Countdown To Halloween #28: The Monster Squad

Monsters are one of the most popular mainstays in all of fiction. Nearly every child has a universal connection with monsters in one way or another. From childhood it can manifest as a fear, typically of the quintessential “monster in the closet”, or simply just a fascination with them after conquering your fear of them. I think in a way, children can relate to monsters. When you’re young, by the virtue of being younger and less knowledgable, you tend to feel like an outsider. In much the same way that only children can relate to other children at that age, monsters only really get along with other monsters, and there’s a mixture of empathy there that children feel for monsters. For example, who didn’t feel remorse after seeing King Kong die? Not all monsters are as relatable as others, but we know that our fear of them only stems from our misunderstanding of them, and ourselves. So what am I getting at?

The Monster Squad. A movie about children who ostensibly form a club to learn about how to destroy monsters, yet embrace their own in the form of Frankenstein. A current trend right now in cinema is to try to invoke feelings of nostalgia by purposely manufacturing it. For instance, Super 8; an empty film that relied on other movies remembered by the audience to fill in its own inadequacies & character development. The Monster Squad is one of those rare, perfect movies that manages to be genuinely nostalgic because it takes conceptual characters from old Universal horror movie monsters, and blends them into then contemporary culture. Seeing a bunch of late 80’s motifs brings a sense of charm to the movie, without being a neon, hairsprayed mess of overblown proportions.

The characters in it are a group of kids, who have a club where they dedicate themselves to accumulating knowledge of how to kill monsters. Eventually, monsters really do show up in the real world, all in the form of newer versions of the old Universal classics. You’ve got The Mummy, Wolfman, Gill-Man (aka The Creature), Frankenstein’s Monster, and the ringleader, Dracula. Dracula has some plan that involves getting his hands on an amulet that can send them all away with the proper incantations. The kids find the amulet, using Abraham Van Helsing’s ancient journal, and combat the monsters one by one.

The film managed to take a bunch of monsters and put them in an ensemble piece that works pretty brilliantly. In a way, you could even say it’s the The Avengers of the Universal monsters universe, with how well it balances screen time between all of them. Each monster is dispatched creatively, and the friendship that The Monster Squad starts with Frankenstein is one of the most touching I’ve seen. Frankenstein is probably portrayed here in this film better than almost any post-Universal portrayal I’ve ever seen. Eventually the kids defeat Dracula and his monster minions, but only at the cost of losing their newly found monster friend, and the scene at the end where Frankenstein says his goodbyes will bring a tear to your eye. Unless you’re a goddamned black-hearted fiend.

What makes The Monster Squad such great characters is that they’re incredibly relatable. Who didn’t have a group of friends who hung out and shared a common interest, be it monsters or not? I know when I was younger my friends and I gathered to watch old monster movies, and often had debates about who would win in a fight. I always said Wolfman would, because he’s unstoppable without a silver bullet, as this movie shows.

Not even a stick of dynamite can kill him!

I still maintain that in a purely monster on monster fight, Wolfman would win because none of them could operate a gun. Maybe Dracula, but there’s been a whole series of shitty movies about vampires vs werewolves, so I won’t go into that. The movie itself makes a good point, that the monsters would probably all work together, rather than fight. Another point made is just how charming and fun the movie is. It has a wonderful sense of humor and never takes itself too seriously. The characters in the movie are always talking about things in a realistic way, and none of the kids seem like anything other than believable, real kids. Most kids in movies today are quote spouting, wise beyond their years weird meta-adults, who exist solely in the world of fiction. All of the kids in this film seem genuine, and say and act in ways that actually make sense.

Like kicking the Wolfman in the balls. Why has no one ever done this before? Or since!

All in all I can’t even begin to get to all the things that make The Monster Squad cool, you’ll just have to trust me when I say it’s one of the best monster team up movies ever made, if not THE best. Plus who doesn’t wanna see Wolfman get kicked in the balls?

Keep an eye out as another character on the Countdown will be revealed every night at 12:01 am for the rest of the month. You’ll also be able to find them HERE.

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