Prince Charles Cinema: ‘The Monster Squad’

Any kid who hung around video shops in the late 1980s will remember the The Monster Squad (1987) with great affection and as the lights went down at the Prince Charles Cinema every soul in the auditorium was hoping Fred Dekker’s cult classic would stand the test of time.

Written by Lethal Weapon (1987) scribe Shane Black and featuring the legendary Stan Winston on special effects make-up duty, The Monster Squad was unfairly labelled a The Goonies (1985) rip-off back in the day and did meagre business at the box-office. It’s been almost 25 years since anyone in the UK has had the opportunity to catch it on the big screen in its original 35mm print so this was quite a coup for the Prince Charles.

Horror film fan Sean (Andre Gower) and his amigos Patrick (Robby Kiger) and Horace (Brent Chalem) are obsessed with scary movies. So much so they form a club, The Monster Squad, and spend their days watching fright flicks and playing monster hunter games. As luck would have it the gang chance upon the diary of a Mr. Van Helsing which describes his battles with the villainous Count Dracula and a mystical amulet which can be used to cast all monsters into limbo. This amulet happens to be hidden somewhere in the squads home town and when Dracula and his posse of ghouls turn up to collect and destroy the amulet the scene is set for a grand stand off between the forces of good and the forces of evil.

Like many 80s family movies The Monster Squad is loaded with scenes that overly sensitive parents might not be able stomach. The horror is diluted and played for laughs so if you don’t the mind the odd vampire bat, screaming corpse and scenes of gratuitous teenage smoking then you should remain blissfully nightmare free. In fact the beauty of the film is that pokes fun at characters such as Frankenstein’s monster, The Wolfman and the Mummy and therefore renders them far less scary to viewers who might have previously hidden behind the couch at the sight of one these creatures.

Fred Dekker’s previous film Night of the Creeps (1986) had a similar mixture of humour and horror as The Monster Squad and the man has a talent for combining the genres. OK – so he might be responsible for the deplorable Robocop 3 (1993) which is the last film he directed but based on his previous work, maybe Hollywood should have given him more opportunities then he got. It’s also worth mentioning the special effects by the Stan Winston Studio which by 80s B-movie standards are top draw and look even more impressive on the big screen.

The Monster Squad is a difficult film to criticise due to its childhood connection, suspiciously edited yet also a fun and respectful homage to the classic Universal monster movies. Is it good as you’d remember? Probably not, but it still retains enough magic to keep your inner 12-year-old satisfied.

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Lee Cassanell