Fortress of Horror 01 - The Monster Squad

Fortress of Horror 01 - The Monster Squad Hot

Josh Look     
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Everything you always wanted to know about werewolves but were always afraid to ask...

I grew up on the Universal Monsters.  While the other boys on my street were talking up Jason and Freddy, I was tuning into AMC every Saturday afternoon to watch the black and white classics.  Eventually it seemed like I had seen them all.  So on one Friday afternoon sometime in the early 90s, my dad, brother and I went down to the video store in search of anything to watch besides Dracula for the 40th time.  After what seemed like hours we left with The Monster Squad.  Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, Wolfman, Mummy, and Gillman all in one movie and in color.  My mind was blown.  I must have watched that VHS tape four times that weekend, and for years my memory would go back to it.  When it was finally released on DVD in 2007, I immediately went out to pick it up, desperately hoping that thing I hadn't seen in 15 years would hold up.  Did it?  Absolutely.

One could accuse The Monster Squad of being Goonies minus pirates minus "The Spielberg Touch" plus Monsters.  They'd mostly be right, but the movie certainly has a charm all its own.  Dracula has once again risen from the grave, this time he's in America to hunt down an amulet he can somehow use to take over the world, and he's bringing a who's who of the monsters from the Universal era with him.  A group of kids who love classic movie monsters are drawn into things, and given their extensive knowledge on the subject, are the ones best suited to stop Drac and his minions. 

Though it's clearly a love letter to the Universal pictures, this is not a Universal film, so the interpretations of the monsters needed to be a little different.  Luckily they got none other than Stan Winston to reimagine them, and the character designs and effects still look really great.  It's tough to follow in the footsteps of a makeup job that's as iconic and definitive as Boris Karloff's monster, but this one still works really well.  The Mummy and Creature are great, too.  This also falls into what I call "80's kids on an adventure" territory, complete with many of the hallmarks of that genre.  They curse, one of them smokes and spies on a girl getting dressed, but the kids are pretty funny.  They're also very quotable.  Not only will The Monster Squad show you what happens when you try to blow Wolfman up with dynamite, but it will answer the even bigger of question of whether or not he has nards.

The Monster Squad has become a perennial favorite of mine, it's what I kicked my Halloween movie binge off with this year and I'll likely end up watching it again before the season is over.  It's one of those too rare movies that are spooky and good for kids (as long as you're not prudish about a few things) and it's still a total blast for adults who enjoy that kind of Goonies adventure thing and deserves a place amongst similar, more well known movies like it.  It's also on Netflix now, which seems weird to me given how hard to find it was for so many years.

Just don't call the fat kid "Fat Kid."




Fortress of Horror 01 - The Monster Squad There Will Be Games
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Posted: 24 Sep 2015 11:44 by Mr. White #211251
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This is a great movie! My son is having a buddy spend the night on Halloween and this would be the perfect movie for them to watch. Not sure the other boy's mom would be hip to it though, but thanks for the Netflix heads-up!

Anyway, I came across this movie back when it came out in '87. I remember it well...I was 13 and crushing on this girl. She had a thing for Ryan Lambert from that show Kids Incorporated. I have vivid memories of her on the school bus going on and on about this Monster Squad movie as Ryan's feature film.

She (another military brat) moved away before I had enough courage to say anything, but damn that Ryan Lambert...
Posted: 24 Sep 2015 11:59 by Josh Look #211254
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Holy shit, Kids Incorporated. I forgot all about that.
Posted: 24 Sep 2015 12:50 by Egg Shen #211262
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I tried to get my friends to watch Monster Squad after our game night this past Saturday. Despite me hyping it to high heavens they shot it down. Luckily we watched Fury Road as a consolation. So I was only about 8% bitter about that choice.

I think people's main apprehension with Monster Squad is that it's about kids. Yeah, I get it...normally that set's off a bunch of red flags. Don't let that discourage you. Like Josh said, the kids in the film are all awesome. None of them are annoying. In fact they're all doing cool shit. Every single one of them is awesome. When I was younger I wanted to be exactly like them. They had this awesome tree-house full of Universal Monster shit. A secret club about monsters. A bitchin 80s style montage where they got shit done...damn, my childhood sucked compared to theirs!

