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Who will save us now? “The Monster Squad” 4K UHD

Updated: Dec 31, 2023


4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR SCREENSHOTS

(1) Canadian actor Duncan Regehr plays Count Dracula. (2) Monster Squad leader Sean Crenshaw (André Gower), middle, and his buddies, little Eugene (Michael Faustino), Horace (the late Brent Chalem), and Patrick Rhodes (Robby Kiger) celebrate their encounters with the monsters.



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“THE MONSTER SQUAD”


4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray; 1987; PG-13 for profanity, intense/scary scenes


Best extra: “Wolfman’s Got Nards,” a 91-minute documentary made in 2018 on a separate Blu-ray disc explores the movie, its rise to cult status, and effect on showrunners, actors, crew and fans.












ACTOR DUNCAN REGER rocks Count Dracula’s red-lined cape in a fine Christopher Lee tribute as the leader of the pack of classic Universal monsters – Frankenstein’s Monster (Tom Noonan), the Wolf Man (Jonathan Gries/Carl Thibault), the Mummy (Michael Reid MacKay) and the Gill-man “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (Tom Woodruff Jr.).


Costumes, makeup and effects were supervised by American special make-up effects master Stan Winston of “Terminator,” “Jurassic Park,” “Aliens,” “Edward Scissorhands” and “Galaxy Quest.” “The Monster Squad” production wasn’t allowed to use Universal Studios’ designs, so Winston and his team of effects artists designed and created updated images and costumes – all so good they’re a horror fan’s dream come true.


The story begins in 1887, when Van Helsing (Jack Gwillim) and his crew of vampire hunters manage to corral the Count. A last-minute blunder makes it possible for the vampire king to rise again 100 years later. And rise he does to bring the other monsters under his thrall, with a plan to take over the world. It would have worked perfectly except for a new team of do-gooders out to stop them.


Because that’s what outcast nerds do. Think American middle-school “Ghostbusters.”



(1) In 1887, Abraham Van Helsing (Jack Gwillim) and his crew of vampire hunters manage to corral the Count and send him to purgatory. A mistake gives the vampire a chance to return in 100 years. (2) The pre-teens of The Monster Squad head home after a day at school. (3-6) Count Dracula and the Desperate Man/Wolf Man (Jonathan Gries/Carl Thibault) appear in modern suburbia to retrieve an ancient amulet. The police apprehend the Desperate Man before he turns into the Wolf Man.







In this outing “The Monster Squad,” a group of late elementary school kids, their siblings and a local bad-boy Rudy, played by Ryan Lambert, take on the Big Bads. Rudy unexpectedly joins club leader Sean Crenshaw (André Gower), Patrick Rhodes (Robby Kiger), Horace (the late Brent Chalem), and little Eugene (Michael Faustino). They’re joined by Sean’s little sister Phoebe (Ashley Bank), who finds a new best friend in Frankenstein’s Monster; Sean’s police detective dad (Stephen Macht) and his partner; Patrick’s older sister, and Scary German Guy (Leonardo Cimino), who knows from first-hand experience that monsters really do exist.


There’s an amulet and incantation with special instructions to send Drac back permanently to Purgatory, along with his crew, before time runs out. The story was created by director/co-writer Fred Dekker (“Night of the Creeps”), who was hoping to reboot a classic series like “The Little Rascals” or the Universal Monsters. Writing partner Shane Black of “Lethal Weapon” fame, stepped in to help. Extras, with interviews from Dekker and Black, describe a “Lethal Weapon”-type opening for “Monster Squad,” with a helicopter and flying/attacking Vampire Brides. When informed that this would consume the entire budget, Dekker and Black came up with an alternative opening. Never fear, there’s plenty of action to be found here.


Sadly, “The Monster Squad” tanked as soon as it opened. The studios didn’t know how to market a PG-13 kid-focused horror movie at that time. There was the occasional strong profanity, suggestive sexual material, and plenty of non-PC material such as body shaming and anti-LGBTQ dialogue and scenes. It’s the stuff of America’s 1980s middle-school, but payback is prime! Horace, a.k.a. “The Fat Kid,” gets the best comeback of the film. Wait for it!


