THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987) - ***1/2
Duncan Regehr's Dracula is probably the perfect villain kingpin for such a kid's movie. He's very charming in parlaying the cinema visual of Dracula that the public knows intimately, yet with his slicked-back Eurotrash hair and evil eyes, he is deliciously fun on his own merit.
There is something ludicrous about the Good Count driving a black hearse with a skull hood ornament, since he's shown several times to transform into a bat and fly off. But because Refehr is such a pimp, you buy it.
I mean, take the climax especially. Logic dictates as well that Dracula should be hauling ass to the Town Square to intercept the kids and their amulet, right? Wrong.
He takes a detour to the home of the Monster Squad's leader and lights up some dynamite. BOOM goes the tree clubhouse, then he flies off to the town square. He's outright pissed that some snot-nose annoying kids are his obstacle to world domination, and wants to smurf with them.
Combine with him calling a 5 year old girl a "bitch," and he's not just an evil monster pimp.....He's an evil asshole. If he could, he would slice those kids up without a blink. Under director Fred Drekker, Refehr gives an element of safe but effective danger to the children's adventure story that usually is sorely lacking.
Apprently from the fan response that that got THE MONSTER SQUAD slapped onto DVD, I wasn't the only one of my generation who loved this movie back in my childhood. Watching it again, I realize why I liked it in the first place.
There is just an organic juvenile excitement stemming from the mere concept of boys making their encyclopedia knowledge of monsters and comic books useful for once. Who knew that debating whatever Wolfman has nards might not be a waste of time after all?
Add that they're duking it out with the classic Universal Monster line-up including Frankenstein, the Werewolf, the Creature of the Black Lagoon, and the Mummy....this is pure money. This is what THE LOST BOYS and its would-be geek warriors promised but utterly failed to deliver.
Yet what makes SQUAD bloody good beyond the pitch is its damn clever moments, and surely crafted by fans of the genre. From subduing Dracula with pizza, to Frankenstein's face-turn, to the brief moments of the Wolfman in his human state, they really are what carry this movie forward.
Then again, considering that spot-maestro Shane Black was a co-writer of SQUAD, I shouldn't be surprised. I would even argue that SQUAD is to the kids adventure movie like Black's scripted THE LAST BOY SCOUT was for action cinema: A deep well of memorable one-liners worth quoting.
Consider when the archetype older "cool" Squad member lights up a cigarette, and goes off to fight the vampires. Someone asks what is he doing, and he says:
"I'm in the goddamn club, aren't I?"
In fact, that along with fellow 80s genre flick THE GOONIES, reminds me of why they're superior to most such contemporary kids fare. The kids cursed like sailors, boys defeminized each other with gay slurs, and being utterly wreckless as hell. You know, kids being kids.
Interestingly, the best scene in THE MONSTER SQUAD is probably why I always prefered it over GOONIES. When the old German man tells the boys that he can't be a vampire because he has a reflection, he closes the door and we see the concentration camp tattoos on his arm....a survivor of real monsters....