It’s finally October, the favorite month of fans of both Halloween and all the ghouls, ghosts, and goblins that come with that. The Universal monsters deserve much love when it comes to scary cinematic treats, which is why it’s high time we covered The Monster Squad on this little commentary column of ours.
The film is a cult favorite and it sits in fans’ hearts as more than just a Goonies rip-off with classic horror icons. So let’s ring in All Hallow’s Month with all the great things we learned listening to the commentary for The Monster Squad. It’s got nards.
The Monster Squad (1987)
Commentators: Fred Dekker (co-writer/director), Andre Gower (“Sean”), Ashley Bank (“Phoebe”), Ryan Lambert (“Rudy”)
1. The commentary begins with Dekker questioning the heritage of Lambert’s character, Rudy Halloran. He believes it’s a Scottish name, to which Lambert responds that it’s Scottish for “badass.” Yep. That’s Rudy.
2. Dekker wanted to show the castle in the beginning of the film using a Monty Python and the Holy Grail-esque model. Producer Peter Hyams felt the model was too fake-looking, and a matte painting was used instead. No word on whether or not Dekker wanted it to look fake, going for a laugh.
3. Dekker questions why Dracula sleeps as a bat hanging upside down instead of in a coffin, what’s assumed to be many gaps in logic brought up on this commentary. The kids with him explain that he needed some air and that it just looks cooler transforming from a bat than rising from a coffin. Dekker agrees.
4. “Now, when it says ‘Present Day,’ excuse the ’80s hair,” says Dekker when the film shifts right into the era. It’s part of the film’s charm, really.
5. Dustin Diamond was originally in a scene at school with Sean and Patrick. He played a kid who traded baseball cards with them but, according to Dekker, something about the scene didn’t play right, and it was axed. Dustin Diamond being in the scene wouldn’t have had anything to do with that, now would it?
6. The commentators mention that Brent Chalem, who played Horace in the film, passed away in 1997 from pneumonia, and this is the first I’m hearing about it. Rest in peace.
7. Dekker points out that he’s not sure why five-year-old Phoebe is walking home alone, but he does mention she walks to the beat of her own drum. He’s also not entirely sure how she’s heard Rudy killed his father, but none of the older kids had. “I know a lot of things nobody else knows,” says Bank. The director also notes the five-year-old runs across the street without looking either way.
8. An earlier version of the clubhouse scene was much longer and had the kids reading Playboys as well as hiding them when Phoebe knocks.
Dekker notes that he wrote the screenplay for The Monster Squad
with Shane Black
, a favorite of Commentary Commentary
. He mentions Black brought much of the family dynamic to the film, particularly the father being a cop and the effect it had on the rest of the family.
10. Dekker mentions he and Black were making fun of all the holiday-themed horror movies when they devised of Groundhog Day, the movie Sean wants to watch at the drive-in. The director and Gower wonder why Sean was so heartbroken he couldn’t go see the movie when he could just watch the drive-in from his window.
11. “There are no boas in North America. There are also no armadillos in Transylvania,” notes Dekker, pointing out logical flaws with the film. “There’s also no wolfman,” remarks Gower. Dekker tells him he’s wrong.
12. Through much of the commentary, Dekker tries to figure out Dracula’s grand scheme, and he questions what purpose each of the other monsters serve in that plan. The group thinks on it, and agree the Mummy is the nerdy one, Frankenstein is the hitman, and Wolfman is the muscle. Lambert questions whether the other monsters even care.
13. An early plan was to make Phoebe’s stuffed dog, Scraps, as a toy tie-in for the film. Dekker notes the idea didn’t go through, but he still has one of the prototype Scraps. He could totally sell that for hundreds of dollars at a horror convention.
14. Gower points out how hilarious it is the note Sean’s mom gives him says the person who called is interested in “Van Halen Diary.” We only mention it here, because it’s one of those jokes in the film you might not notice on the first or second or even thirteenth time watching it.
15. Dekker notes how controversial the scary German’s guy’s backstory was and showing the Holocaust numbers on his arm. He points out how it juxtaposes the fantasy world they’ve created and adds a level of realism to everything that happens.
16. Lambert mentions how upset he was that Rudy runs away from Frankenstein’s monster and that he’d be too cool to flee in fear. He and Dekker agree that it’s a facade with his character, that he’s really not that cool. Lambert also notes a motif Dekker had to putting him behind shrubbery throughout the film.
