Review: Count Yorga, Vampire

Screen Shot 2019-01-27 at 5.39.52 PM.pngCount Yorga, Vampire / The Return of Count Yorga

Count Yorga and its sequel were an American attempt to ape the Hammer Horror aesthetic.  On the surface, they more-or-less succeed in that goal; but dig deeper and you’ll find none of the style or depth that made their British counterparts legendary.

When I say the Yorga films look like those from Hammer; I don’t mean the great Hammer films, but the later ones that take place in the ’70s, like The Satanic Rites of Dracula.  Hammer, of course, was at its best when it was doing period pieces.  The studio mastered the art of Gothic horror, and typically stumbled when it reached into the future; because characters like Dracula and Frankenstein are Gothic in origin, and that’s where they fit best.

But I’m supposed to be talking about Yorga, or Iorga, as the title card reads.  Yorga is Dracula.  I don’t know why they didn’t just call him that.  Maybe there was a competing film at the time, or maybe they just wanted something they could trademark; either way, there’s nothing unique to set Yorga apart from the other count.  Actually, there’s nothing defining about Yorga at all.  He doesn’t seem to have any larger goals beyond sucking off a few women.  He’s boring, with a stilted speech pattern and no visible emotion.  He mentions that he’s from Bulgaria, but we don’t see his homeland, nor are we told how or why he came to America.

Most of the story in the first Yorga movie is lifted directly from Dracula.  Yorga is a mysterious foreigner who installs himself in society and targets its ladies one by one.  One of the women is slowly drained over the course of the movie (just like Lucy Westenra), complete with in-home blood transfusion and a doctor who hazards the word ‘vampire’ and is scoffed at.

The second movie is a little better.  According to the film trivia, this one was supposed to have a lot of nudity, but the star, Robert Quarry said no.  It’s still the same set-up.  Yorga arrives at an orphanage, and installs himself in its society (the staff and clergy).  But then, Yorga creates a small army of vampire ladies and one brainwashed boy to do his bidding (whatever that is; he still doesn’t have a purpose in life).  The extra help leaves Yorga time to sit around watching TV (no, really).  Ironically, what he watches is The Vampire Lovers, a Hammer Horror film which is far better than Yorga’s outings.  It seems gives the film a meta-fictional element; where neither the star, nor the audience is particularly interested in what’s going on in the film.

The Count Yorga films capture the superficial elements of Hammer Horror; but leave behind everything that makes them great.  Yorga himself is a painfully dull character.  He does virtually nothing, and yet Quarry still finds a way to over-act the part.  The plots are equally shallow, with no real direction or reason.

Review: Slumber Party Massacre

826663148244.pngThe Slumber Party Massacre

The Slumber Party Massacre had an odd conception.  It was written by a feminist author to be a parody of slasher films, but was then produced by Roger Corman, the king of sleazy exploitation, who turned the film into the very thing it was mocking.

Parodies draw a lot from their targets, but when you take the parody element away, all you’re left with is a derivative collection of cliches.  Indeed, SPM takes a lot from other slasher films, most notably Halloween.  It starts with an escaped mental patient stalking our hero during the day, a party after school with our hero stuck babysitting a few houses down, and the one-by-one gruesome killings ending with the scream-filled flight for survival.

One of the elements to survive from the feminist script was the killers weapon: a large, phallic drill.  While dubious as a weapon, the drill does illustrate the dynamic existing between victim and prey, at least in the eyes of the killer.  It’s his symbol of superiority that he waves around at waist-level.  The drill is also used to great effect in the final battle, as the would-be victim takes control.

One of the big changes from the original script is the addition of nudity.  In one of the extras on the disc, the director (also a woman) talks about being ordered by Roger Corman to include some nude scenes, so she filmed them as clinically and blatantly as possible, to illustrate just how exploitative and pointless they were.  The best example of this is a shower scene, where the camera starts on a girls head, then pans down her body and back up again while she’s talking, for no reason what-so-ever other than to show her naked.  Ironically, or perhaps by intention, it ends up seeming a lot sleazier than it would have if she had filmed it straight.

The making-of documentary on the disc was directed by an obsessed fan of the film.  It starts with a home-movie of the director as a child of 13 or so getting the movie on VHS for Christmas and going crazy with excitement.  I wonder if his parents knew they were getting him softcore porn?

