Shock/Cinema Cult, Rated M, 89 minutes. (Flashback DVD Review)
This love-letter to the Golden Age of Universal Monsters wasn’t a hit when released in 1987 but has become quite a cult pic, and despite its dated, awesomely-‘80s look, there’s still much here to enjoy, including a reverential tone that actually works for a change. Co-written and directed by Fred Dekker (just after his Night Of The Creeps) and co-written by Shane Black (just before he hit it big with the first Lethal Weapon), this has cool FX and make-up from the late great Stan Winston (among others) and a couple of ambitiously serious edges.
After an awkward flashback opening sequence, we meet the Baton Rouge-based Monster Squad of pre-teens who dearly love classic monster movies and regularly hang out in a treehouse to engage in pre-internet trivia quizzes. Ostensible leader Sean (Andrew Gower) is unwittingly given a diary written by Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Jack Gwillim), but as it’s written in German, he must go with Patrick (Robby Kiger) and Horace (the since-late Brent Chalem) to have it translated by the unnamed ‘Scary German Guy’, a neighbour sweetly played by the also-since-late Leonardo Cimino and a man who certainly knows a thing or two about monsters.
A powerful amulet that keeps evil at bay is compromised one day out of every century, and as we build up to that event, no less than Dracula himself (Duncan Regehr) rises and enlists the assistance of a feisty Wolf Man (Carl Thibault), a nasty but fragile Mummy (Michael MacKay) and (as he’s listed in the credits) The Gill-man (Tom Woodruff Jr.), which is obviously meant to be ‘The Creature From The Black Lagoon’ (the last of the proper Universal monsters) but which, surely due to legal issues, looks rather more like one of the beasts from the goofy Island Of Fishmen (a.k.a. Screamers and a whole bunch of dumb alternate titles).
Frankenstein’s Monster is in there as well (and played by Tom Noonan, the best-known player here), and there’s some nice, even rather touching comedy when the Squad all scarper at the sight of the Creature, but Sean’s tough little sister Phoebe (Ashley Bank) fearlessly approaches him and makes friends.
There’s something really rather refreshing about any movie that dares to adore films that even in 1987 would have been classified as ‘Old’, and which now would surely be condemned by Millennials as being positively ancient. The little monsters!