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Little Monsters – Collector’s Series (Blu-ray Review)

Well, well, well. Look who’s back in the time of the pandemic. Its Vestron Video! A sub-label from Lionsgate many thought had been put six feet under. There was word that new titles were being worked on but its been over a year a the least since one has come out. Now, its back with two pretty fun ones to resurrect the series. One of those happens to be the kind of wild kids movie Little Monsters. The film stars Fred Savage and Howie Mandel and has all sorts of wild hijinks. In a period of nostalgia for old 1980s kids movies, it feels that this one is still certainly forgotten. I’ll always remember it for feeling like I was getting away with something watching it due to a lot of the lewd humor and such. There are a lot of new bonus features on this release including a new interview with Howie Mandel! And its super cheap, so you can pick it up using the link below.

Film

Brian (Fred Savage) isn’t scared of the monster living under the bed. On the contrary, when he gets to know the wild-eyed boogeyman, Maurice (Howie Mandel), the pair become fast friends. During the night, Maurice takes his young charge into the netherworld of monsters, where they have a great time making mischief in the lives of sleeping children. But Brian’s opinion of Maurice and his freewheeling lifestyle changes when he discovers that he himself is turning into a monster.

Little Monsters is almost as much a slog as it is fun. However, its quite memorable and worthy of being a cult favorite film. There are plenty of ideas, designs and character that feel they may have inspired many things down the road. And for a kids movie, it has a bit of a dark and trashy look to it which gives a unique flavor altogether. Perhaps that the film being a little tone deaf in the “movie aimed at kids” department, but it feels a benefit for them nonetheless.

If you’re fond of 1980s horror and practical effects, this film really has it going in that regard. Beyond Howie Mandel’s Maurice, the monsters and make-up are a bit of fun and come off as a Dollar General version of Beetlejuice. Not a knock on Little Monsters, but the film is thinking big, but has its limitations. What it IS able to do is quite impressive and completely commendable. There are many fun, creative creatures here with some make-up that really works and some that isn’t quite able to pull it off. But it’s all very fun to take in at the end of the day. And that’s a plus.

I’m not quite in love with Little Monsters, but there is stuff to love about it. My memory always went to this as a dirty movie for kids. The kind of film that felt like we were getting away with something we weren’t supposed to be seeing. All the ruthless pranks pulled in the film that includes pissing in apple juice and a kid drinking it, as well as the really dark and creepy underworld really feels a little much for a kid. I showed this one to my kids and they had similar reactions that I can remember myself having and they honestly had a really good time with this movie. So, it still plays well to that age even now.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  No details are provided regarding the transfer for the Blu-ray debut of Little Monsters. I’m assuming this was a 2K scan from the appearance. It doesn’t look like any additional color work was done on it, as it has a bit of a washed out appearance. The image is also really dark. Yes, a lot of this is at nighttime, but there are a lot of scenes where things are just hard to see where they feel they shouldn’t be. It adds an edge to the feel of the movie, but a difficulty in seeing details. Its a little bit of a soft look, but still showcases some solid details and has the look as if you’re watching a print running in a projector.

Depth: When the film allows for it and is decently lit, it has some good background and foreground relations going on with solid pushback. Movements are cinematic in nature and have no issues with motion distortion.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and carry a little heavier grain in their look. As touched upon already, this is a really dark movie and stuff does get eaten up in the shadows or on dark surfaces. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are a little washed as is the entire image, but blues manage to pop most of all, showcasing a nice variance and saturation of it.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are slightly washed out, but consistent in appearance from start to finish. Details are stronger in close ups where the textures like stubble or freckles can be made out. Maurice’s make-up is plenty detailed and holds up very well as do pretty much all of the monsters.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Little Monsters arrives with a 2.0 track that pretty much does the trick. It manages to have some decent deep tones to it that reflect better than expected. There’s a pretty good balance between the foley effects, musical score and vocals that help to blend and bring this to life.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are plenty clear and audible throughout any of the louder situations.

Extras

Little Monsters – Collector’s Series comes with a redeemable digital code.

Audio Commentary

  • With Jarret Gahan, Editor-In-Chief of CultOfMonster.com
  • Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer David Newman

Call Him Maurice (HD, 18:39) – An interview with actor Howie Mandel. A quite playful and blunt recollection from Howie Mandel as he talks his misery from being under latex all summer filming in North Carolina (“I wouldn’t even put on a condom after shooting the film”). He still has the vest (which fits) and a fondness for the film. The interview is interrupted a few times by monsters dimming the lights and running in the shadows.

Beneath the Bed (HD, 13:54) – An interview with producer Andrew Licht. He recalls not giving up on getting this project done, landing Howie (As well as how grateful he was for the performance as he knew he was not having a good time) as well as others in the film, working with the director and how much he liked shooting in North Carolina.

Monsters Big & Small (HD, 14:55) – An interview with special make-up effects creator Robert Short. We open with a vintage on set interview from him which leads to his appreciation for cult films. Originally wanting to be a stunt man, Short started with Don Post studios. Great detail is given in the planning, sketches and the make-up that went into the film.

Vintage Interviews With Actors Fred Savage, Ben Savage, Special Make-Up Effects Creator Robert Short and Director Richard Alan Greenberg (HD, 29:02) – Obviously video sourced, these interviews were taken as some sort of EPK package. Though, they are pretty good and give us thoughts here on the disc (though not reflective, very promotional) from people who weren’t able to participate.

Behind-the-Scenes Footage (HD, 11:37) – Footage of Savage on wires, Mandel with the flame thrower and mostly scenes in the under the bed world.

Making Maurice (HD, 16:16) – Vintage footage of Howie Mandel’s make-up transformation. As seen in some of the interviews on this disc, here is the full on make-up process video for Howie Mandel becoming Maurice.

Vintage EPK & VHS Promo (HD, 9:19) – This is some video nerd nostalgic fun. Comes from a VHS source though encoded for HD.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:28) 

Still Gallery (HD, 3:36)

Summary

Little Monsters was a fun revisit for the first time since I saw this on VHS in the 1980s to share with my kids (Who really got a kick out of it). Vestron/Lionsgate has put together a transfer akin to watching a print of the film with solid audio accompanying it. They really knocked one out of the park with these extras, too. And the darn thing is $9.99. What’s not to love here for those even potentially the slightest bit curious to check it out again or for the first time.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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