‘The Monster Squad’ Was Released 25 Years Ago Today: Fred Dekker Talks About the Film’s Reception and Anniversary
Posted on Tuesday, August 14th, 2012 by Germain Lussier
The one thing almost everyone knows about The Monster Squad is “Wolfman’s got nards.” What started as a seemingly throwaway line of dialogue struck a chord with audiences and, to this day, remains a must-know geek quote. Outside of that, though, The Monster Squad, directed by Fred Dekker and co-written by he and Shane Black, is a mostly forgotten piece of eighties entertainment. The film was released on August 14, 1987 – 25 years ago today – and that weekend ended up 12th at the box office behind such would be classics like RoboCop and The Lost Boys. Its $1.9 million opening weekend accounted for over half the film’s total gross and it would be out of theaters in two short weeks, making hardly a blip in a stellar year that brought us not only the two films mentioned above but The Untouchables, Predator, Dirty Dancing, Wall Street, Full Metal Jacket, Evil Dead II , Spaceballs, Hellraiser and Raising Arizona, just to name a few.
Let’s be honest. 2012 is the 25th anniversary of all those films too and all are, surely, more deserving of their own column. But we always talk about Full Metal Jacket, Evil Dead II and RoboCop. Who ever talks about The Monster Squad? I know, as a seven-year-old boy, no film excited me more. It made me go out and pretend to fight monsters, start my own monster club with my brother and even pay to have our own business cards made, just like in the movie. Yes, it’s just a simple little story of a bunch of kids who band together to fight Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolfman and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, with a little help from Frankenstein, but if 25 years have told us anything, it’s that The Monster Squad is much more than “Wolfman’s got nards.”
After the jump, read an 25th anniversary interview with the film’s director Fred Dekker and some more of my personal ruminations on this, the silver anniversary of The Monster Squad.
Just to prove I was not lying about my nerdy statements above, I present this as evidence. The article continues after the photo:
Though The Monster Squad was released on August 14, 1987, it’s quite likely I (and most of you) didn’t see the film until it hit home video. I honestly don’t remember the first time I saw it. What I do remember was the feeling I got watching it subsequent times and how I followed the film ever since.
If you’ve read this far and, for some reason, have never seen The Monster Squad, here’s a little recap. A group of elementary school kids who love monsters get their hands on a diary written by Van Helsing. It describes a ceremony that must be performed to keep the world safe from the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein and their buddies so the kids band together to fight the monsters and defeat the forces of evil, there by saving the world.
A movie like The Monster Squad, with the tone of Monster Squad, couldn’t be made today (even though a remake has long been discussed). Little kids are in heaps of serious peril, they curse, they smoke, they say words like “faggot” and “retarded.” In short, it portrayed kids like kids really were. That’s one of the reasons why it slowly struck such a chord with audiences over the years. The members of The Monster Squad might have thought they were cool, but they really weren’t. Each was an outcast in his or her unique way and as an audience member, you could relate to at least one of them.
There was Sean (Andre Gower), the leader, who seems together but is really just a dorky horror kid wearing a “Stephen King Rules” t-shirt in like 5th grade. There’s Patrick (Robby Kiger), Sean’s sidekick, whose best asset is his hot high school sister. There’s Rudy (Ryan Lambert), the oldest member whose leather jackets and cigarettes make him look hip, but he’s shunned and looked down upon by the older kids. Horace (Brent Chalem) is loyal, funny, but made fun of cause of his weight and Sean’s little sister Phoebe (Ashley Bank) is vehemently excluded from the group until her innocent eventually changes everything.
That’s just a sampling of the archetypal, fantastic characters written by Black and Dekker. All relatable, all individuals, all whom have arcs in the film. Couple that with the iconic Universal monster imagery (they’re not officially those monsters, though, something the director gets into on the excellent DVD documentary) and you’ve got a a classic battle of good versus evil complete with that late Eighties, Shane Black edge.
While The Monster Squad slowly build an audience over the years with its VHS release, it wasn’t until the Alamo Drafthouse hosted 20th anniversary screenings of the film in 2007 that it was even recognized as worthy of a DVD release. It’s since become the object of t-shirts, Mondo posters, gorgeous Blu-rays and more. Plus the film holds up. Sure there are moments of unbridled cheese, cringy jokes and total predictability but The Monster Squad encompasses what many of us idealized growing up. Our nerdy, outsider tendencies becoming an asset and saving the day. What could be better than that?
I’ll tell you what: an interview with director Fred Dekker, 25 years after the release of his movie. That’s on the next page.