The Monster Squad represents all that is great about the Universal Monster movies and the legacy they left behind. Homages seldom prove to be as good as The Monster Squad, especially if they are endorsed by the same studio that first created their inspiration. Quite an achievement considering it’s a horror film aimed at children…
Dracula has been resurrected and plans to rule the entire world with the help of The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Gil-Man and Frankenstein’s monster but a group of children uncover his intentions and plan to strike back against the team of legendary ghouls.
80’s films sometime feel a little out-dated and should perhaps be consigned to the decade but not The Monster Squad. It’s one of those rare films that you could cherry pick from a decade and place into another and it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. Even more surprisingly the mild horror and comedy present sit very comfortably together. One of its biggest successes is that it is more accessible than many other films of the same genre whilst its clever use of comedy means it doesn’t make a complete mockery of its iconic figures, instead choosing to maintain their greatness as well as perpetuating their status to a new audience.
Arguably the greatest thing about the film is the incarnations of the legendary icons of horror cinema themselves. Masterfully designed by special effects master Stan Winston as both a homage to their predecessors and a way of avoiding copyright infringement! Being aimed at a younger audience, the idea that this film references a range of adult horror films is ludicrous but it does and it does so with wit. Director Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps) plays around with both the formula as well as the genre subtly. Such little touches are only noticeable to fans of such films and have meant that Dekker has left his permanent mark on the genre.
Despite its many successes, The Monster Squad does have slight flaws. Some performances occasionally feel a little over-eccentric with some characters getting carried away with the film’s energetic feel. The film’s editing is also sometimes flawed, it too getting carried away in the film’s more action-orientated sequences. Some shots are prolonged whilst others are quickly replaced for a new one. Although not hugely noticeable, it’s still a technical slip-up.
The Monster Squad has heart, it has soul, it has humour and it has a cult following that’s not just made up of children. It’s a film that once seen will be cherished and never forgotten and this is the main reason why its legacy has endured (much like the Universal Monsters themselves) and will last for many decades to come.
Best character: Dracula steals the show once again.
Watch this if you liked: Fright Night (1985), Waxwork (1988)