With the great Shane Black (he of The Nice Guys and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang!) debuting a cast pic for his new outing The Predator this week, why not go back to a flick that he and The Predator co-writer Fred Dekker previously penned together that kicks serious 80’s ass? Welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! Today we’re grabbing the gear and prepping for a little cool creature fight via a horror comedy that was way ahead of its time. It pits a gaggle of mean monsters including Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Gill-Man and Frankenstein against a gang of elementary school kids in a fight to the death – or at least until someone’s parents show up! Who’s in charge of this tiny tot mission – The Monster Squad!
Over a hundred years ago Dr. Abraham Van Helsing using both the words in his diary and an amulet composed of concentrated good tried to banish his adversary Count Dracula – he failed. Young movie creature fan and Monster Squad leader Sean Crenshaw ends up with the book years later and Dracula comes looking for it. So facing newly resurrected monsters each out for the book and amulet, Sean and his fellow squad members prepare to fight what they have only seen in movies for real.
I’m keeping the synopsis above simple stupid as any explanation of the nuances or quirky characters wouldn’t do the fantastic five-star film justice. Written by Black and Dekker (unintended pun!) and directed by the latter, the film mixes wry humor, sincere scares, some surprisingly moving drama and a whole lot of kid fun in a cinematically seamless way that most films never achieve. Plus as a product of the 80’s, the film unapologetically toasts everything no longer used in movies today – from taboo subjects discussed with wild abandon (the squad has to find a virgin – happy hunting!) to cruel kid issues faced head on (the fat kid character of Horace has the last laugh!) and even an occasional cool 80’s montage. (The ‘Rock Until You Drop’ getting ready segment still kicks ass!) But of course Black and Dekker fill the flick with their own brand of base kid humor (‘Wolfman’s got nards!’) and horror mockery for added amusement. (Love the scene where the unsuspecting father tries to convince his scared son there’s no monster in the closet – but there is!)
Plus helming on his own, Dekker comes up with a pretty colorful cast that all bring their A-game to what some could consider a B-movie. (Not me – just saying!) The members of the Squad itself are all memorable from Andre Gower’s earnest leader Sean to Brent Chalem’s frail but feisty Horace. (But for my money it’s the killer style of Ryan Lambert’s leather jacket wearing Rudy that gives the squad an extra caliber of cool!) On the monster side it’s a who’s who of actors early in their careers including the sinister Duncan Regehr as Count “meeting adjourned” Dracula, Jon “Uncle Rico” Gries as the reluctant Wolf Man and especially Manunter alum Tom Noonan as the surprisingly sympathetic Frankenstein. (Noonan’s scenes with young Ashley Bank are among the film’s best!) Both sides work in tandem to bring some of realism to the film’s fantastical events (the writing duo even try to ground the film deeper with marriage turbulence between Sean’s parents Mary Ellen Trainor and Stephen Macht to good effect!) and make the more unbridled moments all the more enjoyable.
I’m actually surprised in the day and age that the premise for this little hidden gem has not been bastardized for a sloppy sequel – but thank goodness. Not that anyone could frankly come close to the tongue-in-cheek charm that Black and Dekker so skillfully laid out with The Monster Squad. So enjoyable, so delightful and so utterly original is their work together that it begs for future collaborations – The Predator just got even better looking.