With this being on Netflix now there is no excuse not to watch this. If you grew up loving all of the Universe Movie Monsters I consider Monster Squad REQUIRED VIEWING! It's is one of my all time favorites and it's one of the few great horror films that is good for all ages. I watched it when I was like 6-7 years old and it made me a monster fan for life.
Posted: 24 Sep 2015 12:56 by Josh Look #211263
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I should also mention that, while the songs in this movie are cringe inducing, GOOD LUCK getting them out of your head.

Rock until you drop. Dance until your feet fall off.
Posted: 24 Sep 2015 13:26 by Michael Barnes #211267
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This is a fun movie, definitely a relic of a sadly bygone era...well, kind of two sadly bygone eras, really. The era of classic Universal horror and of 1980s kid flicks. You can definitely tell this movie was coming from dudes that grew up during the time that you had to wait for the movies to come on TV on a Saturday afternoon or read mags like Famous Monsters to really see some of this stuff. There's an old fashioned kind of "monster fandom" vibe to the movie that's really adorable- and that doesn't exist anymore.

It was IMPOSSIBLE to see for a long time...I actually saw it in the theater, but I don't know if I've ever seen it completely since then. I saw it on Netflix, maybe if I can get out of this "must watch all Doctor Who" thing I'm in I'll revisit it.
Posted: 24 Sep 2015 13:56 by SebastianBludd #211270
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I knew of this movie, I was the right age to see it growing up, yet I've never watched it except for having seen a few scenes. I shall rectify that this weekend and report back. I've been trying to think of something Halloween-y to watch but my I don't think my younger son (7) can handle what I would consider to be moderately scary fare. This should be perfect.
Posted: 24 Sep 2015 14:02 by bfkiller #211271
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I've seen Monster Squad a few times, both recently and when it was new, and enjoyed it fine, I guess. I do have a soft spot for classic monsters (The Creature being my favourite) and the line "wolfman's got nards" is legend. But I've also always been in the camp that considered it "shitty Goonies" because I think it drags a lot more and also gets outshined in pretty much any objective measure of film making. Sorta like how The Mummy is shitty Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Posted: 24 Sep 2015 14:04 by Mr. White #211272
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SebastianBludd wrote:
I've been trying to think of something Halloween-y to watch...

Another great option is Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. I actually rate this as a top 3 Universal Monster film. Glenn Strange does a good job as The Monster, but Lon Chaney, Jr and Bela Lugosi return to the roles that made them household names. The film is better than you would expect it to be and can pass for younger ages than Monster Squad if there's any concern there.

When I taught, I used to show this to my students every year around Halloween.

Posted: 24 Sep 2015 14:06 by Mr. White #211273
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bfkiller wrote:
Sorta like how The Mummy is shitty Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I'd say The Mummy (first one) is on par with, if not better than, the comic caper that is The Last Crusade though and definitely better than that Crystal Skull film.

But then, I actually enjoy The Mummy.
Posted: 24 Sep 2015 16:48 by Mad Dog #211279
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I liked this movie as a kid and never understood why it wasn't more popular. On the flipside I never liked the Goonies and didn't understand why it was so popular. Now that I'm older I get it though. Most people are just idiots.
Posted: 24 Sep 2015 17:55 by repoman #211282
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Based on the article, I tried to watch this movie. I really did. I made it for 22 minutes.

I really really don't like this kind of movie. I hate The Goonies. I dislike Stand By Me. The whole gang of kids thing in general.

Yeah, I know, makes me sort of odd man out.

I liked the article though and look forward to reading the next one.
Posted: 24 Sep 2015 17:59 by Josh Look #211283
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Yeah, you do suck, Jeff. ;)

I guess it used toget some solid rotation on HBO back in the day, which was probably the most exposure it got. There was only one print run of the VHS, which would explain the insane prices I used to see it going for on eBay before it got a DVD release.