The kills aren’t too graphic.  He mostly slashes people with his drill, which I don’t quite understand, and then a splash of fake blood.  There are a lot of corpses with some pretty unconvincing drill holes in them, as well.

As a generic ’80s slasher movie, Slumber Party Massacre hits all the beats you would want it to, though it doesn’t particularly excel at any of them.  The faint echos of the film’s feminist roots give it a slightly different viewing angle; if not outright parody, it’s at least a little more self-aware than most.

The new Blu-ray looks great.  The video is sharp, with vivid colours.  The making-of documentary was carried over from the original release, so the only thing missing is the ho-hum sequels.

Review: Trick ‘R Treat

trick r treat.pngTrick ‘r Treat

Halloween is a night of traditions whose meanings have been largely lost to time.  As Rhonda says in Trick ‘r Treat, “Samhain, also known as All Hallows’ Eve, also known as Halloween. Pre-dating Christianity, the Celtic holiday was celebrated on the one night between autumn and winter when the barrier between the living and the dead was thinnest, and often involved rituals that included human sacrifice.”

Trick ‘r Treat consists of five inter-connected short stories that combine the ancient traditions of Halloween with the more modern ones.

The first story involves a couple, Emma and Henry, returning home from a party.  Emma blows out the candle in their jack ‘o lantern, despite Henry’s cautions that it violates tradition.  This is the shortest of the five stories, and thus isn’t developed that far.  But it does set the tone, and the conflict between the old traditions and the modern world.

The next story is about Principal Wilkins.  He’s a play on the old urban legend of the man who puts poison or razor blades into candies and hands them out to children.  This segment does a great job of taking a common Halloween story and elevating it into effective horror.  It also has some comedic elements involving his pestering son and nosy neighbor.

The third story involves a group of kids and a ghost story, kind of like It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but with a lot more murder.  Four kids, led by a girl named Macy, take the local weird girl, Rhonda, down to an old rock quarry with the intention to terrify her.  The quarry was the site of a school bus crash that killed eight ‘disturbed’ children on Halloween many years ago.

Story four stars Anna Paquin as a 22 year old virgin, Laurie, whose friends (all dressed in sexy Halloween costumes) are pressuring her to pick up a guy for their party that night.  I can’t say much more about this one without spoiling it, except to say that it heavily involves one of the other stories in the movie, and that its a play on defied expectations.

The last story is about old Mr. Kreeg.  It a bit like a Halloween version of A Christmas Carol.  Kreeg is mean, he runs children off his property and steals their candy.  He’s soon visited by Sam, the small person with a burlap sack over his head who has been seen throughout the movie observing the other stories, who takes retribution on the old man for violating the traditions of the holiday.

All the stories are simple, a quick set up then the twist.  They also tend to have an element of justice to them; bad things happen to bad people.  In that way, Trick ‘r Treat is very reminiscent of the classic horror comic anthologies like Tales from the Crypt or Vampirella.  Indeed, the opening an closing credits are presented over comic art, so the connection was likely intentional.

Trick ‘r Treat does not just rely on old monster stories.  It uses the new traditions of Halloween: trick or treating, ghost stories, and slutty costumes, to weave something new, and yet still intrinsically tied to the base elements of the holiday.

Review: Halloween (1978)

Halloween Blu-ray.jpgHalloween

One of the things that sets Halloween apart from many of its horror compatriots is that its antagonist, Michael Myers, is simply a man.

A man that can take six bullets and walk away, yes; but a man never-the-less.

There’s a scene leading into the climax that I think really illustrates this point.  A lot of horror relies on shock moments.  The protagonist is creeping along some empty house, she knows the killer is somewhere near by, and then, boo! The killer jumps out and scares her and the audience.  Halloween has a few of those moments, to be sure, but the more effective ones are those that show the killer as a person.  The scene I referred to was when Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) runs back to the house she is babysitting in, and then looks back to see Michael Myers following her on foot.

The fact that she can see him coming, but can do nothing to stop him, makes him a far more imposing and threatening figure than he would have been if he had just disappeared from sight and popped up beside her on the porch.  Because Michael isn’t a mythical monster, he’s a man that could show up anywhere.

