From the moment it existed, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love The Monster Squad. Maybe that’s because I can’t actually remember the first time I saw it. What I remember instead are the subsequent viewings. The many, many times, for example, that I would beg my mom to rent it for me. Or how my heart would race when I saw the Tristar pegasus on TV, hoping it was another showing. As we’ll discuss in my review of Wolfman’s Got Nards, a newly available documentary, I’m not the only one who had it bad for this movie.
Wait, I’m a Tiny Gen Z Baby and I Don’t Know What a Monster Squad Is
*electric guitar riff* (image via Tristar Pictures)
Aw, you precious, precious soul. You see, way back in 1987 (so long! so old!), there was a movie called The Monster Squad. It focuses on a small community that runs into a big problem. The old Universal monsters, like Wolfman, Dracula, and Frankenstein have descended upon their town. The adult townsfolk, though, don’t really register this until it’s almost too late. Instead, it’s a club of horror-loving kids–The Monster Squad–who figure out the danger they’re all in.
There’s Sean (Andre Gower) in the ikonisch “STEPHEN KING RULES” shirt, who’s basically the head of the club. There are his best friends, Horace (Brent Chalem) and Patrick (Robby Kiger). And, of course, there’s cool kid Rudy (Ryan Lambert), who gets roped into the club by virtue of his being a cool kid, when he defends Horace from some ne’er-do-wells. Once the Squad susses out the monster threat, everyone from Sean’s younger sister Phoebe (Ashley Bank) to a kindly elderly German (Leonardo Cimino) helps out. Will they save the day (and the world)?
Well, I could answer that, because I could talk about this movie for…ever. But it’s really something you should experience yourself. (You can rent it on services like Vudu.) It’s not a perfect movie–there are instances, for example, of things we recognize today to be problematic. And it was never a big hit, as the documentary explores, but it meant a lot to the people who saw it as kids.
Wolfman’s Got Nards: What It’s All About
The documentary Wolfman’s Got Nards, which refers to a classic line from The Monster Squad, is about both the movie and its fandom. Regarding the movie, we learn how it came about, when two UCLA alums, Fred Dekker and Shane Black, conceived and wrote the film. We also learn a bit about its production, through interviews, for instance, with the monster art department.
Perhaps more importantly, though, we hear what it felt like to make this movie and then watch it basically fade away. Because while it garnered mixed reviews, it flatlined at theaters. Part of that is probably due to its marketing–it was a little too ahead of its time. The film’s rating probably also shares blame–being PG-13 in the US and 15 in the UK meant that a large part of the target audience couldn’t see it at the movies.
However, once it hit home video in 1988 and became a staple of cable programming, it really took off. Unsurprisingly, parents who had been reluctant to ferry their kids to a theater were more willing to rent a tape. And if they didn’t, then you could likely catch it on TV. Through these home viewings, The Monster Squad became a cult classic. And if your friends hadn’t seen it, then you spread the good monster word. That’s the way we used to do it, by actually aiming our face holes at one another. And then came the internet.
Through messageboards and blogs, fans of the film were able to connect and to spread the word even further. Then Alamo Drafthouse decided to stage a screening. Finally, the makers and cast of the film got to see the impact their (presumably forgotten) monster movie had. This documentary is the logical next step.
Wolfman’s Got Nards Review: A Love Letter of Fandom
image via Gravitas Ventures
Because while it has some interesting trivia about the movie, the largest part is about its fandom. It features interviews, for instance, with fans from every walk of life. They get a chance to tell their Monster Squad stories. There are similarities among them–the hunting of memorabilia, starting their own squads, many repeated viewings–but perhaps the one element they all share is communion. For a long time, being a fan of the movie meant being part of a small club of weirdos. The internet helped make it a bigger club and then we got to invite its inspiration.
And that’s where this film comes from. There’s a sense of disappointment, among other things, from the actors and crew with the movie’s original reception. I hope they’ve felt vindicated with the fan response, especially in the 21st century. It feels like they have, though, and this movie is their response.
Because if I had to sum up The Monster Squad itself, then I’d say that it’s smart and fun and funny. But if I had to sum up my review of Wolfman’s Got Nards, then I’d say that it’s not a tribute to The Monster Squad so much as it is a tribute to that movie’s fans. As such, it might be a little too inside baseball for people who haven’t watched TMS. (Watch it, then.) On the other hand, I thought (as a giant fan of TMS) that it didn’t dig as deeply as I would have liked. Overall, though, it’s a story of love: love for movies, love for fandom, and love for monsters. What else do you need?
Wolfman’s Got Nards is currently available for streaming of platforms; see the official website for specifics.
Share your fandom thoughts with us in the comments or on social media.
featured image via Gravitas Ventures
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.