I actually think the pacing in Monster Squad is better than that in Goonies. I find Goonies to trail off in the middle until it picks back up once they get to the pirate ship. Monster Squad doesnt really have that problem. The kid calling in the army is kinda dumb though.

And for what it's worth, I think the first Mummy movie rules. I actually have a harder time getting through the Karloff original.
Posted: 24 Sep 2015 18:04 by jason10mm #211284
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While I am sure I had a peripheral awareness of it before, this is the film that made me look up "Virgin" and giggle :P
Posted: 24 Sep 2015 22:26 by SebastianBludd #211293
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Josh Look wrote:
And for what it's worth, I think the first Mummy movie rules. I actually have a harder time getting through the Karloff original.

I don't like Brendan Fraser at all, and yet he doesn't bother me in the Mummy films. While it seems like it shouldn't work, his performance manages to pull off a character that splits the difference between Indiana Jones and Jack Burton. I prefer the second movie (but I like both of them) and if they'd gone with more practical effects instead of shit CGI I'd consider them excellent adventure movies rather than merely good.
Posted: 25 Sep 2015 06:30 by Mr. White #211301
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SebastianBludd wrote:
While it seems like it shouldn't work, his performance manages to pull off a character that splits the difference between Indiana Jones and Jack Burton.

That's a perfect way of framing the character.

I too, also enjoy the second Mummy movie.
Posted: 25 Sep 2015 09:07 by waddball #211323
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Posted: 26 Sep 2015 16:02 by Ancient_of_MuMu #211406
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This movie is one of the biggest failures for me when it comes to recommendations from the Fortress. I thought nothing in it worked and don't get the fascination, even though I love all the other films in the 80's kids adventure genre.
Posted: 27 Sep 2015 18:17 by engineer Al #211445
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I can't believe that I've never even HEARD of this movie. I will absolutely be Netflixing it up soon!

Also, that Abbot & Costello meet Frankenstein flick is one of my all time favorites. Definitely a top 10 of all time movie for me.
Posted: 27 Sep 2015 19:02 by Josh Look #211448
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engineer Al wrote:
Also, that Abbot & Costello meet Frankenstein flick is one of my all time favorites. Definitely a top 10 of all time movie for me.

It is really great. I always loved that there was one last monster in there at the end. I was about to go buy it but happily found that I already do.
Posted: 29 Sep 2015 08:36 by Egg Shen #211577
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I just re-watched this Sunday night. This film makes me so happy. It's has a short run time, gets right to the point and when it's over you feel good.

The opening scene that takes place in Transylvania is like the perfect homage to a Hammer film...updated with some nifty 80s special effects. I love that bat transformation scene with Dracula...then the camera slowly zooms out and he is in the crypt with the bats flying about. Very cool.

The movie certainly has it's flaws. For example, The Mummy and Gillman have almost nothing to really do except die. Some scenes don't really make sense (mostly scenes with Eugene). It's also VERY 80s. None of that makes it a bad film.

The Monster Squad was clearly the project of an Universal and Hammer super-fan who wanted to pay homage to those classics. It's good fun and the film still holds up for me. Anyone expecting something grand or life changing here will surely be disappointed. They don't make family films like this anymore and they certainly don't make horror films like this.
Posted: 29 Sep 2015 11:23 by Mr. White #211589
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What about that other, other kids adventure movie...The Explorers?
Posted: 29 Sep 2015 15:18 by Josh Look #211614
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I really like The Explorers. And Flight of the Navigator and The Last Starfighter, too.

Good point, Egg, I know I'm gushing about this movie, but it certainly does have its flaws and it's certainly not going to shatter anyone's world. You gotta love monsters and still be connected to why you loved them when you were young. And remember when this came out, Freddy, Jason, and the slashers ruled horror cinema. This, along with Fright Night (which I also love and will be revisiting soon) set out pay tribute to the classics.