Even his back story plays into this concept.  He wasn’t possessed by a demon or exposed to toxic waste; he wasn’t even abused as a child (don’t believe the Rob Zombie remake).  Michael was just a kid that came out wrong.  He’s dead inside; as personified by the blank expression on the Captain Kirk mask he wears throughout the film.  There’s no reason for his evil, and that makes him unpredictable.

The violence is non-graphic, just a lot of stabbing towards a body and bloodied clothing left in the aftermath.  Halloween puts the emphasis on the anticipation of violence, rather than the act itself.  The villain is genuinely threatening, so the horror works on an emotional level, and not the visceral one which gorier movies rely on.

Halloween re-invented the slasher film for the modern age; consequently, you can look back and see that most of what it did has become cliche; however, few if any films have managed to find the perfect balance in the formula that this one did.

Review: Countess Dracula

Countess Dracula.jpgCountess Dracula

Countess Dracula is a Hammer Horror film based somewhat loosely on the story of Elizabeth Bathory, a Hungarian Countess who, in the early 1600’s was accused of torturing and killing between 80 and 650 young girls.  It was said, though not confirmed, that she bathed in the girls’ blood in the belief  that it would restore her youth and beauty.

Countess Dracula centres on the blood bath story, suggesting that not only was it true, but that it was also genuinely effective.  So effective, in fact, that the widowed Elizabeth has to masquerade as her daughter to explain her now youthful appearance.

The film opens with the funeral of the Count.  His death doesn’t bother Elizabeth that much, as she has been carrying on a secret affair with the castle’s steward, Captain Dobi.

From the very beginning, we see the contempt the nobility shows to its people.  As the Countess’ carriage rides to the castle, a poor man runs along it, asking for a job and is knocked down by Dobi in response.

This goes a long way to explaining the ease with which Elizabeth starts to kill.  She first discovers the curative powers of virgin blood as she violently reprimands a servant girl for filling her bath with overly hot water.  They are essentially property to her.  When the mother of the servant girl expresses concern for her missing daughter, she’s told not to worry because she still has five more (in other words, the servants are cattle).

The Count leaves his prized stables and horses to one of his war buddies, Imre Toth.  Toth is relatively young, and the Countess, in her rejuvenated body, lusts after him.  He feels likewise, and they begin a relationship.  However, the effects of the blood are short lived, and Elizabeth finds that she must keep killing to continue her relationship with Toth.

Dobi is bitter.  First because he didn’t get the stables (receiving only old weapons and armor, instead), and second because the woman he loves his now with another man.  To add insult to injury, Elizabeth orders Dobi to procure victims for her; victims whose blood is fueling her new relationship.  Being treated with little more respect than the girls he’s ordered to kill does not sit well with him.

Despite being a horror movie, the crimes of Elizabeth are greatly toned down from the ones she is actually accused of.  Of course, it was made it 1971, long before the rise of torture porn; also, Hammer was always more interested in atmosphere than they were with shock or gore.  Most of the violence is off screen, but Elizabeth is an sufficiently villainous monster to keep a horrific tone over the film.

Review: Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis

return of hte living dead 4.jpgA group of teens fight zombies… with dirt bikes!   (The teens have the dirt bikes,  not the zombies).

This is the fourth film in the Return of the Living Dead series, the first of which is a modern day classic.  This one, by contrast, is at best ‘uninspired.’

It feels like an ’80s kids movie.  There’s this group of teens, a jock, a nerd, a computer guy, a hot girl, and some more who are all inexplicably friends (really, these people would never associate with each other in high school).  And they all ride dirt bikes!  Why? Cause dirt bikes are cool, dude!

There’s a medical research facility in town, whom we discover is using Trioxin (the gaseous toxin that makes the dead walk in the Return of the Living Dead universe) to create super-zombie-soldiers.  We’ve seen this concept in a few other films, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Zombies can take more hits to the body, but they’ll still drop with a single headshot; and given that they’re so much slower that a living person, a headshot isn’t hard to achieve.  And that’s not even touching the fact that the dead are stupid and can’t strategize or adapt.

Anyway, one of the teens gets in an accident.  The doctors tell the other teens that  he died; but one of the teens, the hot girl, sees the supposedly dead teen being wheeled into the medical research facility.  By the way, hot girl has a part time job as a security guard at the facility; cause who better than a high school student to guard your dangerous super-soldier research program?

