Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Monster Squad

If the 1980s had brought us nothing else of worth, the whole decade would have been worth it just for this film. I had considered making this week a continuation of Christmas and Disney movies, to help combat the bad cheer I ended last week with (stupid, stupid Rogue Galaxy), but then I realized that there is quite simply nothing more in keeping with Christmas cheer than the heartwarming delightfulness of the Monster Squad. Really, you should know by now that it’s all about keeping me happy.

The film (and really, you should know this already) follows a group of children who have formed a club that’s all about monsters (something I did myself back in elementary school -- before this movie was made, lest anyone think I was just copying what I saw), and who find that their great knowledge of various monster strengths and weaknesses is about to have some startling real world applications, as Dracula has just returned to the world (by way of an airplane, naturally) and brought his friends with him. See, it turns out that there’s a magical Macguffin that can (depending on who gets a hold of it) either trap all the supernatural baddies in the world in an alternate dimension forever, or let evil rule the world for eternity. Now, it’s up to a small group of children, an old German immigrant, and Frankenstein’s Monster (the traitorous fiend!) to save the world from the menace of Dracula, the Wolf Man, Gill Man (the copyright had yet to expire on the Creature from the Black Lagoon, though I’m told that won’t be a problem for the remake next year), the Mummy, and three hot female vampires.

It’s hard to understand why director Fred Dekker hasn’t made a movie in almost two decades when he made two of the most awesome horror movies of the 80s (the other being Night of the Creeps, which you should also obviously see). This one gets pretty much everything right, managing to blend the charm of the old Universal horrors with the coming of age stories of films like Stand By Me. It’s so much fun I could pretty much do an entire review just based on various scenes and quotes I love, but here‘s a couple prime examples.

Alright, so when the boys first meet Frankenstein’s Monster (who had already befriended the little girl [Ashley Bank]), they all try to take cover, whether it be behind a bush or a bench or whatever’s handy. The fat kid (Brent Chalem), of course, decides that the best spot of cover is to climb into a trash can and put the lid over his head, utilizing the Looney Tunes method of personal safety. Then the little girl calls them a bunch of chickenshits, which is totally hilarious, though I’m pretty certain it was a five year old girl calling everyone chickenshits that got the film slapped with a PG-13 rating it otherwise did not deserve.

Another great scene comes when the squad decides to infiltrate the enemy lair in search of the magic amulet and find themselves face to face with the Wolf Man. Building off of a debate they had had earlier in the film about how one could kill a werewolf besides a silver bullet (guesses included blowing him up and waiting for old age to do the job), they decide here to deal with him in the time-honored tradition of all children in fights everywhere: kicking him in the balls. Later, there’s a great moment where they find themselves trapped at a three way intersection in the dilapidated old house: down corridor one, a steadily approaching Dracula, corridor two has the Wolf Man, and corridor three has the three vampire ladies. It’s a great visual as the camera pans from one life threatening danger to another, and it’s a measure of the film’s assured direction that it can pull such a thing off immediately after one of the main characters excitedly yells the line “Wolf Man’s got nards!”

Some might argue that I’m overhyping the film, either due to the great Christmas spirit within me (unlikely, as I’m currently Zachary Cranky since I’m reading up on the Republican Senators who blocked a vote on the Dream Act) or because I’m nostalgic about my childhood (possible, though childhood nostalgia hasn’t made me willing to watch the Garbage Pail Kids movie all the way through). To you naysayers out there I say to hell with your inability to feel joy at a great film. This is one of the most fun movies out there, and while it’s been criminally underseen up to this point, I can only hope that the remake next year proves to be such a hit that it sparks increased interest in this film (as opposed to, say, the remake of the Avengers, which audiences reacted to so negatively that we had to invade England to get a proportionate revenge). Despite its rating, this is an ideal horror movie for children and adults capable of remembering what it was like to be a kid. You all need to watch it. For Christmas.

Rating: ****

No comments: