The Monster Squad Blu-ray Review: And the Children Shall Lead

The Monster Squad and Wolfman’s Got Nards, the 30th anniversary documentary about the film and its fans, are available together in Kino Lorber’s Studio Classics The Monster Squad 4K UHD set or separately on Blu-ray. The pair make a great double feature to celebrate co-writer/director Fred Dekker’s ’80s cult classic.

Buy The Monster Squad (Special Edition) Blu-ray

When Dracula (Duncan Regehr, whose performance is closer to the terrifying Christopher Lee than the charming Bela Lugosi) unites his monster friends (Frankenstein’s monster (Tom Noonan), the Wolfman (Jonathan Gries), the Mummy, the Gillman) in Anytown, USA, it’s up to the Monster Squad to stop their plans for global domination by using an amulet to open a portal and send them into Limbo. But the squad is not a highly trained military outfit tasked with battling the supernatural. No, the Monster Squad members are preteen boys who love horror movies: Sean (Andre Gower), Patrick (Robby Kiger), Horace aka Fat Kid (Brent Chalem), slightly older tough guy Rudy (Ryan Lambert), and Eugene (Michael Faustino), the youngest. Sean’s sister Phoebe (Ashley Bank) wants to join the club but she’s a girl, and to all the boys, other than Rudy, girls are icky.

Sean’s mom gives him an old book she found, which turns out to be Van Helsing’s diary. The squad learns of the magical amulet, which is hidden in the house where Dracula’s team is hiding out. Except for Frankenstein’s monster, who befriends Phoebe after their meeting in the woods. Rather than turning matters over to Sean’s father (Stephen Macht), who is a police detective, the squad decides to go it alone and take on the monsters.

In the Monster Squad Forever documentary available in The Monster Squad Special Features, Dekker talks about his inspiration for the film being the horror-comedy classic Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein but in the comedy role it’s the Little Rascals meeting the Universal Monsters. That idea comes through as the monsters (altered enough to avoid any trademark lawsuits from the studio) are similar to their Universal counterparts. Yet the kids have been updated to the ’80s. They aren’t as sweet and innocent as Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla and the gang. Horace isn’t just called “fat kid” by a pair of bullies, but by his friends also. Even the closed captions identify him as “Fat Kid” when he speaks. Rudy likes the squad’s clubhouse because he can peep on Patrick’s hot sister.

The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at aspect ratio of 2.35:1. A new 4K restoration was created from the original camera negative. The image captures pleasing color hues, from satisfying earth tones to strong reds. Blacks are inky. There’s a pleasing film grain appearance. Otherwise, the image looks clean and it delivers solid clarity and depth. The appearance of the vortex by Richard Edlund and his special effects team falters in high definition.

The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0, the latter being the original theatrical stereo audio. Dialogue is clear throughout. On the 5.1, mild ambiance and composer Bruce Broughton’s score can be heard in the surrounds.

The Special Features are:

  • Audio commentary by Director Fred Dekker and Cinematographer Bradford May
  • Audio commentary by Director Fred Dekker and Actors Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert, and Ashley Bank
  • Monster Squad Forever: Five-Part Documentary (76 min) – A feature-length documentary filmed for the 20th anniversary
  • A Conversation with Frankenstein: Archival Piece with Tom Noonan (9 min) – Recorded in 1986 during last week of shooting, Noonan appears in character.
  • Deleted Scenes (14 min) – Title cards reveal background on these 13 scenes “culled from writer/director Fred Dekker’s personal archives, while some were retrieved from the film’s syndication television version.”
  • Animated Storyboard Sequence (2 min) – Intended for the final fight between the Monster Squad and the Mummy. Presented in tandem with the finished scene as it appears in the film.
  • Still Gallery (9 min)
  • TV Spots (1 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Monster Squad is reminiscent of ’80s kids-adventure movies that Spielberg directed and produced like E.T. and The Goonies. There’s even a pair of parents headed for divorce. But it is distinct from those films due to its smart script that diverges with cruder comedy and chilling moments of horror and violence that earned the film its PG-13 rating. If that combination sounds appealing (and if you grew up loving monster movies, how could it not?), then The Monster Squad is for you.

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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