On August 14th, 1987, Fred Dekker’s second film, The Monster Squad was released. Co-written with the criminally underrated Shane Black, this film emphasized Dekker’s love for early horror, as did his first film, Night of the Creeps, the year prior. The Monster Squad was the second of only three features Dekker would ultimately direct, but it remains one of the classic entries into the horror canon of the 1980’s.
The Monster Squad tells the story of a group of young kids who are die-hard monster movie fans. They have a secret clubhouse lined with movie posters and fill of toys and costumes. One day, Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and a monster similar to, but never actually specified as, the Creature from the Black Lagoon are all allowed back into the world since it is the 100th anniversary of the date where Van Helsing sent them into another dimension. The boys, along with the “scary German guy” in their neighborhood are forced to translate Van Helsing’s journal in order to rid the world of the monsters for another hundred years.
The synopsis I have just provided fails to include many of the important plot points and brilliant writing, but it tells the main idea of the film. Shane Black and Fred Dekker created a very smart script in which the children are handled as characters in a way that doesn’t happen very often. The kids are kids; they are deeply interested in monster movies, hanging out in their treehouse, eating junk food, and just being kids. The kicker is that they are faced with a problem (the arrival of the monsters) and they handle it themselves. They aren’t reliant on adults to solve their problems, although they need their German neighbor to translate the instructions. This is something that, looking back today, is almost exclusive to the 1980’s in films such as Stand By Me and The Goonies.
The Monster Squad has recently become one of my all-time favorites; I saw it for the first time about a two months ago. It is a perfect film in every way. Although I wasn’t alive in the ‘80’s, this film makes me nostalgic for the decade in a way that no other film has been able to. The effects surprisingly hold up, and the story and characters are so smart and well written.
If you have yet to see The Monster Squad, or even if it has been a while, give it a watch and hope that in another thirty years, film fans will still be talking about and praising this gem crafted by two criminally underrated filmmakers. There is a lot of great comedy, pop culture references, and it is just an all-around entertaining use of the classic Universal monsters.
Here is a link to the trailer.
-By Kirk Yoshonis