CINE-WEEN: What The Monster Squad Means to Me

I’m about to drop some serious corniness on you all right now. Are you ready? Can you handle it? Because my love for a silly little 80’s movie is making me get all cheesy and sappy up in here. I tried to be smart and witty and referential and all that, but I can’t. Not about this perfect little slice of film heaven.

The year was 1987. I was eight years old, nestled in the relative quiet and calm of a western Chicago suburb. I lived with my grandparents who basically let me roam free and do whatever the hell I wanted, watch whatever the hell I wanted (to a certain extent). 1987 is also the year a little movie came along that firmly latched itself into a little corner of my heart and never let go. The movie: The Monster Squad. Like that comfortable t-shirt you’ve had since high school that you’ll never throw away, The Monster Squad will always be one of my go-to films for a quick pick-me-up. It makes me laugh, brings joy to my heart, fills me with 80’s nostalgia (which is lame, but shut up), renews my faith in friendship, and inspires my love for all things movies and filmmaking. I know, I know…this love is no joke realness. My grandparents had HBO back then, and once the film was released to cable, I would hope and pray that The Monster Squad would come on. It was a Tri-Star release, so any time a movie would start and feature that little galloping horse into the logo I would squeal (ahem, internally) with delight. Sometimes it WAS actually The Monster Squad coming on! But most of the time it wasn’t. It was some stupid grown-up garbage picture. Yawn. Give me Frankenstein and Count Dracula and the Wolfman and Rudy and Horace and Phoebe, goddamit!

 

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The Monster Squad is just that: a crew of pretty typical teens obsessed with monsters and monster movies. Their leader, Sean, happens across the diary of a Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, renowned vampire/monster hunter…but dangit!…it’s all in German. Which leads the group to a Scary German Guy, who ends up being not that scary at all. And extremely helpful when a bunch of evil monsters come to town, led by the sinister Count Dracula. The crux of the plot relates to an amulet that holds tremendous power…Count Dracula seeks the gem to cast the world into eternal darkness; our fearless Squad wants to use it to rip open a hole in the universe and send the mean meanies into indefinite limbo. It’s a classic tale of good versus evil, comedy-horror style, with just enough fun times and chuckles and heartwarming moments to make you sail through the one hour and 22 minute running time with pure delight. (I warned you that this was gonna be cheesy. I wasn’t lying).

 

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If you’ve seen The Goonies, then basically you know the friends from The Monster Squad – it’s a similar gaggle of friends. But while everyone drones on and on about their love for The Goonies, give me Sean and Rudy and Horace and Phoebe and Patrick and Eugene any day. Especially Rudy! I went through a phase for about a year where I wanted nothing more than to be just like Rudy, the leather jacket-clad budding lothario, Rebel Without A Cause wannabe. All cool in his Wayfarers and cigarette (that you can tell he had absolutely NO IDEA how to actually smoke). And he makes silver bullets and wooden stakes in shop class! What a baller! I wanted to be Rudy so freakin hard but knew even at that young age that I was just a big ol’ dork wrapped up in cute little girl clothing my grandma dressed me in (the woman ironed my jeans, for chrissakes). Rudy was my everything! I could never decide if I wanted to kiss him, hang out with him, be him, or all three.

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And then there’s that montage. Can we talk about it? If you haven’t seen the film, click that little linky to the left and take a couple minutes before reading on. Because that, my friends, is the best 80’s montage in the history of all 80’s montages. Perhaps even the best montage in the history of all montages? I mean, I’m no film expert, that’s for sure. But the soundtrack, editing, pacing, and structure are all packaged in the most perfect little red bow to keep the story moving along at a most energetic pace. When I think about what inspired me to watch lots of movies and go to film school and work in entertainment for a hot second…nah I’m not thinking about Truffaut or Varda or Hitchcock…I’m thinking about this bloody brilliant Rock Until You Drop montage from The Monster Squad. It was a language I understood immediately, and wanted to speak and dissect and study and learn about for the rest of my life, even if just for fun. It cultivated my passion for all things film, was a little seed that planted itself in my teeny eight year-old belly that just grew and grew and grew.

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There is one itty bitty thing that I should mention..The Monster Squad ain’t all that scary. But when I think about the film, I think of Halloween and apple cider and pumpkins and all that fall shit. I can watch the movie whenever, wherever, but it is THE best Halloween movie for sure. So if you’re expecting major chills and creeps galore, I suggest you curl up with something else. Because it’s the perfect movie about friendship and acceptance and teamwork. And monsters. Because every moment is pure magic. And just plain fun. It warms my heart to no end and I hope it does the same for you.

I would be remiss if I left you without some of my favorite lines from The Monster Squad. So here goes nothin’.

“She can’t read, she’s five years old!”

“Where the hell am I supposed to find silver bullets? K-Mart?”

“My name…is HORACE!”

“Gentlemen, I’d just like to say three words: Scary. German. Guy.”

JaimeDavis
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JaimeDavis

Jaime Davis, originally from the suburbs of Chicago, has lived in Philadelphia for too many years. After receiving a BA in Film and Media Arts, she moved to Los Angeles and promptly conquered the film industry with her quick wit and grace. Nah, but she did intern for Kevin Spacey and worked as a casting director for two years before relocating to the East Coast and transitioning to a full-time gig in higher education. When she's not advising students at the University of Pennsylvania, you can find her fixing all the things as The Fixer for the film zine Moviejawn, writing half screenplays, and eating snax. Fun fact: Jaime was born in the same hospital that Cary Grant died in. Which is really just a fact, not necessarily fun.
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