The teens mount a rescue, on dirt bikes, and in the ensuing chaos, an army of walking dead are released.

There’s nothing that needs to be said about the characters.  They’re all base stereotypes with shallow motivation.  The acting was competent, with no one standing out for either positive or negative reasons.

This was a made-for-TV production with a modest budget, so the makeup and gore effects are neither graphic nor particularly well-done; but they’re passable, and they aren’t bad enough to detract from the film.

It’s strange.  I can’t point to any one thing in the movie that’s unforgivably bad; but nothing is good, either.  It’s like the makers of this film managed to reach a perfect balance of minimally acceptable quality.

Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis is a huge let down for fans of the franchise.  Judged on it’s own merits, it’s merely completely forgettable.

Review: Night Of The Demons

Night of the Demons Steel Book.jpgNight Of The Demons

It’s Halloween, and ten assorted teens have assembled for a night of debauchery.  The ‘creepy girl,’ Angela has chosen Hull House as the scene; an abandoned funeral parlor that is now steeped in urban legend.  As Frannie says, ‘I’ve heard stories about this place ever since I was a kid. The Hull Family met a pretty gruesome end.’
Judy, the ‘good girl,’ goes to the party with her boyfriend, Jay, who seems nice, but is actually a jerk.  Also attending are Max, Judy’s ex-boyfriend who seems like a jerk but is actually nice; Stooge, the fat jock; Helen, the shy girl; and Roger, the black guy.  The characters are mostly just fodder for the pandemonium that follows, and aren’t really explored beyond the traits I’ve listed, but they are more than sufficient for the story being told.

As cliched as the characters may be, the plot drags them in unexpected directions.  The teens that survived in the end are not the ones I predicted at the start of the film.

The last member of the party is the slutty girl, Suzanne, played by the famous scream queen, Linnea Quigley.  She’s the first to be possessed, though the possessed Angela (whom Suzanne infects by kissing) is the leader of the demons (she’s the one in the movie poster).  I guess that as the host of the party, the demons recognize her as a leader.

The teens pair off and wander throughout the house looking for places to have sex; meanwhile, the possession spreads from person to person, until all but a few of the kids are turned into hideous monsters.

The make-up effects are quite good.  Mostly, they mimic injuries (as the teens turn into demons after they’re murdered in gory ways) though Angela, as the leader, is a little uglier.  One of the stand out scenes is Suzanne’s fake breasts, which she stabs a lipstick tube into.  They look a little rubbery, but are a good likeness for the real things.

There’s a kind of lightness to the movie.  It’s not outright humor, but the tone is more colorful than horrific.  It’s somewhat like The Return of the Living Dead, or Nightmare on Elm Street; there are very violent moments, and some shock scares, but the monsters are a little too wacky to be frightening.  It seems to be very typical of ’80s teen horror.

While not terribly effective as a scary movie,  Night of the Demons is a lot of fun.  It incorporates virtually all the elements of ’80s horror that I love.

For a great Halloween night double feature, watch this and the more recent Trick R Treat.

Review: Breeders

Breeders Blu-ray.jpgBreeders

Breeders was written and directed by Tim Kincaid.  His mainstream directing career spanned three years, producing films like Robot Holocaust and Mutant Hunt.  Aside from that, he has had a far more successful career directing gay porn movies under the name Joe Gage, starting in the ’70s and continuing to this day.

A series of violent sexual assaults plague New York City.  Police Detective Andriotti is on the case, with the help of Dr. Gamble Pace.  Pace is baffled, the only physical evidence they can find on the victims is some mysterious black ooze, and they only thing they have in common is that they were all virgins (and wouldn’t you guess it, so is Dr. Pace), a fact which strikes fear into the hearts of all the untouched women of New York.  As Pace says, “It’s a case like this that makes me want to kill every man ever born.”

The structure of the film is alternating scene of women being attacked, and the cop and doctor talking about it.  Since we see the attack and perpetrator in the first scene, there’s no mystery from the audience’s perspective. Not much of one anyways.  We know the villain is a monstrous creature, though we don’t know it’s origins.

