The Monster Squad

The Monster Squad ★★★★½

Entry number 1 in Shocktober 2014

After my aborted attempt to include the unscary The Boxtrolls as the start of my Shocktober 2014 Campaign of Terror, I was looking for something similarly kid-oriented but with some actual scares to get my marathon off to a mild start. We can't jump right into Martyrs, can we? So, Monster Squad, an obviously Goonies-influenced story of kids vs. classic horror monsters (Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein, the mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon) felt like the right move. And boy was it. I'm not a huge fan of the Goonies, I just don't think it's very funny, but this rip-off has the laughs that film lacks and ups the ante in the scare department. I'm a little bit of a wuss and I have a built in fear of werewolves in general but I think this movie is actually pretty scary. Certainly scarier than The Boxtrolls, which got a bit of guff for being "too scary". Ha! Here the Wolfman howls and there's a creepy old house and I get a few chills. That is, until our hero urges his friend to kick the Wolfman in the nards, which he does and then exclaims, "Wolfman's got nards!" HA! So great. Not even ironically great, either, I legitimately love that. I've always been a Shane Black fan and when I saw that he was one of the two writers of the film I hoped that he would bring his grasp of genre and dialogue to the project. He did. Although some of the language would never be seen in a modern kids movie, it's all pretty smart stuff. Black knows that the way to keep the scary stuff in is to defuse it with a quick joke. Those jokes, in addition to actually being funny here, also get the little ones (and me) laughing right after a scary moment so we don't dwell on it too much. It's the perfect way to make a horror movie for kids. His script is also loyal to the lore of these baddies, and I especially loved a shoutout to the young girl by the pond that is famous in most Frankenstein adaptations. The cast does its job, none of the kids are annoying or bad actors and Duncan Regehr's Dracula is pretty good. But maybe the best part is the 'preparing for battle' montage set to the silliest song of all time. The whole thing is great.

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