It is with no great pleasure that I must admit to the crime of never once watching The Monster Squad before in my life, but here we are. Thankfully, even though this film is a classic 80’s movie that many have grown up with, I was able to avoid spoilers and experience this one hundred percent blind, and I could not have been more thankful for that.
Everything about this flick just oozes 80’s charm from the monster design, to the set design and acting. The only thing that could possibly make Monster Squad even more a product of the 80’s would be if Van Halen had composed the entire soundtrack. However, with that thought in mind, that does sound like it would be pretty awesome.
The plot to The Monster Squad is a relatively simple one, but enjoyable enough that it doesn’t detract from the overall experience. Monsters are real, bad shit happens, and it’s up to the local monster enthusiasts to save the day before the world is consumed by evil. Simple enough, but the real reason you’re watching the flick is for the characters, and their interactions to the insanity unfolding around them.
The child actors were great in this movie, especially considering it’s a “family” movie from 1987. I say family like that because for a PG-13 movie, it treads on some seriously dark territory. From the crumbling marriage of Sean and Phoebe’s parents, to Scary German Guy being a Holocaust survivor, The Monster Squad is not afraid to explore the darker side of humanity.
The titular monster squad all have real on-screen chemistry and genuinely feel like a group of young friends bonding over their mutual love of the horror genre. Even the side characters like Scary German Guy, yes that’s the only name the character is given, feel genuine and his interactions with the children are a joy to see on screen, if not just a tad bit on the creepy side.
And it’s not just the human characters who excel, the monsters are fantastic in their own right. The star of the bunch of misfits being none other than Frankenstein’s monster, who was sent to kill our young protagonists and instead befriends the young monster hunters. Watching the monster learn and interact on screen, albeit brief, was genuinely heartwarming and I certainly had a smile on my face during every one of his scenes.
Other than Frankenstein’s monster we are treated to The Mummy, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Wolfman and finally, Count Dracula himself. The mummy and good old fishman felt like throwaway characters, as they never really do much during the course of the film other than be the butt of a few jokes here and there. The Wolfman is a little better, but the few scenes where he is human are incredibly brief and don’t add much to the experience.
As for Count Dracula, for me he was hit and miss. I personally thought it was a fantastic idea to not have him utter a single word until almost twenty minutes into the movie, giving off a more sinister vibe and having his first words be bone chilling. And then the actor beings to over act and phone it in a bit, essentially becoming a parody of the character, he’s portraying.
The overacting is not a problem necessarily, but it is jarring when in one scene Dracula is doing a serviceable job at being creepy and foreboding, only for the next screen to have him screaming and hammering away at a wall looking for his stolen amulet. The camp does begin to show itself during those moments, and it’s hard to tell if the scene is supposed to be taken seriously or not.
When Monster Squad starts out strong, and holds your attention until the final credit roll that much cannot be denied. What it does well it does extremely so, unfortunately the same goes for when the film stumbles. And it’s at these moments that the experience is diluted, though thankfully not ruined.
Look, Monster Squad is a damn good time, even when it’s trying a little too hard to be scary or funny. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but what movie is? I enjoyed my time with The Monster Squad, and all that 80’s fun has certainly gotten me even more excited for the premiere of Stranger Things season two this Friday.
Be sure to tune in next week for another edition of Late To The Party, this time we’ll be taking a look at 2006’s Hatchet.
Feature Image Credit: Chris Fischer