The monster is portrayed by a man in a fly mask and a lumpy wetsuit.  For most of the film, we only see fleeting glimpses, but I suspect that’s more to hide failings in the make-up, than any stylistic goal.  There actually are some pretty good special effects in the movie, like when the monster breaks out of its human disguises, resulting in a gory scene of a man’s flesh being torn apart from the inside.

There’s a lot of nudity in this movie.  In Tim Kincaid’s world, whenever women are alone, they immediately take off all their clothes and set about doing their chores.  This goes on for a few minutes until the fly-headed man shows up and attacks them.  The attacks themselves are mostly off screen, so we’re at least spared that.

Breeders runs 77 minutes, which is really just lazy.  It’s not like the film has a tight narrative that it has to honour, Kincaid could have easily thrown in some more scenes of naked women wandering around to pad the run-time to a more respectable 90 minutes.

Review: Night of the Demons 3

night of the demons 3.jpgNight of the Demons 3

Night of the Demons 3, the final film in the original trilogy, continues the Halloween tradition of demonic possession and teenage delinquency.  The demon Angela, the only character to appear in all three films, is once again portrayed by Amelia Kinkade, who has since moved on to a career as a pet psychic.

In many ways, Night of the Demons 3 feels like a slightly modified remake of the first film in the series. Like the original, it features a diverse group of teens making their way to Hull House on Halloween night, only to fall pray to demonic possession.

Nice girl Holly and shy girl Abbie are on their way to the school’s Halloween dance when their car breaks down; luckily, a van full of their less-reputable classmates happens along to give them a lift.

In the van are Nick, the guy that seems like a jerk but is actually nice; Vince, the bad boy; Orson, the over-compensating wannabe bad boy; Lois, the slutty girl, and Reggie, the black guy.

They pull into a convenience store, where Reggie tries to illicitly acquire beer (not unlike Angela’s beer heist in the first film).  Actually, a number of notable scenes from the first movie are re-imagined for this one.  Abbie is changing in her bedroom when her little brothers burst in, which is similar to the scene with Judy and her brother in the original, though with less creepy incestuous undertones.  Also, Angela once again does her ‘seductive’ dance, though it’s more effective this time around.

Anyways, the store clerk pulls a gun on Reggie, but Vince takes it from him.  The situation spirals out of control when two cops walk in, and Vince shoots one of them.  The kids speed off.  Vince is in a panic, telling the others that they’re all accessories, while Nick and Holly try to tend to Reggie, who was shot in the crossfire.  The eventually find their way to Hull House, which Vince deems to be the perfect hiding spot, despite Abbie’s warnings of its demonic past.

Abbie’s supposed to be the shy girl, but she’s actually pretty mouthy.  Maybe she’s not shy, maybe it’s just that no one wants to talk to her.

After their arrival, the film plays out pretty much like the first, as Angela shows up and possesses them one by one.  There’s a few differences, like the concept that Angela has to ‘seduce’ them to her side before she can make them demons, and their demonic forms tend to incorporate their Halloween costumes (when they have them).

The acting is fine.  There are no standouts like Linnea Quigley from the first film, but no one holds it back, either.  Amelia Kinkade (32 at the time of this film’s release) no longer looks like a teenager, but has appropriately adapted the role to that of the evil older woman.  The special effects and makeup are okay, but have a thin veneer of cheapness over them.  They has that ‘direct to video’ look.

The third Night of the Demons makes an admirable attempt to recapture the wild fun of the first.  It doesn’t quite achieve it, but the resulting film is  reasonably entertaining in its own right.

Review: Halloween – The Curse of Michael Myers

Halloween 6.jpgHalloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

Hey, have you ever wondered what happened to Tommy Doyle?  The boy that Laurie Strode was babysitting in the first Halloween movie?  No?  Well, here he is…

Tommy Doyle grew up to be Paul Rudd.  He also developed a strange, Hannibal Lecter-like speech pattern.  He has been obsessively studying Michael Myers, apparently unsatisfied with the first film’s assertion that he was simply a man with no ‘soul.’  To that end, he concocts a baseless theory about an ancient Druid curse in which a child is chosen to make a blood sacrifice of his kin so that the others of the village avoid…something bad.

And it turns out he’s right.

