The Monster Squad

B

The Monster Squad

In case anyone needs proof that DVD special features are getting excessive, check out the "five-part retrospective" featured on the two-disc 20th-anniversary edition of the 1987 horror-comedy The Monster Squad. The "retrospective" is an unusually slick, comprehensive feature-length making-of documentary that's longer than the film it supports. Since much of Squad's charm stems from its modesty and B-movie goofiness—it'd be the perfect opener on a drive-in double bill—it seems a little silly to give it the Citizen Kane double-disc treatment.

Squad boasts a seemingly foolproof premise (The Little Rascals meet Universal's monsters), but it nevertheless took years to develop a cult, thanks largely to marketing that made it look like a soulless Ghostbusters knock-off. A clever script by Shane Black and director Fred Dekker pits a resurgent Count Dracula (Duncan Regehr) and his clique of monster sidekicks against a pint-sized monster club devoted to exploring pressing matters like whether the Wolfman can drive a car.

Squad joins The Lost Boys, Fright Night, Gremlins, and Poltergeist in a winning '80s subgenre dedicated to ghoulies invading the suburbs. Like its more commercially successful peers, Squad oozes geek-love for its subject matter; it's clear the filmmakers are just as enamored of things that go bump in the night as their fearless kiddie vampire-slayers. That ingratiating affection for classic horror permeates every facet of the film, from the way monster-maker Stan Winston takes on ubiquitous horror icons to Black and Dekker's snappy banter to the fine performances of monsters Tom Noonan (as Frankenstein), Jon Gries (as a tormented werewolf), and the elegantly understated Regehr. Squad's gleeful monster mash anticipates bloated CGI orgies like Van Helsing, which likely cost a hundred times as much, yet boasts a hundredth of Squad's scrappy, ramshackle charm. At a lean 82 minutes, the film also boasts a virtue increasingly lost to the past: brevity. If only the same could be said of its DVD special features.

Key features: The aforementioned "Retrospective," a goofy in-character interview with Noonan as Frankenstein, separate commentaries featuring Dekker alongside the film's child stars and cinematographer Bradford May, and deleted scenes.