The Monster Squad is better than The Goonies. Let the debate begin.
I love both, but as I grow older and watch both of these childhood movies of mine from the 80’s it’s The Monster Squad that keeps getting better. It’s a kids movie where the kids are smarter than they should be for their own good, but not in a completely unbelievable way. And compared to The Goonies you can actually here what this group of kids is saying in their conversations as they aren’t all yelling in unison. Not to say that kids aren’t like that, but for the sake of watching a story.
I’ll leave any other comparisons to these two aside for the rest of this. Besides, I know that Goonies “never say die.”
But The Monster Squad is totally better.
The Monster Squad consists of a group of pre-teens who meet in a tree clubhouse that love all forms of monsters. They are obsessed and often get in trouble at school for constantly drawing monsters to line their clubhouse walls. Leader Sean (Andre Gower) is joined by his friends Patrick and Horace, while ignoring the attempts of his adorable 5-year-old sister Phoebe to join. Then there’s Eugene, who is a part of the squad, but younger than the rest of the group and doesn’t say much. But when he has an idea it’s a good one.
As fate would have it, the classic movie monsters (the Universal Movie Monsters only not technically because of copyright) led by Dracula include the Wolfman (who’s totally got nards), Mummy, Gillman, and Frankenstein’s Monster have returned. Dracula wants the journal of Van Helsing to take over the world or something. That’s not really the point.
Director/writer Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps) and writer Shane Black (and director/writer of Iron Man Three, Nice Guys, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) have made a kids monster movie that deal with everyday issues. Sean’s parents are on the brink of divorce, there’s bullying at the school, and even the death of a police officer in a battle that shows you that this may be a movie for and about kids, but it keeps it just grounded enough.
The writing team shows you that there’s the tortured soul of a man that can’t escape his curse as the Wolfman. When he does meet his demise he thanks his killer for freeing him of it. That’s got depth. But nothing is as poignant as the exchange the kids have with the old man credited only as Scary German Guy.
Scary German Guy: [as Sean, Patrick, and Horace are leaving Scary German Guy’s house] I expect you boys thought I was some kind of monster myself, mm? A vampire, perhaps? That’s quite all right. But I am not, you know. If I were a vampire, then I wouldn’t have a reflection…
[points to mirror, where he is clearly visible]
Scary German Guy: … now would I?
Horace: Man, you sure know a lot about monsters.
Scary German Guy: Now that you mention it, I suppose I do.
[Scary German Guy closes door, revealing a concentration camp tattoo on his wrist]
Didn’t expect that did you? And it’s one of my favorite moments of any movie.
Another favorite scene is where Dracula lifts Phoebe up by the neck and she screams in pure terror. How was that so convincing of her? It’s because it was REAL! Duncan Regehr wouldn’t wear his red contacts or fangs around the young actress because it scared her too much. For this scene, Dekker just told Ashley to scream once the platform raised her. When she asked, “When?” Dekker told her, “Oh, you’ll know.” When Dracula opens his eyes this is the first she sees them and it doesn’t help that he screams at her, “Give me the amulet, you BITCH!”
Could go on about how Stan Winston made the creature designs or that the Wolfman is modeled after his face. And how Frankenstein’s Monster was played by Tom Noonan IN CHARACTER the whole time around the child actor’s. I love these details, many of which I found out on the commentary track, but I won’t continue because there’s really so much more to this film. It’s funny, is soaked in the genre, and adores it as well. Shane Black is one of the greatest screenwriters we have. I could not be happier that him and Fred Dekker are teaming up for a new Predator film (!!!).
If you’ve got the nards then check out our other 31 Days of Halloween choices here.
His love of most things in entertainment can be summed up by having an English Bulldog named Spielberg and consistently asking if it’s Halloween yet.