Oh the horror!: Remaking the Monster Squad

Last year marked the 20th anniversary for the 1987 B-grade cult horror comedy, The Monster Squad, and and included dozens of appearances by Andre Gower (Shawn), Ryan Lambert (Rudy), Ashley Bank (Pheobe) and director Fred Dekkar, a reunion tour which began a the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas (and included an interview with Montag) and culminated — FINALLY! — into studios getting their acts together to sort out confusion over who held the rights to the film and released it to a two-disc DVD (under Lionsgate), with a fairly commendable package that unfortunately, didn’t seem to include much of the other cast (the other youngsters of the film either having passed like Brent Chalem who played Horace (aka “Fat Kid”) or simply couldn’t be located like Robby Kiger who played Patrick). More unfortunate is the fact that the noise that fans helped to generate in the last two years has lead to a rather startling announcement: preparations for a remake.

The horror!

For those who weren’t yet born in the 80s, at least early enough to fall in love with a movie that is still largely unknown to those outside the cult fan circuit, The Monster Squad is writer/director Fred Dekkar’s second cult classic — the first being Night of the Creeps (slithering alien lifeforms invade a college campus ala Invasion of the Body Snatchers). It’s not a bad way to end up considering Dekkar’s short list of career television and film credits. (The film’s full synopsis can be found at RetroJunk.com).

Flashback to the days of creepy castles invaded by angry mobs with pitchforks and you’ll find Van Helsing, the German vampire hunter battling a Liberaci-like Dracula (Duncan Regher) for control over the amulet that basically maintains the balance between eternal good and evil. Needless to say, the stakes are high. And well… somehow, he blew it. Fastforward to 1987, a regular middle class suburban neighborhood and Dracula and his band of classic Universal Studios monsters: Wolfman (played by a then-unknown Jon Gries (credited as “Desperate Man”) who is now better known as Napoleon Dynamite’s Uncle Rico), the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and, the more benevolent Frankenstien. While evil lurks in the backyard of unaware Americans everywhere, it’s the handful of elementary school kids and one chain-smoking, leather-bound junior high bad-ass (Lambert) who believe in monsters — hence, The Monster Squad — that retaliate on this invasion of classic movie monsters. Of course, it drew immediate criticism as a knock-off of the 1985 adventure, The Goonies (indeed Mary Ellen Trainor who plays Shawn’s mother in The Monster Squad was also Mikey’s mom in The Goonies), but beyond the comparisons of a group of kids embarking on their own crusade and staving off danger, it holds it’s own. Hell, it’s just a simple, fairly corny adventure.

So what’s the draw? Most certainly, it’s the young cast, though the most lasting in memory may be Lambert, who co-starred on several seasons of Disney’s Kids Incorporated and not surprisingly, wound up in L.A. years later fronting rock bands, most recently of which appears to be the locally-successful Elephone. And, as always showing up in movies throughout the 1980s, Jason Hervey, most recognizable as obnoxious Wayne Arnold on The Wonder Years, has a bit part as obnoxious schoolyard bully, E.J. And, perhaps most forgotten, is little Michael Faustino (brother of Married With Children’s David Faustino) who plays Eugene. The rest of the young cast bounced around on TV and movies, but not many. Though, Gower, who had left showbusiness to attend college in North Carolina (where he played basketball), and Bank, who had recently graduated from NYU, seem to be returning to the business, though from behind the scenes as producers.

The other draw may be, as it was is in The Goonies that, although the movie tends to get corny, these are real kids that cuss and smoke and spy on girls who seem to spend an eternity undressing in front of an open window. Even the parents were (kind of) real (nothing like a battle with monsters to save a marriage teetering on the edge of a messy divorce). Plus, there’s a thousand minor gems (quotes like “Wolfman’s got nards!”, referential t-shirt slogans like “Stephen King Rules” and hard-to-find songs like Michael Sembello’s montage tune, “Rock Until You Drop”) that establish a film’s cult following – not too many know about it. The Monster Squad‘s most loyal fans are probably people who were age-appropriate (meaning young) they saw, that piece of pulp culture that, like any other number of salient 80s movie titles (especially obscure ones) linked to something in their childhood — the movie they had on a tape they watched so often, to the point of wearing it out. It has all the right elements for it, especially as an 80s cult flick – which usually demands that its characters be a bit younger, a bit hipper.

Those loyal viewers found a romanticism in the 1987 horror comedy and that made the movie what it is. But beyond the vicarious revisiting of childhood references, The Monster Squad is (and was) a low-budget kid’s movie. There was nothing really spectacular about, beyond it’s lasting status as a cult film (something Dekkar expressed great surprise about when the trend of current loyalists became evident at these reunion appearances). Which is why a remake sounds like a terrible idea (not to mention they only just released the original last October and with that, only just re-introduced it to public memory). But it’s one that, Rob Cohen (who directed the Michael Jackson-Diana Ross Wizard of Oz musical, The Wiz) , the film’s original executive producer, appears to be pushing forward with now that Paramount Pictures has the rights, according to recent interviews with horror movie websites. Though, keep in mind, it’s something that, at least for now, is still in the planning stages. And hopefully someone has the sense enough to abandon the project, especially where Cohen doesn’t seem to be offering anything new: I really think highly of that that film…I mean, how great is it with The Mummy, the Wolfman, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Frankenstein they all were in it! It would be a prime remake!” and from his recounting of favorite things in the movie (The Wolfmans got Nards! What a great line“) just sounds like a guy who liked the first movie. Which makes motivations for a remake currently a public mystery.


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