Review Date: July 23, 2007
Released by: Lionsgate
Release date: 07/24/2007
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
I first became interested in home video ownership back in 1998 when I picked up a laserdisc player. Monster Squad was one of the movies I immediately tracked down for my home collection, first with the US P&S laserdisc release, then with the Japanese widescreen laserdisc. The Japanese laser was a gem, since it was the only widescreen home video presentation of the movie. With the advent of DVD, it was only a matter of time before the fan favorite Monster Squad
was released onto the format. That 'matter of time' turned into a grueling 10 year wait. The wait is finally over. Lionsgate has delivered to fans a two-disc, 20th anniversary special edition of The Monster Squad
. Was it worth the wait? A childhood favorite of mine, it's with great excitement I begin this review for The Monster Squad
to find out the answer.
One hundred years ago in Transylvania, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Jack Gwillim) and a group of freedom fighters conspired to rid the world of vampires and monsters. They failed. Flash toward to current day (well, make that 1987). A group of misfit middle schoolers - Sean (Andre Gower), the leader; Patrick (Robby Kiger), Sean's best friend; Horace (Brent Chalem), also known as "fat kid", Rudy (Ryan Lambert), the bad boy from Junior High; and Phoebe (Ashley Bank), Sean's younger sister - run a monster club out of Sean's tree house. They're obsessed with everything monster related. So much so that they spend time in school making up and drawing monsters to put on the tree house walls. After school they spend most of the time discussing monsters and "Scary German Guy" - a mysterious old man that lives in the neighborhood and that they believe is a monster.
The monster club is about to face the ultimate threat. Dracula (Duncan Regehr) has risen from his grave, determined to destroy a mystical amulet that will allow all evil to rule the earth. To help aid him in his quest, Dracula resurrects Frankenstein (Duncan Regehr), the Wolfman (Carl Thibault), the Mummy (Michael Reid MacKay), and Gillman (Tom Woodruff Jr.). Since Sean's father, Del (Stephen Macht), is a police detective, Sean learns of all the strange occurernces happening in town. First a man claiming to be a werewolf is shot and seemingly killed, until the body disappears from the morgue later that night. Then a mummy disappears from the museum, even though there were no signs of a break-in. Sean puts two and two together and realizes there in an influx of monsters in town.
Sean's mother gives him Van Helsing's journal, which she found while cleaning out a church. The kids turn to "Scary German Guy" for an English translation of the German writings. It is then they learn of Dracula's apocalyptic intentions. Now the group of misfits, along with "Scary German Guy" and another unlikely ally, band together as the monster squad. They must use their expertise of monster folklore and the instructions in Van Helsing's journal to battle Dracula and his monster minions in hopes of sending them back to the netherworld before the amulet is destroyed.
Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Gillman, and The Mummy - what more can you ask for? They're all here, and they look great. Given there are five main monsters, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the makeup and costumes were. No doubt this is due to special effects guru Stan Winston being in charge of the monsters. He's worked on everything, from The Thing to Terminator 3.
Duncan Regehr does a wonderful and accurate portrayal of Dracula. He's evil, heartless, and determined to succeed in his quest at all costs. Besides the other monsters, there's little character interaction with Dracula because the children and police are just minor annoyances in his path. This works well, though. He treats them like flies buzzing around his head - a minor annoyance, but nothing a quick swish of the hand can't take care of. Tom Noonan also does a fine job as the cursed and misunderstood Frankenstein. It's only the children that can look past Frankenstein's exterior and see the good inside of him. It is only they that can befriend this gentle giant. The other monsters have lesser roles and less screen time as a result, but they look good and act convincing. There are some great scenes with the Wolf Man too, including a partial, less than stellar transformation and a few humorous scenes.
The child actors each give fair performances; they are convincing in regards to their friendships and their love of monsters. They come across as normal, everyday friends thrown into this surreal situation, which is exactly how it should be. Most are no longer acting today, though many will recognize Jason Hervey (he plays E.J. - Horace's nemesis) who later went on to play Wayne Arnold on The Wonder Years TV show. I was saddened to discover Brent Russell Chalem (Horace) died at the young age of 22 back in 1997.
What works about The Monster Squad? EVERYTHING! It's a fun story with lots of humor and jabs regarding monster mythology. He's an example of when Sean and Patrick are walking home from school discussing the Wolfman:
Sean: Look, Wolfman doesn't go to work. He's not like a guy.
Patrick: What are you talking about? He walks around, he wears pants.
Sean: He had to wear pants. Those movies were made in the 40's. He had to wear them so you wouldn't see his .... 'wolf dork.'
Okay, maybe that particular example had nothing to do with monster mythology. Or did it? Does the Wolfman have a ... 'wolf dork' or not? There are several scenes like this, and you find the answer to many of them at later points in the movie. They're entertaining to watch and connect.