Although there’s a bit of a jump; this sixth installment in the franchise completes a story started in Halloween 4.  Essentially, it’s the ‘Jamie Trilogy,’ wherein the orphaned daughter of the original film’s heroine becomes the new target for The Shape (that’s what he’s been called in the credits since the first movie, by the way).  Throughout the last three films, there have been hints of the Druid cult story; the ‘thorn’ rune has shown up as tattoos and scrawled on walls, and we’ve seen the ‘men in black’ lurking around.  Jamie appears in this film, briefly, and with an unexplained pregnancy.

I have a blanket objection to horror movies that feel the need to explain their monster; especially when that explanation softens them; like, ‘Michael can’t help it, he’s cursed!’  The strength of the original Halloween was that there was nothing special about Michael.  He was a seemingly normal kid from a normal family; it’s the idea that it could have been anyone that made it so effective.

Anyway, the cult and conspiracy storyline really detracts from the horror.  Michael Myers is no longer a faceless killer, but a sci-fi/fantasy creature, under the control of people in stupid costumes who use magic.  I like stories like that in general, but this one in particular is trite, and it doesn’t suit the character of Michael at all.

Donald Pleasence, in his final Halloween appearance, delivers his best-ever performance as Dr. Loomis, Myers’ grossly out matched but ever determined hunter.  He’s older and wiser.  He’s not as panicky and scream-prone as he used to be, and as a result, he actually seems like a match for Michael Myers.  Still not as strong, of course, but maybe able to outsmart him.

Halloween (6): The Curse of Michael Myers is weighed down by a silly mythology that not only gets in the way of the horror, but also severely dampens it.  The kills take a backseat to awkward plot points, so while there are some decently gory scenes, they lack the buildup to make them memorable.

Reivew: The Woods

The Woods.jpgThe Woods

Shortly after her arrival at the all-girl Falburn Academy, Heather (Agnes Bruckner) is given the un-affectionate nickname ‘fire crotch’ by the school’s resident bitch, Samantha, on account of her natural red hair.

It’s not quite what you’d expect from a story set in 1964.

It’s very hard to create effective witches in a horror film; magic spells are inherently ridiculous, so making them scary is quite the task.  Further, their representation usually falls into either the ugly old crone, or the sexy witch categories, cliches which make them even harder to take seriously.  What director Lucky McKee and writer David Ross have managed to do with The Woods is craft a form of witchcraft that seems almost natural.  The trick is that it’s indirect.  The witches don’t chant spells or mix potions themselves, but instead call on the forest surrounding the school to do their bidding.  It’s true that an evil, moving forest presents its own believability problems; but the way the witches are grounded in reality almost makes up for it.

Heather is sent to the mysterious private school after setting fire to the woods around her home.  This appears to be mostly at the behest of her mother, while her father (played by horror legend Bruce Campbell) is just acquiescing to his wife’s nagging.  Heather is immediately targeted by the school’s bully, which is odd, seeing as she’s a ‘bad girl’ herself, and you’d expect them to be natural allies.  Instead, Heather befriends the school’s other outcast, Marcy; and the two spend countless hours listening to Marcy’s radio together; in particular, the Leslie Gore song, ‘You Don’t Own Me.’  The song, about a woman telling off her controlling boyfriend, is representative of Heather’s personality and rebellious nature.

A number of girls start disappearing from the school, leaving only a pile of leaves in their place.  Heather is the only one who cares; as the school’s officials try to cover it up, and the other students are too afraid to challenge them.  There’s something very classic about the way this film presents its horror.  There is some graphic violence when needed; but for the most part, it relies on mood and atmosphere.  A pile of leaves isn’t something you’d expect to be scary, but it works so well in creating a tone that it ends up being far creepier than a pool of blood would have been.

The main drawback to The Woods is the ending act, in which all the things that were suggested or hinted at suddenly become too literal.  It’s like the director was fighting the whole way against making a traditional horror film, but then couldn’t think of a good ending and fell back into the old cliches.  It’s not a horrible ending in its own right; but it’s not as good as the build up.

That said, the film as a whole more than makes up for the shortcomings with its ending.  The Woods is a beautifully shot film with a genuinely creepy feel that has rarely been seen in a horror movie for the last 50 years.

Review: The Monster Squad

Monster Squad.jpgThe 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.

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.

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 evil’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.

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.