The Monster Squad
In much the same way the protagonists of The Monster Squad are obsessed with monster movies, I, as a child, was obsessed with The Monster Squad. I rented it every single time I went to the video store, and had all the best moments and lines memorized. It wasn’t the monsters that excited me, it was the fantasy of fighting them. Watching Horace blow a hole in the Gill Man made me think, ‘I want to do that.’
The titular ‘monster squad’ existed before the arrival of the monsters. It’s a loosely knit club for classic monster movie aficionados, who spend their time drawing monsters and debating whether or not Wolf Man has nards (he does, by the way).
Sean is their leader, he’s the brash son of a cop whose parents fight a lot. He pushes the squad into fighting the monsters, perhaps because it is a simple problem of good vs. evil that gives him a sense of control and order that he is lacking in his home life. His sister Phoebe is the ‘innocent,’ who befriends Frankenstein monster’s, and otherwise represents that which they are trying to protect.
Rudy is supposed to be the ‘cool kid.’ He wears a leather jacket and intimidates the bullies in town, and yet he spends an inordinate amount of time hanging out with younger kids. Patrick is Sean’s friend; he’s pretty much just the straight-man who’s there to tell everyone how dumb they’re being. Lastly is Horace, the Fat Kid who has been bullied all his life, and is now forced to stand up to something.
The monsters are about as two dimensional as can be. They just kind of show up one day, and Dracula’s only motivation is evil for evilness’s sake. There’ s a few cliched elements tacked on, like the idea that Frankenstein’s monster is really just misunderstood, and the Wolf Man desperately wants to be freed of the curse so that he can stop killing, both of which were taken from the 1940s Universal monster movies about those characters.
The plot is likewise simple. There’s a magic crystal that can either banish the monsters for ever or ensure their rule, and it’s only active once every hundred years. And wouldn’t you know it, it just so happens that tomorrow night is the big night.
I don’t think The Monster Squad could be made in today’s environment. After the hysteria over school violence, the scene in which Rudy uses the equipment in shop class to fashion silver bullets and wooden stakes would probably seem crass. But this movie isn’t about kids killing; it’s about kids fighting evil. I think it’s a very base fantasy for kids (the root of all superheroes and fairy princess stories), but one which has been largely suppressed in the last few decades as we attempt to engineer more complacent children.
There isn’t much depth to The Monster Squad, but there are many wonderful and memorable moments. This movie, much like The Goonies, is pure fantasy fulfillment for children.