While “Monster Squad” was his first screenplay, Black’s second film “Lethal Weapon” premiered first, becoming a legendary hit that spawned a four-film franchise. Advertising “Monster Squad” as coming from the writer of “Lethal Weapon” might have saved the movie, whose lackluster run put Dekker on a 20-year blacklist. But “The Monster Squad” gained its following, becoming a world-wide hit after the neglected gem appeared on then-infant cable home-viewing. Extras cover the making-of and rise to fame in detail. They’re fun and full of tech and anecdotal material to leave you shaking your head and laughing. Watch and enjoy!



1-3) Count Dracula assembles his monster allies, Wolf Man, amphibian Gill-Man and the Mummy to resurrect Frankenstein’s Monster with a little help from an electrical storm. (4) The Monster Squad, in their tree house headquarters, determine their next move. (5) Frankenstein's Monster is alive and well.





VIDEO

Kino Lorber delivers “The Monster Squad” in a 3-disc set; one-4K UHD, and two Blu-rays. Both versions look bright, with excellent color and sharp detail, especially on the 4K. The film was scanned from its original 35mm negative using Panavision Panaflex Gold cameras and E-Series lenses presented in 2.39:1 aspect ratio. HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are included. Film grain is light, with a consistent 80-90 Mbps bitrate. This is the best the film has ever looked.

A commentary with Dekker and cinematographer Bradford May is fun and full of technical facts as the two discuss how scenes were set up and shot, some of the challenges Dekker experienced, and behind-scenes anecdotes. 


AUDIO

Audio is presented on English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD tracks, subtitles optional. The 5.1 delivery is good, and loud, but the 2.0 track is the original theatrical stereo audio. Dialogue is clear, effects and original score by Bruce Broughton (Oscar nominee, “Silverado) are well balanced. Both tracks are good, it’s only a matter of personal preference as to which is best. It is surprising the film didn’t get an Atmos upgrade; there’s plenty of opportunity for ceiling-high effects.  


EXTRAS

As noted, there are plenty of extras. These are mostly ported over from earlier releases, but all are gathered here for fans and those unfamiliar with how “The Monster Squad” came to be. The two excellent commentaries, one with Dekker and May, the other with Dekker and actors Andrew Gower, Ryan Lambert, and Ashley Bank, are available on both the 2016p and 1080p discs.


Initially, the 10-part “Wolfman’s Got Nards” was only available on a separate disc, so it’s great to have it included here on its own 1080p disc. Segments include “The Film,” “The Script,” “The Production,” “The Effects,” “The Release,” “The Discovery,” “The Cult,” “The Resurgence,” “The Loss” (revealing the untimely death of young Brent Chalem), and “The Impact,” with fans describing how “Monster Squad” inspired them.



(1-4) The Monster becomes friends with Sean’s little sister Phoebe (Ashley Bank) and the rest of the Monster Squad.






There are 13 deleted/extended scenes; a gallery of stills, lobby cards and artwork; a storyboard re: the Mummy’s final confrontation with the Squad; two TV spots, and the trailer.


Some interviews and data overlap, but there was so much drama and creativity going on behind scenes, these extras seem more of a Big Reveal. It’s all especially fresh for “Monster Squad”-loving newcomers (me). Who doesn’t love a wild behind-scenes saga? And, as in the film itself, it has a happy, if poignant, ending.


Today, “The Monster Squad” has become a cult classic with appeal for both adults and children (6 and up). It’s been compared to “The Lost Boys,” “An American Werewolf in London” and “The Goonies.” If that’s your brand of entertainment, “The Monster Squad” – in Kino Lorber’s glorious 4K package – is for you!


— Kay Reynolds


(1) The Desperate Man does his phone booth “Superman” transformation into the Wolf Man (Carl Thibault). (2&3) The Count transforms three teenage girls (Mart Albee, Joan-Carrol Baron, and Jule Merrill) into vampiric companions, which scares the bejesus out of the boys. (4&5) Sean discovers the secret room that houses the amulet.




 




(1&2) Sean’s father, Police Detective Del (Stephen Macht), and his partner Sapir (Stan Shaw) pursue the monsters. (3) Sean’s mother Emily (Mary Ellen Trainor). (4) Rudy prepares to use his bow and arrows against the Count’s brides.


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