DVD Review – THE MONSTER SQUAD 20th Anniversary

     August 9, 2007

Reviewed by Jonah

In the summer twenty years ago—and yes, I realize I’ve just dated myself—I saw a little film called THE MONSTER SQUAD. The film was by no means life changing. But, when you’re nine years old, life changing is not really what you want when you go to the movies. You want funny, or maybe scary. Perhaps some adventure and an itty bit of drama. More than anything, at nine years old I wanted my good guys good, my bad guys bad, and I wanted to feel like my $3.50 was money well spent. Enter THE MONSTER SQUAD.

For a kid who collected comic books, and loved old monster movies, the idea of a group of kids not unlike himself battling not just one, but most of the classic movie monsters, was an easy sell. Throw in some swearing, a little slapstick humor, and a few decent scares and well, let’s just say that $3.50 was spent more than once, and two pirated VCR tapes would eventually be burned through. Oh, and the immortal line “Wolfman has nards,” would be oft quoted over the years.

Fast forward from 87 to the present, and picture the nine year old now looking at his looming thirtieth birthday as well as a copy of THE MONSTER SQUAD 20TH ANNIVERSARY DVD. Now, in my experience you must always be cautious when viewing a beloved childhood film or TV treasure. I mean, sure the THUNDERCATS look cool still, but story, character development, slick animation…. these things all eluded on more recent viewings. So, it was with a little trepidation that the first of two disks was placed in the Toshiba player to begin the review process. I needn’t have worried.

The script by Shane Black and director Fred Dekker still delivers. There’s action, comedy, a twinge of drama, and kick ass monster effects. But, more impressively, the duo manages to depict how a group of kids would act and talk if called upon to save the world from “the forces of darkness”. The superb cast is headed up by a group of child actors second only to, in my opinion, the cast of THE GOONIES. Sean (Andre Gower) leads the squad, which consists of Patrick (Robby Kiger), Fat Kid/AKA Horace (Brent Chalem), and cool older kid Rudy played by Ryan Lambert.

Sean and friends must find an amulet that will send Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Gillman, and the Mummy to Limbo forever, before Drac and company can find the amulet and destroy it, sending the world into darkness. Along the way we are treated to the real life marital woes of Sean’s parents, bully trouble, issues of fitting in, and more than a handful of shenanigans. Did I mention I needn’t have worried?


While disk two of the two disk set is the primary home for special features, there are two—count ‘em two—commentary tracks on disk one. One track is your standard DVD commentary fare. Featuring Director Dekker and Cinematographer Bradford May, the track discusses the technical side of the film making process. It’s good, but a little dry when compared to the other track. The second track features Dekker and cast members Ryan Lambert, Andre Gower and Ashley Banks (who portrayed Sean’s younger sister Phoebe). Behind the scenes stories are always good, clean fun. Throw a little alcohol into the mix, and note that the actors, now in their twenties and thirties are trying to recall a film they made as kids and well, hilarity ensues. More than a few good stories are shared as are many a few good drinks.

Disk two is absolutely full of special features. Full I tell you.

The STILL GALLERY features behind the scenes and promo photos, including one which carries the tag: “Never send a man to do a kid’s job!”

Both the TV and FILM trailers are presented, giving a glimpse at how the film was marketed, and perhaps also why the film had a hard time finding its audience.

An ANIMATED STORYBOARD SEQUENCE shows the transition from story boards to finished product featuring a fight with the Mummy.

The DELETED SCENES section is longer than one might think. Several scenes between Sean’s parents Del (Stephen Macht) and Emily (Mary Ellen Trainor) were cut, most probably to lighten the film’s tone a bit. A scene in which Sean loads his father’s gun doesn’t make the final cut either—for obvious reasons. Perhaps the best/worst deleted scene involves the Gillman’s last gasp—and by gasp I mean the Gillman booting minnows and water as he breathes his last. Classic!

In A CONVERSATION WITH FRANKENSTEIN, actor Tom Noonan who portrays the famous monster in the film dishes about his trails and tribulations in the industry, hanging out with the Wolfman, and why he should get the girl. Noonan refused to break character on the set, leading to many stories featured on the disks, as well as the interview itself.

The bulk of the special features is a five part featurette entitled MONSTER SQUAD FOREVER.

Part One MONSTER MAKER features interviews with Dekker and Producer Jonathan Zimbert on Dekker’s career pre MONSTER SQUAD, including the part in played in writing another cult hit HOUSE, as well as initially pitching the MONSTER SQUAD.

Part Two MONSTER MAKERS takes a look at many of the preproduction aspects, especially the incredible make-up by master craftsman Stan Winston. Actors Noonan, Duncan Regehr (Dracula), and Tom Woodruff Jr (Gillman) discuss the ups and downs of being made into scary monsters.

Part Three MONSTERS AND THE SQUAD takes a look at the actors who discuss the process as well as tell stories about each other including pranks pulled and how kids feel about method acting.

Part Four LIGHTS, CAMERA, MONSTERS is easily the most academic of the segments. Bruce Broughton discusses creating the rousing score. Bradford May discusses the challenges of lighting a dark kids movie. And, Director Dekker discusses both his inexperience at the start of the film as well as the immense joy he felt crafting the film.

The finale MONSTER MANIA examines how the film has become a pop-culture fixture with twenty and thirty somethings. From the first buzz on the “new” internet, to sold out screenings in Austin, Texas, and finally culminating in a now sold out DVD release, it would seem the film has found its audience.

Final Words

My love for the film is well known. But I am not alone. From Ain’t It Cool to Myspace pages, everyone is singing the films praise. And the set itself, chock full of special features is just added incentive to pick up the DVD…if you can find a copy. The initial order is apparently sold out. But, don’t despair, more are on the way. The end of the world may indeed start at midnight, but for the ride that is the MONSTER SQUAD phenomenon itself, there is no end in sight.

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