17. Bank mentions how nervous she was when Phoebe says the word “shit.” It was the first time the actress had ever cursed in her life and was worried her mom would be mad at her, but she actually encouraged her daughter to say the line.
18. Tom Noonan was a complete method actor, never being around the kid actors unless he was totally done up in the Frankenstein makeup. Lambert notes he never really did meet Tom Noonan. Does anyone ever really “meet” Tom Noonan, though?
19. “Do you guys know Team America?” asks Gower, to which everyone says yes. “Well, then, you know there’s got to be a montage,” he responds.
20. Horace’s line about “looking at rocks” and “collecting birds” was the only line Dekker and Black wrote completely together.
21. Dekker points out The Monster Squad was made in the days before DVD and frame-by-frame skipping, but we can now see the picture Rudy flashes at Patrick’s Sister is actually not of her naked in her bedroom. It’s actually a woman, fully clothed, standing by a pool.
22. “I think it’s a showbiz truism that a kick in the balls will always work,” says Dekker. You know during which part.
23. The glowing amulet on its pedestal was pulled off with a green laser shooting up from underneath the set and out the prop. The commentators, always quick to point out flubs in the film, make sure you note the second longer the laser takes to turn off than it should after Sean has taken the amulet. Still, you have to love this movie, flaws and all.
24. Lambert was mocked most of his life for the line “See ya later, Band-Aid Breath.” He blames Dekker for much of the abuse, since it was apparently the director’s insistence that he sing the line. Lambert actually redoes his line “It’s locked is what it is” on the commentary, and all agree the new take is better. No audio options to include it are on this particular Blu-ray.
25. Dekker points out a number of things that make The Monster Squad a more serious movie than I remember. When Dracula throws the dynamite into the clubhouse, he believes the kids are in there and attempting to murder them. The director later points out you can see Sean’s mother’s bags are packed, and she’s in the process of leaving his father. Both subtle things in this movie the eight-year-old me didn’t even consider. Listing it here if you’re in the same camp.
26. Dekker is quick to point out that you should just ignore the fact that Rudy only kills two of the vampire women, and the third evidently vanishes into thin air. There’s no explanation if the fate of the third vampire woman was even scripted or filmed.
27. Rudy saying “Bang” before he fires on the Wolfman was a scripted line, but the sound man went to him after the first take and told him he messed up. He thought the kid had made a mistake. The shot used was the one and only take on the line.
28. “Everyone earns their stripes in this scene,” says Dekker during the final scene of the film. “They formed the club, but it isn’t a squad yet.”
29. Before her face-to-face encounter with Dracula, Dekker told Bank to scream, to which she asked when. He just told the five-year-old she would know when. The actress got into the contraption that raised her to meet actor Duncan Regehr. They shot some coverage without incident, but then the actor put red contacts and sharp fangs in. Bank’s reaction in the film was the young actress’ genuine fright from seeing him for the first time. She tells Dekker not to feel bad, because Frankenstein comes to save the day.
30. Dekker’s direction to Gower for the last line of the film was to do it like Clint Eastwood. You be the judge.
Best in Commentary
“I’m enjoying now Dracula’s MO, which I’m unclear about. He’s got a car. He’s planned to have this crate shipped. It’s clearly a nefarious plan. I just have no idea what it really is.” -Fred Dekker, the director of this film
“The movie is about misfits. Everybody in this movie, somehow, doesn’t fit in. Why is Rudy, if he’s so cool, why is he hanging around 10-year-old kids? How come they have to form their own club? Because they don’t fit in at school. Obviously Frankenstein’s monster. That’s why I think it works, because everybody can relate to somebody, or at least a piece of that.” -Fred Dekker
“I like to think Rudy really did kill his dad.” -Ryan Lambert
Thank God for commentaries like The Monster Squad that not only give you information about the production on the film but gives you a new appreciation for it. Hearing these actors and Fred Dekker talk about it, pointing out the details, and revealing certain undertones that may not have been noticed is a real treat. Even the filmmakers point out the film’s logic gaps, and they either spin it or explain how changes in the script or early cuts of the film created those gaps.
But hearing the joy in all of their voices and listening to them reflect on the film years after making it makes even the most hardened cynic brush the logic gaps for the sake of pure entertainment. It’s what The Monster Squad is best at, and this commentary is just as fun. Congrats to AICN’s Eric Vespe for a “Thank you” on the commentary.