The Monster Squad will forever be linked to The Goonies, perhaps even dismissed by some as a Goonies ripoff. True, the films have their similarities; both center on young a pre-teen boy’s club, both with their fearless leader, their cocky sidekick, and a lovable, overweight comic relief. But The Goonies was a big, bold, star-fueled creation from the minds of Steven Spielberg and director Richard Donner. It was conceived and executed as a rousing childhood adventure, full of pitfalls and pirate ships best suited for a young boy’s innocent imagination.
Meanwhile, The Monster Squad had different aspirations: to scare the shit out of twelve-year olds.
Fred Dekker’s quintessential “kids” movie goes where no kids movies would dare to go these days, to a dark and sinister world of real fright and intense, threatening danger. It could have been light on its feet and played nice with it’s versions of Universal’s Horror Canon. It opted out. The Monster Squad goes full throat to the dark side, creating some of the best, most frightening versions of these iconic characters. At least they are more unsettling than to what any sort of kid’s movie should aspire. True, Frankenstein’s Monster is a lovable lug who befriends the children, as he should be; but The Mummy is grotesque, The Creature From the Black Lagoon shockingly realistic and reptilian, The Wolf Man a ferocious and sharp creation from Stan Winston Studio.
And then there’s the film’s badass Prince of Darkness, the best, most frightening rendering of Count Dracula in the last 30 years. And it isn’t even close.
Canadian actor Duncan Regher plays The Count with such verve and commitment, it seems almost criminal to have him filling the villain’s shoes in a kid’s flick. But that’s part of the allure of The Monster Squad, it’s dedication to the monsters themselves. Especially Regher’s Dracula. He is a physically imposing Dracula, not lurking in the shadows playing up his sex appeal, but tossing dynamite like a boss and racing around town in his black hearse with chrome skull hood ornament. The Count should be cold and threatening, no matter the situation, and here Regher delivers more than what should be expected.
I can’t imagine a modern remake of The Monster Squad would have the film’s most iconic scene (outside of that classic “Wolf Man’s got nards” moment). I mean honestly, what 2015 studio version of this film would have Dracula approach a 6-year old girl, lift her off the ground by her chin, call her a bitch, and hiss out those razor teeth? It is the seminal moment in the film, near the end, underlit by that sickly green glow from the amulet, and the final confirmation that this kid’s movie isn’t going to give an inch. Regher’s Dracula is the baddest of the bad, a real threat to these pre-teens. He is the most crucial element in setting The Monster Squad apart from what it might have been.