October is Horror Movie month, where we let down our hair and celebrate all things macabre and scary! Not that we don’t during the rest of the year, but still… HORROR MOVIES! People who don’t like horror are encouraged to check back November 1st for less bloody and/or disturbing films. For everyone else, let’s put on our galoshes and WADE INTO THE MIRE!
We’re switching gears yet again with Halloween and the Kitchen Sink Week – this week’s entries all include Halloween or its trappings in some way, AND they will be much shorter in length. There’s not much logic to their selection, so don’t think that I’m intentionally leaving things out – these movies put me in the Halloween spirit for whatever reason. It’s the final countdown to Halloween, so throw some candy in a bag, put on your walking shoes and come trick or treating!
Today, we’re looking at the monstrous mishmash The Monster Squad!
Today’s entry will contain spoilers!
The Monster Squad, oh, The Monster Squad! It holds a special place in my heart and always shall. It is often compared to The Goonies, with good reason – both came from the 80s, featured an ensemble cast of kids, were about “outsider” kids with uninvolved parents going on an adventure together, have kids befriending a misfit, and Mary Ellen Trainor appears as a clueless Mom in both — but Monster Squad felt especially tailor-made for me because of my love of monsters and old horror movies, even at a young age. And Stan Winston did the effects!
I always liked the interchanges between the kids in this movie because they were more like what I was used to – the kids are snotty and irreverent with each other, calling each other names (one kid’s nickname is literally Fat Kid), and just being jerks. They were, in short, like REAL kids when adults aren’t around.
I always loved Phoebe, Sean’s 5-year-old sister, because she was basically me. She loved monsters and just wanted to play with other kids into the same stuff, and follows her big brother around being a pain, as I did with my cousins. Tom Noonan’s much-lauded portrayal of Frankenstein’s monster as childlike and confused when people are afraid of him is another wonderful facet of the movie. The moment when he’s presented with a Halloween mask of his own face and asks the children if he is scary is so touching.
Another delightful layer to the film is its deconstruction of perception, as is exhibited by the squad’s fearful treatment of the aptly named Scary German Guy. They have Abraham Van Helsing’s diary but it’s in German, so they to ask the resident shut-in neighbor to help them translate. He is delighted to do so, sharing pie and sodas with the boys, and is only too eager to tell them about the rules of vampires. The boys mention he knows a lot about monsters, and he agrees, closing the door and revealing a number tattooed on his wrist–he is a Holocaust survivor. (I have this scene to thank for introducing me to the Holocaust– I asked my father what the numbers meant, and he explained. Although at the time I couldn’t conceptualize of such a thing, the idea was at least planted for when I would encounter it later, in middle school). SGG goes on to join the squad and be a hero at the end of the film.
I can’t even tell you how much goofy fun this movie is. Duncan Reghr, who I’ve literally never seen in anything else and whose body functions as a support system for his magnificent cheekbones, plays Dracula so camp he qualifies as his own tent city. He hisses, stalks, arches his brows and wears the full evening-wear-and-medallion-getup, complete with red satin-lined cape.
What really blows my mind is how violent it was for a movie aimed at children. I mean the wolfman BLOWS UP (and his clothes miraculously reassemble when he does) and is spread around in bloody pieces on the ground. Dracula kills like thirty deputies and very obviously murders three women (whose catholic schoolgirl uniforms turn into diaphanous dresses) and turns into a grotesque bat creature with a huge bullet wound at one point. When the Mummy is unraveled all kinds of gross stuff falls out of his torso. Rudy, despite being in junior high, smokes and drinks what looks like a beer *clutches pearls*. The kids all swear – although I do have to point out that the words ‘f*ggot’ and ‘h*mo’ are used.
The Monster Squad is one of those few movies I wouldn’t mind seeing a remake/reboot of. For one thing, all the kids are white, and live in that kind of surreal 80s suburbia where kids wander around unattended all the time and ride their bikes miles away from their house without their parents noticing.
The Monster Squad is a fun movie for this time of year, if not family friendly – if you haven’t seen it you might want to check it out before showing it to your kids, but as always, I defer to your judgment!
I have so much more I could say about this film but I have to keep things short for this week – tune in Friday when we take at look at bizarre underrated classic Pumpkinhead!