Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

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.