The Monster Squad's
primary appeal is no doubt towards children. It's Rated PG, there's no gore or hardcore killings to speak of, and all of the central characters are children. So yes, the story is a bit juvenile, but there's no reason why adult monster fans cannot enjoy it as well. I love this movie, but I'm bias since I watched it a lot as a child. There's no doubt anyone who has seen The Monster Squad as a child will love it even today. For those that haven't seen it, make it a must see! Unless you're only interested in hardcore horror, you'll definitely find The Monster Squad entertaining on many different levels.
was released in a 16x9 enhanced transfer in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Many fans can finally retire their wornout P&S VHS or laserdisc copy from the 80s, or even the widescreen laserdisc that was released in Japan. I did a brief comparison between the Japanese laser and this DVD, only to conclude there is no comparison. There's just no sense in comparing a 1989 laserdisc release to a 2007 DVD release. Instead I will comment only on the DVD transfer, which is phenomenal. Colors are generally well balanced and vibrant, but there are several scenes where they appear slightly subdued. The image is razor sharp and no MPEG artifacts are present. Much of the movie takes place at night and many of the nighttime scenes do contain some grain; nothing substantial, however. It's a solid transfer that will leave fans extremely pleased. I'm rating it with a B+.
Two audio tracks are included. A new Dolby 5.1 track has been included as well as the original 2.0 track. I only sampled portions of the 2.0 track, but found little differences between it and the 5.1. The 5.1 track has moderate LFE and rear speaker activity. Most of it is present in the action scenes, which there are many. The 5.1 track was well balanced overall. I found no disortion or flaws in either track.
Lionsgate really delivered the goods on the supplemental side of this DVD. It is a two-disc set for starters; disc two being entirely supplements. Disc one, the movie itself, has two commentary tracks with cast and crew. The first track is with Writer/Director Fred Dekker and "Squad Members" Andre Gowe (Sean), Ryan Lambert (Rudy), and Ashley Bank (Phoebe). The second is Writer/Director Fred Dekker and Director of Photography Bradford May. The first track was a blast to listen to. Initially I thought it was going to be a bore; none of the cast members were talking much at first. But once the film got rolling, everyone joined in on the commentary. While there were several tidbits shared about their experiences making the movie, the majority of the track was the group goofing on the movie by pointing out many of the inconsistencies. It wasn't done in the sense they were putting down the movie; it was clear they all love it. It was more of a group of friends reminiscing and having fun. I enjoyed it a lot and laughed along with them. The second track with Dekker and the DP was much more technical. Obviously it focuses on filming details such as sets, effects, and challenges they faced. There were no gaps of silence and both did an equal amount of talking. I enjoyed both but would say the first track with Dekker and the Squad was more enjoyable.
Disc two contains the bulk of the supplements, first of which is a five-part retrospective titled Monster Squad Forever. The five parts are: The Monster Master; The Monster Makers; The Monsters and the Squad; Lights, Camera, Monsters!; and Monsters Mania. There's tons of great information in it - how Dekker formed the idea and got the movie made; cast and crew interviews where they shared stories about the filming; effects; the fan phenomenon to Monster Squad
; and so much more. I really enjoyed it; fans are going to have a blast with it. At a runtime of 90 minutes, which for fans will go by in a heart beat, you just couldn't ask for more. But wait, there is more!
Next is an interview with Frankenstein/Tom Noonan, though the interview is actually with the character of Frankenstein. It's a bit odd, and I suppose it's meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek, but I found it rather boring myself. Seven deleted scenes are included, all of which contain a brief introduction to the scene. The quality is rough and there's nothing substation in any of the deleted scenes. The only one of real interest was a gag featuring the Gillman. Wrapping up the extras are a storyboard sequence, theatrical trailer and TV spot, and a still gallery.
Those who dislike the cover, myself included, will be happy to know an insert is included with the original theatrical artwork, along with an introduction by Dekker on the backside. I simply slide the insert over the front cover and it looks great.
What a blast I had going through all of these supplements. Two commentary tracks, a 90 minute retrospective, deleted scenes, trailer, TV spots, still gallery, and a storyboard sequence. Fans just couldn't ask for more from Lionsgate. They did a great job; a solid A.
The Monster Squad is a top notch monster movie that both adults and children can enjoy. It has great makeup effects, a decent story, and a good dose of humor. It's been a long wait for the DVD, but Lionsgate really outdid themselves. For an MSRP of $19.98, we get a solid audio/video presentation and a two-disc set with an abundant amount of extras that fans are going to love. Highly recommended as a must-own.
Movie - A
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B+
Supplements - A
- Running time - 1 hour 22 minutes
- Rated PG-13
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- Dolby Digital 5.1
- Dolby Digital 2.0
- English and Spanish subtitles
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Fred Dekker and "Squad Members"
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Fred Dekker and Director of Photography Bradford May
- Monster Squad Forever! A five-part retrospective
- A Conversation with Frankenstein
- Deleted Scenes
- Still Gallery