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  Monster Squad, The Join The Club
Year: 1987
Director: Fred Dekker
Stars: Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht, Duncan Regehr, Tom Noonan, Brent Chalem, Ryan Lambert, Ashley Bank, Michael Faustino, Mary Ellen Trainor, Leonardo Cimino, Jon Gries, Stan Shaw, Lisa Fuller, Jason Hervey, Jack Gwillim, David Proval, Daryl Anderson
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: A hundred years ago, Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Jack Gwillim) set out to banish the evil forces of Dracula (Duncan Regehr) once and for all. Storming into the Count's Transylvanian castle at the moment an ancient amulet opened up a gateway to the limbo of the damned, Van Helsing planned to send the villain there for good, but frankly, he blew it and ended up trapped there himself as Dracula was able to roam free. Now, a century later, the amulet is due to open up the portal once more, and Dracula is going to use it to spread his influence throughout the world...

Designed as a tribute to the Universal horror films of the thirties and forties, especially Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, The Monster Squad well nigh immediately won a cult of fans impressed by the respectful but irreverent treatment of the classic creatures that the titular good guys have to do battle with. It was scripted by director Fred Dekker (fresh off Night of the Creeps) and Shane Black (about to become the highest paid action movie writer of his era), showing a genuine understanding of what makes the characters appeal not only to adults but to kids as well.

The Squad is a group of small town, schoolkid monster movie fanatics led by Sean (Andre Gower), and looked to be an attempt at capturing the audience for The Goonies. However, where those Steven Spielberg-produced heroes were extremely irritating, the little guys in this film were less wisecracking and idiotic and more convincing as a children pitted against an evil that they can well understand, the evil featured in comic books or, well, monster movies. As such, you can imagine this would be exactly the kind of film they would choose to see themselves.

Sean is given a present of Van Helsing's original diary by his on the verge of breaking up parents, harried cop Del Crenshaw (Stephen Macht) and his wife Emily (Mary Ellen Trainor). This adds a touch of realism to a story based in fantasy, where Sean's fear his parents might divorce is less easy for him to accept than the fact that Count Dracula has arrived in the neighbourhood. As the diary is in German, Sean encourages his friends to accompany him to the house of the Scary German Guy (Leonardo Cimino), a local recluse, to translate, which he does for them, revealing the plans of the bad guys.

Those bad guys don't simply include Dracula, as he has resurrected the Frankenstein Monster (Tom Noonan) and brought along The Wolfman, The Mummy and the Gill Man of The Creature from the Black Lagoon fame. If there's a flaw in the film, it's that the monsters don't get enough screen time - it's all over far too quickly and The Mummy and Gill Man especially barely get a chance in the limelight. Pleasingly, Dekker and Black recognise that the Frankenstein Monster is far more sympathetic than the others, and he becomes an honorary Squad member after being despatched to find the diary and get rid of the kids. While depth is added with poignant moments, such as the glimpse of the concentration camp tattoo on German Guy's wrist to illustrate that he is all too aware of evil, this is mainly a rollicking romp that gets it right for all ages, providing you don't mind the swearing. Music by Bruce Broughton.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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