For most of us, our love of horror begins with one word: monsters. From Universal’s classic pantheon to the rubber-suited mayhem of Godzilla and company, the creature feature was our gateway drug. It was no different for Emma, when she first fell in love with Hellboy and his monstrous universe. Till now, we’ve been looking at films to determine if they’re suitable viewing for your monster kid in training. This time, though, there’s no grey area – this is mandatory viewing for the young horror-junkie, if they haven’t seen it already. Of course, we’re talking about Fred Dekker’s cult classic, The Monster Squad, the first in our series of no-brainer recommendations.
Ron: I guess, by now, most folks here know the plot already: a group of horror-loving kids have to stop Dracula and a gang of classic monsters from bringing about the end of the world. What were your thoughts on it?
Emma: I really liked it. We watched this together quite a while ago, but I think I liked it even more this time. It’s funny, the monsters look great and the kids acted like real kids. They called each other names, they weren’t always nice to each other. The boys are pretty mean to the one kid’s little sister, Phoebe, and always trying to keep her out of their club. There’s even a kid who smokes! That’s Rudy, the bad-ass of the group, and there’s no way you would see that in a movie today.
Ron: You mentioned Phoebe before when we were watching it, and you said something that really surprised me about her.
Emma: Yeah, there’s always this thing in movies where the girl character has to be tougher and smarter than the boys. Like some kind of “female empowerment” thing and I know it’s gonna sound weird, but I get tired of that. Not every girl needs to be kick-ass and sassy. I actually find it insulting when they always have the girl turn out to be so much better than the boys. I guess they [filmmakers] think they’re being sexist if the girl character isn’t like Buffy. Not every girl is like that, so I liked Phoebe. She was just this sweet, little girl who wanted to hang out with her brother and his friends. She even ends up being the most important member of the Monster Squad at the end, without being all tough. A normal, little girl who ends up saving the world, so I really liked that.
Ron: If you could sum up your favourite thing about the movie in one word, what would it be?
Emma: Frankenstein. He was a monster, but he was this big lovable oaf. He was supposed to kill the kids for Dracula, but he ends up forming this bond with Phoebe – again, Phoebe – and he becomes the newest member of the Squad. There’s this great scene in the clubhouse where Frankenstein gets really sad and looks at the kids. He points to his face and says “Scary?” You feel bad for him, because he doesn’t want to be scary, so that’s why he’s really protective of the kids. Frankenstein’s always been a sad monster, like when we saw the original black-and-white one. I think this version of Frankenstein is just as good as Boris Karloff was. And his make-up is awesome.
Ron: The monsters are great in this film. Since they couldn’t get permission from Universal to use the “look” of the classic monsters, they had to make them a little different. In the end, I think these creatures are some of the best interpretations of these monsters yet, and have yet to be topped in more recent takes on the classics. The Gillman and the Wolfman still put a smile on my face. Even Dracula, despite the somewhat campy Bela Lugosi appearance, makes for a threatening and striking villain.
Emma: Especially when he’s got little Phoebe by the throat and calls her a little bitch. Evil!
Ron: Totally. I think what I like most about The Monster Squad is that it reminds me of when I was younger. I was that kid, drawing monsters, imagining who would win in a fight and hanging their posters on my bedroom wall. I remember getting together with friends and swapping issues of Fangoria or spending a Saturday night watching two or three horror movies in one sitting. In many ways, I still am that kid, and I may be out of touch now, but I don’t see kids doing that. The idea of a “Monster Squad” seems quaint and old-fashioned nowadays, and that actually makes me sad.
Emma: Yeah, but we do that together now, don’t we? We do that whole “who would win in a fight?” thing. Like who would win, Hellboy or Blade?
Ron: We do, but it’s not the same. It would be more fun for you, I would think, if you had other kids to share that interest with, in the way that the Monster Squad does, or I did.
Emma: It’s also different because these kids get together, in a clubhouse, and share this stuff face-to-face. There’s no Facebook, there’s no Twitter and this movie shows how much fun this monster-stuff can be without all of that stuff. Looking through magazines and talking about that stuff , with your friends while you pig out on junk-food seems more fun than talking about it online You don’t need it. I think that’s where it’s different nowadays.
Ron: I also think it’s different because there’s not a lot out there, right now, to get kids into horror. The whole “who would win” thing doesn’t apply now, because there’s nothing out there for kids to make those kinds of comparisons. There are no recent horror icons for kids to latch onto and have fun with. The closest thing to an “icon” the genre has had in recent years is Jigsaw , and you can’t have the same kind of fun with him as you could with the classic monsters, or even Freddy or Jason back in my day.
Emma: Before, it used to be Dracula versus the Wolfman. The closest thing kids my age have is, “Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?” and that has nothing to do with monsters. That’s more “who do you want as a boyfriend?” and that’s pretty boring.
Ron: Since you brought it up, which side would you be on?
Emma: [eyebrow raised] None. Kind of embarrassed I know the names, actually.
Ron: So, we don’t even have to ask “the question.” The Monster Squad is the easiest recommendation we’ve ever made. It’s also an easy sell for adults, as it recalls a very different time and culture for young horror fans such as myself and others my age.
Emma: It’s a lot of fun, a great monster movie. Definitely a no-brainer if your kid is getting into horror movies. And even if they’re not, they might become fans when the film’s done.