The Monster Squad, an action comedy, was released by Tri-Star Pictures on August 14, 1987. The film was directed by Fred Dekker and written by Shane Black and Dekker.
The film begins 100 years earlier with Dr. Abraham Van Helsing and his band of followers invading Dracula's castle in an attempt to access an amulet that has the power of ridding the world of monsters. The audience is told in a brief introduction that Van Helsing and his crew failed at this endeavor and the ramifications are felt in the present day when the monsters make their way to the Monster Squad’s hometown.
A major theme of The Monster Squad is its redefining of monstrosity. In a film that juxtaposes five children against five monsters, the obvious analysis move would be to examine the innocence in the children as compared to the damned-nature of the monsters. The monster squad turns this logic inside out as some of the monsters are not "monstrous" at all.
When the audience is first introduced to Frankenstein's monster, Dracula commands him to find Van Helsing's diary that is being kept by The Monster Squad. As the monster sets on this expedition, he finds Sean's little sister, Phoebe, by a pond. In a scene that mirrors James Whales' Frankenstein (1931) pond scene, this encounter between the monster and Phoebe is one that comes with much fear due to the audience's expectations.
Defying expectations, the monster befriends Phoebe, and Phoebe brings him to meet the boys in The Monster Squad to prove that she deserves a place in the club. After the boys recover from their terror, they too realize the kindness within the Monster. The Monster becomes a member of their group, and he joins them in their club house meetings and their search for the amulet. The Monster even saves Phoebe from Dracula as she is attempting to read from Van Helsing's diary to save the town. As Dracula holds Phoebe in an attempt to scare her into giving him the amulet, the Monster jumps in and throws Dracula onto a sharp stake that kills him.
Frankenstein's Monster helps the group while knowing it means he will eventually have to leave them when the amulet is used to send the monsters back into limbo. This display of the Monster's character redefines the idea of a hideous creature having a soul that matches the outside appearance.
The Significance of Phoebe as a Female Character
Phoebe's role is given significant meaning through her relationship with Frankenstein's Monster. When the two first meet, Phoebe is sitting by a pond and she feels the Monster's shadow over her. As mentioned previously, the expectation of the Monster to harm Phoebe is shattered when they befriend one another. Phoebe's absence of fear towards the Monster plays a major role in the monsters development as well as the development of the story line as Phoebe, despite being a young girl, takes on a sort of "mothering" role for the Monster.
In the beginning of the movie, it is clear that the members of the male-only monster club want nothing to do with Phoebe joining their club. This is evident by their tree house markings stating "no girls allowed" and their harshness towards Phoebe when she tries to gain access into their club. It is not until Phoebe presents Frankenstein's Monster that she is granted admission into the club.
Once she and the Monster gain access to the club, the two continue to bond which is depicted in a scene where Phoebe and the Monster play dress up. In this particular scene, Phoebe is once again playing with the Monster in a way that parallels the way a mother would play with her child. It is also revealed that Phoebe plays a prominent role in the Monster's education as he begins to speak in front of the boys and Phoebe exclaims, "I taught him to talk!". This education adds another dimension to Phoebe's mothering as the audience learns that she is not only teaching him how to play, but assisting him in his cognitive development as well. There are many instances where Phoebe is shown holding the Monster's hand without fear and referring to him as her friend, emphasizing her absence of fear and unwavering trust in the Monster.
Their friendship is proven when the Monster kills Dracula to protect Phoebe. This action allows Phoebe to finish reading the text from Van Helsing's diary which sends the monsters back into limbo. Phoebe cries and begs for the Monster not to go and the Monster tries to grab at the ground to stay with her, but nothing can stop the power of the amulet. Phoebe is devastated by their separation which shows the audience her sincere love for the creature.
The monsters sacrifice of his life for The Monster Squad shows the effect of his friendship with Phoebe as her acceptance brings out the kind and loving side of him that contributes to his decision to join the children's side to defeat Dracula.
The Monster Squad was not initially a box-office hit, but over time it has developed a cult following. In 2008, the film won the award for "Best DVD Classic Film Release" from The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA. In 1988, The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA nominated the film for Best Supporting Actor (Duncan Regehr), Best Performance by a Younger Actor (Andre Gower), Best Music (Bruce Broughton), and Best Costumes (Michael W. Hoffman and Aggie Lyon). The Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film awarded Fred Dekker with the Silver Raven award in 1988 for his work directing the film. In the same year, Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Ryan Lambert, Michael Faustino, Brent Chalem, and Ashley Bank won the award for Outstanding Young Actors/Actresses Ensemble in Television or Motion Picture at the Young Artist Awards.
The Monster Squad proves to be significant among other monster movies as it changes the standard monster/human (adult) conflict as it pins four children and one preteen against the forces of five infamous monsters. Rather than conforming to other well-known films where the monsters wreak havoc on the world and have to be stopped by adults, this film changes the dynamic by giving The Monster Squad the power to be victorious. The children are given this power by their accumulated monster knowledge that adults, like their Science teacher, disregard as useless knowledge. The Monster Squad's power lies in the imagination that has escaped the adults in the film.
The Monster Squad also recognizes that the standard Dracula/Frankenstein/Wolf-man films have all been seen countless times in a number of ways. This film recognizes the need for a shift in the typical story line to keep audiences interested, and it does so by casting child stars in the leading roles.
The film also engages with previously made monster movies. It borrows concepts from the Universal monster films, like the uniting of infamous monsters, similarly seen in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Similarly to Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Dracula is the monster orchestrating the elaborate scheme to reach his own desired results. The films also clearly engages with James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) as the introduction scene of Phoebe and Frankenstein's Monster gives a direct nod to the scene of James Whale's Frankenstein's Monster meeting the little girl by the pond.
"The Monster Squad (1987)." Flick Facts. The Movie Database. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.<http%3A%2F%2Fflickfacts.com%2Fmovie%2F1984%2Fthe-monster-squad>.
The Monster Squad. Dir. Fred Dekker. By Shane Black and Fred Dekker. Perf. Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht, and Duncan Regehr. TriStar, 1987. DVD.
"The Monster Squad." IMDb. IMDb.com. Web. 16 Apr. 2015. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093560/>.
"The Monster Squad." Wikipedia. Wikipedia. Web. 12 Apr. 2015 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monster_Squad>.