Starring Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht, Duncan Regehr, Tom Noonan, Ashley Bank, Ryan Lambert, Brent Chalem, Leonardo Cimino
Directed by Fred Dekker
Distributed by Lionsgate
The Monster Squad DVD Review. Words alone cannot express just how long I have been waiting to type out that sentence. The time has come and I couldn’t be happier. Not only is one of my all time favorite films officially available on DVD, but Lionsgate has put out a package with nards-a-plenty! Before I begin, please excuse me for one moment, will you? Thanks!
Hear that? That was the sound of me throwing away my four different bootlegs of the film and my old brittle VHS tape. I would advise you all to do the same. You will never need them again.
For those out there who have been living under a rock for the last two decades or for new fans looking to find out what all the fuss is about, let’s recap the story for a bit.
Count Dracula (played with amazingly evil grace by Duncan Regehr) has a new plan for world domination. He’s joined forces with The Wolfman, The Creature, The Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster (Noonan) as a means to unleash all of the powers of darkness upon the Earth. The only thing standing in their way? A scary German guy (Cimino) and, of course, a group of teens and pre-teens who make up The Monster Squad. Yeah, there’s a bit more to it, but trust me. All you need to know is the basic gist.
Before this the only movie to succeed in packing as much monster punch was the classic Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Truth be told, The Monster Squad excels for the very same reason that film did — the monsters play it straight. They’re scary, murderous, menacing, and fuckin’ cool to look at! Director Fred Dekker effortlessly delivers all of the fun of yesteryear to modern audiences. Well, that is if you can consider the Eighties modern anymore. Shit, I could sit here all day ranting about why this flick is a classic, but chances are if you’re reading this, you already know. Instead let’s focus on the supplemental material.
Now this is a two-disc 20th Anniversary Edition done right. It’s as if there’s one disc for each decade we’ve waited! Where to begin? How abooooouuut … disc one — the movie. No more bleeding colors or sub-par soundtracks. The Monster Squad has never ever looked or sounded better. The high definition transfer and 5.1 sound mix are a treat for the eyes and ears. That’s right! I’m gushing! I’ve been waiting forever for this! Screw you if ya don’t like it! Also to be found here are two commentaries. The first is with Dekker and squad members Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert, and Ashley Bank. The second is with Dekker and director of photography Bradford May. While they each offer something very different in terms of content and information, they share one common thread … they’re extremely entertaining! It’s obvious that all of the principals involved have been raring to go in terms of wanting to do this, and once they begin, the good times come fast and furious. Nothing like having three different choices pertaining to how you will watch one helluva movie! Sweet! That’s it for disc one, but strap in, kids! Disc two is a whopper!
Michael Felsher and his company Red Shirt Pictures have put together a five-part feature length documentary and a half for us entitled Monster Squad Forever. Simply put, this film delivers every single thing a fan could want. Felsher has a genuine affection for this stuff, and it shows in every single frame and edit. Let’s break down the five parts, shall we?
The Monster Master: Clocking in at about eleven minutes, this segment introduces us to Fred Dekker, a filmmaker looking to make it into the biz despite being kicked out of two of the country’s biggest film schools. Here we trace Fred’s story from his first screen credit, House, through Night of the Creeps (how about someone puts that out on DVD next? Pretty please?), and continuing on to our subject of the day. All I can say is thanks for sticking with it, Fred! You’ve made a lot of memories!
The Monster Makers: Why does this movie kick such a copious amount of ass? Check out the line-up of talent bringing the ghoulish gang to life: Stan Winston, Tom Woodruff, Jr., Matt Rose, and Steve Wang. I think that about says it all. This sixteen-minute segment takes an in-depth look at what it took to bring each of the creatures back to the big screen. All the creatures except for The Mummy that is. My guess is that since he unravelled in the film he’s remained unavailable for comment. Moving on …
The Monsters and the Squad: Here’s where everyone involved starts dishing out the on-set memories for a full twenty-two minutes. For instance, did you know that Liam Neeson was originally slated to play Dracula? Or maybe that Tom Noonan never let the kids see him out of character? Truly interesting stuff; however, things end on a bit of a somber note. It is revealed that Brent Chalem, who played everyone’s favorite fat kid, Horace, died ten years ago due to complications from pneumonia. He was 22. Godspeed, Brent; we wish you were here to share in this.
Lights, Cameras, Monsters: This twenty-six-minute segment delves into the more technical aspects of the film with a good chunk of time set aside for director of photography Bradford May and Dekker himself discussing various shots and set-ups for the flick. Also included here are a talk with composer Bruce Broughton about the score and a brief discussion about the movie’s marketing and eventual box office failure. I’m sure all parties concerned are feeling pretty damned good about themselves now, however, as evidenced by the final segment of the doc …
Monster Mania: Sometimes movies can take an awfully long time to find their audiences. For The Monster Squad it’s taken about twenty years. This twelve-minute segment brings us some archival footage shot at Cherry Hill, New Jersey’s Monster Mania convention, which featured a Monster Squad reunion panel. Turns out the stars and crew of this film had no idea there was such a cult following for it. Needless to say, the reunion was a smash, and it’s great to have a piece of it immortalized forever on DVD.
The total run-time for the above segments (which can be viewed individually or as a whole) is about one hour and twenty-seven minutes. That’s like having a whole other movie. But wait … there’s more! I shit you not!
We still have to tackle around eight minutes of deleted scenes. According to the text intro(s) not much was cut from the film and there are still a couple of minor sequences missing. What is here primarily focuses on the marital problems experienced by the parents of the leader of The Monster Squad, Sean (Gower). There are a couple of worthwhile things though that come in the form of a wink wink at Universal Pictures in a newscast, and a whole lot of (hold on to your asses) fish vomit. Yep. You read that right, and that’s all I’m saying.
The usual supplemental suspects can also be found here in full force such as the theatrical trailer (which has also been remastered), the original TV spot, an animated storyboard featurette of The Mummy fight sequence, and of course a five-minute still gallery.
That’s still not it though. I’ve saved the best for last. Get ready to check out the first and only filmed interview with The Frankenstein Monster from 1986. Clocking in at around eight minutes, this truly candid interview shows us a different side of old Franky. One that’s tired of being typecast as a monster all the time. Believe me when I tell you, this shit is side splittingly funny. “How was I supposed to know that little girl couldn’t swim?” Fucking classic!
Do you need any more reasons to buy this DVD like yesterday? The Monster Squad is every bit as entertaining today as it was twenty years ago. Hell, it seems to be getting better with age. This new classic is one that pushes every boundary just far enough to entertain fans of any age. Lionsgate has given it the golden treatment, and as it stands right now, this package has my vote for Horror DVD of the Year!
Know what’s gonna be weird though? Going to conventions and not seeing table after table of DVD-R bootlegs of The Monster Squad. A new day is dawning I tell ya! Now just imagine what it would be like if Night of the Creeps was available as well. A guy can dream, no?
5 out of 5
5 out of 5
Discuss The Monster Squad in our forums!