The Monster Squad: 20th Anniversary Edition
- Street Date:
- November 24th, 2009
- Reviewed by:
- Bryan Kluger
- Review Date: 1
- January 10th, 2013
- Movie Release Year:
- 82 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Rated PG-13
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
'Monster Squad' was one of my favorite films growing up. I remember watching it almost every day and memorizing all of the dialogue. I would describe it as 'The Goonies' with the Universal monsters. Even later in life, through worn out VHS and DVD copies of the film, I still find this gem one of my favorites. It's characters, genuine suspense, and decent costumes and makeup still make the film hold up today as it did when I was a kid. And even in my 30s, I still want to be inducted into the Monster Squad.
As a kid, and still to this day, I can still identify with almost all of the kids in this movie. You see, like the kids in the film, I didn't play many sports growing up, rather, I read comics and watched and read everything sci-fi and horror I could get my hands on. I desperately wanted to have a club where my friends and I could talk all day long about horror movies and monsters and aliens from another planet. I never really had an official club, but my dad was always willing to talk about all of those fun things with me and even took me to see the monster movies growing up. It's one of my fondest memories. When we first saw the film, we looked at each other and both wished we were in a club like that. I'll never forget it.
The film follows a group of middle schoolers who have a monster club where they meet every day after school in a treehouse decked out with horror movie posters and other horror memorabilia and talk about movie monsters. Every 100 years, the Universal monsters consisting of Dracula, Wolf-Man, The Mummy, Frankenstein, and the Gill-Man (Creature from the Black Lagoon) enter our world in search of an ancient amulet that will bring them unmatched powers. In the opening scene, we see Abraham Van Helsing battling Dracula and his fanged vampire minions for the amulet. Luckily, Helsing wrote a diary warning the people of the future about the amulet and what is to come.
We cut to 100 years later, which is present day, or the 80s to us, where we meet the kids in the monster club. The leader of the group, Sean (Andre Gower) is given that actual diary as a gift from his mom and learns of the impending doom and return of the monsters. After he discovers these monsters are real and witnesses their return, he organizes a plan to send them back to hell with the help of his friends and an old mysterious neighbor. They soon come to realize they are the only ones who can save Earth.
I just love these older films from the 80s where a group of kids set out to save the world, and they really are the only ones that can do anything about it. When I was growing up, my dream makers and heroes were Spielberg, Landis, Carpenter, Dante, Roddenberry, Donner, Brooks, Verhoven, and Romero. And director Fred Dekker takes this industry of cool and geek and re-created what I felt like growing up. I’ll explain further. What ‘Monster Squad' emulates, is that feeling of being a kid and having to grow up. That sense of adventure, fun, and true friendship. I’m not talking about the friends I have now. I’m talking about the friends I had when I was twelve. The friends I would sneak out of the house to go explore with, which was a HUGE deal. We were in our own world and we thought that we were the only ones who knew or thought about an impending monster outbreak or an alien invasion. The group of kids in 'Monster Squad' reminded me of my small group of friends growing up. It really took me back there, watching this again.
The dialogue is spot on and never silly. And the special effects were top notch for the time. One of my favorite scenes with a werewolf is from this film, specifically the scene where the Wolf-Man explodes and his body parts begin to crawl back together to reform the monster. How that shot was done was perfect. They didn't rely on heavy special effects for the sequence, but rather, props and shadows. It's truly amazing.
This film receives my highest recommendation as it still holds up on every level today. It's one of the better coming of age films about friendship.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
After watching 'Monster Squad' on Blu-ray, it was like watching it for the first time all over again. You see, I've only viewed this amazing film on bootleg VHS copies or shoddy DVD copies. And with the 1080p HD transfer, the image of this movie has never looked so good.
The film is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is a giant upgrade from previous releases. The colors pop vibrantly throughout the picture with great detail. You will notice every hair on the Wolf-Man's body. The blacks are deep and inky as well. It was at first odd seeing such a pristine video transfer, as I have always seen low quality versions. This is by far the best this film has ever looked. Great job on the video presentation.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
'Monster Squad' also has an equally impressive audio upgrade with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix. The dialogue is crystal clear without any hissing or cracks. The 80s score and songs curst through the surrounds with the creepy ambient noises coming through the rears very nicely. The bigger sounds, which include a bit of bass, happen at the beginning and the end of the film and do not disappoint. Fans should be excited and happy with this new lossless audio transfer. It's like a new experience.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
- Audio Commentary Part 1 - This specific commentary track is with writer/director Fred Dekker, who is joined by the cast Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert, and Ashley Bank. It is a lot of fun to hear all of the kids, now grown up watching the film and talking about how much fun they had making it. There are tons of great stories here. At the end, you really want to be friends with these guys. A must listen.
- Audio Commentary Part 2 - This commentary track has writer/director Fred Dekker and cinematographer Bradford May. The duo go over most of the technical aspects of the film. If you are a fan of movie making, this is a great listen, otherwise you might get bored.
- Monster Squad Forever: A Five Part Retrospective (HD, 76 mins) - Here is over an hour of interviews, behind the scenes, and more, covering all aspects of making 'Monster Squad'. I've outlined each segment for you.
- The Monster Master (HD, 9 mins) -This feature has writer/director Fred Dekker in current day talk about his influences in film and what led him to make 'Monster Squad'. Very cool little feature.
- The Monster Makers (HD, 17 mins) - Here, the make-up and special effects team talk about making the creatures and effects for the film and how much they loved working with the late, great Stan Winston.
- The Monsters and the Squad (HD, 20 mins) - Dekker and the cast in current day all talk about getting cast for the role and their experiences on set. At the end, there is a endearing reflection on the actor Brent Chalem who played Horace in the film, who died in Las Vegas in 1997.
- Lights, Camera, monsters (HD, 20 mins) Here we have cinematographer Bradford May and composer Bruce Broughton talking about the visuals and score they came up with to advance and create each scene.
- Monster Mania (HD, 10 mins) - This fun little feature was shot at the 2007 Monster Mania convention and features interviews of fans of the film and then has interviews from the cast and crew on how this little film from the 80s grew into such a big cult icon.
- A Conversation with Frankenstein (HD, 9 mins) This is an amazing extra, which was filmed back in 1986, which is an interview with Tom Noonan in characters as Frankenstein, as he discusses the film career of Frankenstein. Amazing.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 14 mins) Here are several deleted and extended scenes from Dekker's personal copies of the film. They're fun to see, but nothing is really a must see here. And though it says it's in HD, it looks very rough.
- Animated Storyboard Sequence (HD, 2 mins) Here is a side-by-side comparison of the storyboard sequence and actual footage of the scene where the squad is trying to fight The Mummy on a movie vehicle.
- Still Gallery - Production photos from the film.
- Theatrical Trailer and TV Spot (HD, 4 mins) - The theatrical trailer and tv spot for the film.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
There are no HD exclusives.
They did an outstanding job with this blu-ray release. The audio and video presentations are top notch with tons of excellent extras. The film has stood the test of time, and even though it wasn't a huge success at the box office, over the years it has gained a substantial cult following. This film still works today and I wish they still made em like this. 'Monster Squad' gets my highest recommendation. This is a must own for fans.
- 50GB Blu-ray Disc
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound
- English: Dolby Digital 2.0
- Five-part retrospective featurette: Monster Squad Forever!
- Audio Commentaries
- A Conversation with Frankenstein
- Deleted scenes
- Animated storyboard sequence
- Still Gallery
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