The Monster Squad (1987)

You’d be hard pressed to find a movie combining more classic monsters than this 1987 cult hit horror comedy from Fred Dekker. You’ve got ‘em all. Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, Gill Man, and Wolfman. Pretty much every Universal horror icon come together on one screen to… wage an epic battle with elementary school kids in suburban America? If you’ve never seen this, prepare to have your movie quote arsenal significantly upgraded. Check out the trailer below and see what we think about the squad. But there are spoilers. We know a thing or two about spoilers.

 
 

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Mark: Monster Squad. Not sure where they got the name for this movie from. Jake, this was your pick for October. I’d personally never heard of it before now… give us the backstory on this one. Why is it your Halloween pick?

Jake: The main reason is pretty simple. When I think of a movie I associate with the Halloween holiday, I want it to be fun. Fun is exactly what this is. It is a roundup all the classic Universal monsters, so it fires on all cylinders from a seasonal, party-fare perspective with its recognizable characters, and it’s extremely nostalgic. What more could you ask for?

Mark: Maybe a bag of chips? This thing is a nostalgia roller coaster. The movie harkens back to a time when bullies were mean to your face, you’d go to the principal's office for drawing in class, the cool tough kids wore bike leathers on their bicycle, and “overweight” meant you were about 10 pounds heavier than your classmates. Seriously, the kid who literally goes by the moniker “Fat Kid” for most of the movie could basically be a track star by today’s standards.

What "fat" looked like 30 years ago.

What "fat" looked like 30 years ago.

Jake: Let’s not neglect the fact that this also harkens back to a time when seemingly everyone had a luxurious treehouse in which to start a club located conveniently in their backyard… You know what? Actually, this movie is pretty much just The Goonies but with monsters instead of Guidos. I mean fuck, the main kid even has the same mom.

Mark: Before that realization fully sets in we’re introduced to an actual squad of monsters, though notably this is not the eponymous monster squad. You’ve got Dracula, the lead baddie, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, a werewolf, a mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster. It’s a regular murderer’s row of classic horror movie monsters.

Jake: It’s ALL of them. I’m not totally sure, but I don’t think there is another movie out there where this happens, so it’s also pretty special. Does it make for a sensible story though?

Mark: Yeah sure I guess…. Something something amulet… something something Van Helsing. There’s technically a plot here somewhere, but I doubt you’re watching this thing for the narrative that it’s spinning. It’s your standard “bad guys want to destroy/steal/consume some maguffin in order to take over the world” storyline.

Jake: Yeah, there’s no goddamn chance someone is watching this thing for the finer details of the story. For the sake of maintaining our spotless record of spoiler HEAVY reviews however, the basic idea of this flick is that there is that the forces of good and evil are in a constant tug-o-war and every so often (100 years-ish) they become well enough aligned for said mystical amulet to become vulnerable. No surprise, the monsters are evil, and apparently anyone who is not one of a select few Hollywood produced movie icons from the 1930’s is good. If one side gains control over the amulet during the crucial period of balance, they can manipulate it to control the fate of the other by speaking German. Remember not to think too hard because trying to make logic happen here might literally kill you.

Mark: ...or otherwise get you sucked into a CG black(plot)hole along with a fence and a pickup truck. It is very unclear what things are actually affected by the wormhole.

Jake: So Dracula, as de facto leader, has rounded up a bunch of other monsters to gain control of the amulet and plunge the world into darkness. He goes as far as to ship Frankenstein’s monster’s body from transylvania or wherever and revive it in a thunderstorm just to… I’m not really sure… increase his monstrousness?

Mark: After all the hullaballoo that Count Dracula went through, Frankenstein’s monster ends up just defecting and helping out the Monster Squad anyway. What the hell, man? If you can’t trust a monstrous abomination of science then who can you trust? The 80s were a dark time.

Jake: They may have been a dark time, but they also gave us awesome montages, and Frankenstein’s Monster joining the group, if nothing else, served as a delivery mechanism for some real Rocky-level shit.

 

Ready to break someone's head yet?

 

Jake: With monster Benedict Arnold now on their side, the true Monster Squad is fully realized and prepares to wage epic and holy battle against the powers of pure evil. This message was brought to you by Burger King and Pepsi Cola.

Mark: In yet another plot-rocking twist the amulet is actually in the basement of the house that Dracula and his rag tag gang of monsters have been inhabiting this whole time. I guess they didn’t really have much of a fleshed out plan to find this thing since they’ve been sitting on it all this time. I mean they clearly holed up in this house for some reason, but apparently not because they had intel the thing they’ve been looking for for 100 years was literally just down some stairs. Perhaps even Dracula is afraid of the basement? I’ve seen Pod. That’s where the scary shit lives.

Jake: Can’t be. The Mummy lives in the basement in Pod, Mark. We’ve established this… I think it boils down to Dracula being a dumbass. He sent Frankenstein’s Monster to go get the kids. He could have chosen any one of his cronies, and he picked this guy.

Good move, fuckstick.

Good move, fuckstick.

Mark: You always gotta pick the lovable idiot. That’s why I find myself so frequently in work.

Jake: So while the monsters bumble around, the Monster Squad makes silver bullets, stakes, and wrangles the one virgin who takes German class to do their bidding by blackmaining her with some pics they took of her with her tits out. Wholesome, family viewing... True to form though, they find out she isn’t actually a virgin. When she reads the incantation in Van Helsing’s diary (which is supposed to open up a black hole that selectively sucks monsters into the netherworld and which randomly appeared on club leader, Sean’s desk because there’s a creepy German guy who may or may not be Van Helsing himself but certainly loves pie), nothing happens. The group is left scrambling and fighting off the monsters while they figure out what to do.

