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  Little Monsters Don't Look Under The Bed
Year: 1989
Director: Richard Greenberg
Stars: Fred Savage, Howie Mandel, Daniel Stern, Margaret Whitton, Rick Ducummon, Frank Whaley, Ben Savage, William Murray Weiss, Devin Rattray, Amber Baretto, J. Michael Hunter, Tom Hull, Magbee, Lisa Cain, Tom Bonsignore, Dana Wood, Byron Faler
Genre: Horror, Comedy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Brian Stevenson (Fred Savage) is a young boy who has recently moved into this neighbourhood with his parents (Daniel Stern and Margaret Whitton) and his little brother Eric (Ben Savage), but there's a problem: he can't make any new friends. Feeling lonely, he retreats into himself and looks forward to the nights when he can make a sandwich and watch the late television shows while everyone else is asleep. Of course his schoolwork is suffering, but there's trouble at home as well when pranks start to be played and everyone blames Brian, despite his protests that none of this is his fault. Yet could there be something in his brother's cries that there is a monster under his bed - could that be the culprit?

It's a quirk of movies that some can be accused of being a rip-off, and then other movies can rip off the rip-offs, in a cycle, and Little Monsters was initially claimed to be a straight copy of the Tim Burton hit Beetlejuice (it had nothing to do with the zombie flick of decades later, which featured a different plot entirely). But fast forward into the twenty-hundreds and you would find this item being claimed to be the inspiration for the Pixar movie Monsters Inc, which made more money than this could ever dream of, pardon the phrase, though by that point the target audience for Little Monsters had long since grown up and it was debatable whether they were showing the picture to the kids of their own they had brought into the world.

That was because it was one of a number of efforts from the nineteen-eighties, and the seventies for that matter, that were aimed at children but looking back contained elements, plot points and humour that would be deemed inappropriate all this time later. Anything on a wide range of quality from Gremlins to The Garbage Pail Kids Movie would fall into that category, yet the popular culture was so obsessed with the horror genre, and the target audience for that had become far younger than it had been in previous eras thanks to the proliferation of VHS players allowing the younglings access to all sorts of entertainment that was really too mature for them. Not for nothing was Freddy Krueger, arguably the biggest horror icon of the eighties, extremely popular with teens and even younger, when they really should not have been watching that sort of material (and that Krueger guy was a child-killer character!).

Little Monsters was not really in this dubious category, but it did include all sorts of makeup effects and costumes designed to be grotesque and nightmarish that you would never get in a kids' movie today, not to mention some very off-colour jokes. When Brian investigates his brother's bedroom, he discovers Howie Mandel as Maurice, a blue, horned and fanged creature who is essentially a mischief maker - it is he who has been behind the pranks - but knows monsters who are worse and keen to make a bigger impact on the non-nightmare community. Maurice hails from an underworld where the monsters rule and can access children's bedrooms at night, but mostly uses this power to make mayhem and Brian initially becomes a willing apprentice until in a spot of morality he realises how cruel he is being and decides to shake up his and Maurice's act. All very well, but now Eric has been kidnapped... Considering those effects would not have been out of place in a Freddy instalment (which this was curiously similar too, only relatively milder), Little Monsters appeared to be training the tots to watch actual horror movies, and while it could not resist sentimentality, it was a convincing "gateway drug" to the style. But would kids in this century understand? Music by David Newman.

[Vestron and Lionsgate release this cult title on a Special Edition Blu-ray, with masses of extras for fans:

Audio Commentary with Jarret Gahan, Editor-in-Chief of CultofMonster.com
Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer David Newman
Call Him Maurice - An Interview with Actor Howie Mandel
Beneath The Bed - An Interview with Producer Andrew Licht
Monsters Big & Small - An Interview with Special Make-up Effects Creator Robert Short
Vintage Interviews with Actors Fred Savage, Ben Savage, Special Make-up Effects Creator Robert Short, and Director Richard Alan Greenberg
Behind The Scenes Footage
Making Maurice - Vintage Footage of Howie Mandel's Make-up Transformation
Vintage EPK & VHS Promo
Theatrical Trailer
Stills Gallery.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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