much so that they spend time in school making up and drawing monsters to put on the tree house walls. After school they spend most of the time discussing monsters and “Scary German Guy” – a mysterious old man that lives in the neighborhood who they believe is a monster.
But The Monster Squad is about to face the ultimate threat. Dracula has risen from his grave, determined to destroy a mystical amulet that will allow all evil to rule the earth. To help aid him in his quest, Dracula resurrects Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and Gillman. Since Sean’s father is a police detective and Sean learns of all the strange occurences happening in town. First a man claiming to be a werewolf is shot and seemingly killed, until the body disappears from the morgue later that night. Then a mummy disappears from the museum, even though there were no signs of a break-in. Sean puts two and two together and realizes there in an influx of monsters in town!
Now the group of misfits band together as the monster squad. They must use their expertise in monster folklore and the instructions in Van Helsing’s journal to battle Dracula and his monster minions in hopes of sending them back to the netherworld before the amulet is destroyed.
Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Gillman, and The Mummy – what more can you ask for? They’re all here, and they look great. Given there are five main monsters, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the makeup and costumes were. No doubt this is due to special effects guru Stan Winston being in charge of the monsters. He’s worked on everything, from The Thing to Terminator 3.
Duncan Regehr does a wonderful and accurate portrayal of Dracula. He’s evil, heartless, and determined to succeed in his quest at all costs. Besides the other monsters, there’s little character interaction with Dracula because the children and police are just minor annoyances in his path. This works well, though. He treats them like flies buzzing around his head – a minor annoyance, but nothing a quick swish of the hand can’t take care of. Tom Noonan also does a fine job as the cursed and misunderstood Frankenstein. It’s only the children that can look past Frankenstein’s exterior and see the good inside of him. It is only they that can befriend this gentle giant. The other monsters look good and act convincing. There are some great scenes with the Wolf Man including an exciting transformation scene.
The child actors each give fair performances; they are convincing in regards to their friendships and their love of monsters. They come across as normal, everyday friends thrown into this surreal situation, which is exactly how it should be.
What works about The Monster Squad? EVERYTHING! It’s a fun story with lots of humor and jabs regarding monster mythology. There are several scenes like this, and you find the answer to many of them at later points in the movie. They’re entertaining to watch and connect.
The Monster Squad has enormous appeal for children. It’s Rated PG, there’s no gore or killings to speak of, and all of the central characters are children. So yes, kids and adults can enjoy it together. I love this movie, but I’m biased since I watched it a lot as a child. There’s no doubt anyone who has seen The Monster Squad as a child will love it even today. For those that haven’t seen it, make it a must see! You’ll definitely find The Monster Squad entertaining on many different levels.