Mark: Long story short, The Monster Squad use the 5-year-old little sister Phoebe to open up a black hole in the middle of the town to suck up all the evil and save the world from the threat of Dracula forever (or at least for 100 years… it’s unclear). Easy peasy pudding pie. Case closed. The military shows up long after they’re needed, and immediately ask the gang of 8 year olds what’s going on. They say that they’re the Monster Squad and all high five. The military seems confused. Though, I guess if you’re getting your intelligence and operational orders from said 8 year olds the confusion is relatively unsurprising.

Jake: I guess you could say they show up too late but my god, they arrived in a matter of hours, man. I guess it’s a little vague, but at most, they rolled in, fully armed and ready to kill, in a day. You seriously fucking telling me you expect faster service? I’d say if anything, it shows the sort of American muscle that makes our army an unstoppable force. Plus moustaches.

Mark: Can we just return to a time when every movie’s plot is recapped plot point by plot point in a rap song that is played over the credits? Because that shit is the thing I miss most out of the last two decades of movies. I just don’t feel I walk away with a full comprehension of the plot without it being recapped by whatever hip-hopper they could hire off the street.

 

Just in case you're unclear on the plot of the movie.

 

Jake: It was objectively a better time, my friend.

Mark: So yeah, overall this movie isn’t great for its story or its general level of immersion. You know what this movie is good for, though? It’s a fucking quotable masterpiece. There are so many choice quotes in this thing. You ever been dorked? See you later, bandaid breath. I’m a very good policeman, you know that? Meeting adjourned (massive explosion from multiple angles). KICK HIM IN THE NARDS! All great.

Jake: BANG. Ratings?

Mark: Ratings.


RATINGS (1-10)

For 1, think of how Rhett Butler would rate how much he cares:

 
 

For 10, think of how badly Jeb Bush wants his audience to clap:

 
 

STORY:

Mark: 5 - This story is very unique. I don’t think I can name another film in which a rag tag group of misfits combats a rag tag group of classic horror monsters. However, it is largely nonsensical and tailor made for elementary school logic. Adults are incompetent and kids are the only chance the world has at survival. There’s a lot of suspension of disbelief that has to happen to make this a logical storyline, but the movie’s tone is so zany that the story doesn’t detract from the film overall.

Jake: 6.5 - As mentioned earlier, I don’t know of another movie that actually rounds up every single Universal monster and manages to feature them all on screen at once. Does it make sense? Fuck no. But how could it? And why should it?

WORLD-BUILDING / IMMERSION:

Mark: 2.5 - I mean, it’s not trying to be immersive. If you are an 8 year old you are probably deeply immersed, but if you are any older then the cracks begin to show. This is less a movie that you lose yourself in and more a movie you put on as you are getting drunk so that you and your friends can yell lines at the television screen. In that sense, I’m immersed in this film so that I can absorb all of the awesome tackiness of the script.

Jake: 4 - While not immersive in any part because of its plot progression, I do think this flick hits a good chord with the world it builds. It blends its humor and adventure pretty well, and consistently throws out great one liners. It’s just going for fun, and it delivers on that, which in turn creates a specific kind of immersion, albeit one that is not a hallmark of the horror genre.

SCARE-FACTOR:

Mark: 1 - See my earlier comments on story and immersion. There could conceivably be a point where you were scared when the kids were getting closed in on every side by dracula, the mummy, and the brides of dracula only to be saved by a trap door that could have been tense, but realistically this isn’t a scary movie. I might describe this more as a “horror adjacent” movie than actual horror. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a different kind of fun than you get from your more traditional horror movie fare.

Jake: 1 - This is not a scary movie, and it’s not really a horror movie for that matter. I agree with mark in calling it “horror adjacent” due to its roundup of the most classic horror fare imaginable, but from an executional standpoint, this is pretty much just an adventure movie.

EFFECTS (OR JUDICIOUS LACK THEREOF):

Mark: 7.5 - Surprisingly solid. The monsters look great. There’s a lot of pyrotechnics (even from multiple angles at times). There’s a ghost car that looks good. The interiors of the amulet house look like a classic horror movie set, and the tree house is your typical epic-clubhouse level structure. The only thing I’ll complain about is the portal at the end that looks painfully fake. I’m not sure what they could’ve done about it though with the technology of the time. The effects never really took me out of the experience.

Jake: 8.5 - I miss the awesome care and attention that went into the practical effects of the 80’s. They fucking blow Wolfman up with a stick of dynamite this movie, while throwing him out a window. It’s practical, and it’s awesome. The score also deserves props. It's very 80’s, and the movie benefits more as time passes because of it. The awkward end sequence created by the CG black hole is really bad, but the rest is awesome.

OVERALL:

Mark: 7.5 - There is A LOT of tilt involved in this rating, primarily because this style of movie (horror adjacent or potentially horror-comedy) doesn’t really lend itself to our ratings categories. This movie is wildly fun to watch and is something that you’ll find yourself enjoying all the way through. I hadn’t really ever heard of this before watching, but now I’ll probably be circling back on this one every year. Good pick, Jake.

Jake: 8 - Like Mark, this movie gets a massive tilt for just being flat out awesome. The Halloween season, to me, is one of the most fun times of the year, and is meant to bring your inner kid out, which is what this movie does to absurd effect. Horror adjacent be damned, we set out to pick a movie for the holiday, and this one is fuckin’ close to perfect on that front.