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The Monster Squad(1987)
A small town is disrupted with the arrival of Dracula to retrieve an amulet controlling the balance between good and evil.
For more about The Monster Squad and the The Monster Squad Blu-ray release, see the The Monster Squad Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on February 15, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Noonan, Robby Kiger, Jack Gwillim, Jon Gries, Stan Shaw, Leonardo Cimino
Director: Fred Dekker
» See full cast & crew
The Monster Squad Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, February 15, 2013
Our forums here at Blu-ray.com are often overrun with people complaining (rightly or wrongly) about so-called "limited editions" or other licensing deals, and this new Blu-ray release of Monster Squad might be an excellent example to point out both the pluses and minuses not only of these marketing strategies but the ultimate uselessness of complaining about them (other than the lowering of blood pressure such complaints might help attain). Niche label Twilight Time often comes in for the most vociferous brickbats with regard to what is called the "magazine rate" (i.e., limiting releases to 3,000 or fewer copies), but some of those bemoaning this supposedly "unnecessary" or "stupid" strategy suddenly found themselves scrambling for copies when Twilight Time's Fright Night perhaps unexpectedly sold out rather quickly. That at least points out the peril to consumers as well as the ultimate marketing strategy on the part of distributors with regard to what are largely niche releases to begin with (despite the fact that many have really moaned about supposed mainstream releases being licensed for limited Blu-ray release, complaints which tend to ignore the fact that unless the licensors brought them out, these releases would never see the light of day since their home studios have no interest in releasing them). On the other hand (a hand which may give a least a glimmer of hope to those who don't like this kind of arrangement), these licensing deals, whether or not they require limited editions, typically only last three years, and so we're now seeing Olive Films bring out new Blu-ray releases of titles that have had previous (usually Lionsgate) releases. That was the case with The Running Man, and it's now the case with The Monster Squad. What may help to ameliorate the frustration those who didn't get their copy of Fright Night quick enough and who missed out on the Lionsgate release of this particular title is the fact that in many ways The Monster Squad is quite similar to Fright Night in subject matter and tone. However, back on the "minus" side of the scoreboard is the fact that quite often extra features which appeared either on previous DVD releases or even prior Blu-ray releases are not licensable for new reissues, and as was the case with Olive's The Running Man, none of the supplements that appended either the Lionsgate DVD or Blu-ray release are included on this new Blu-ray.
If you were in fact to mix one part Fright Night with one part The Goonies, and add just a dash of Stand By Me for good measure, you'd have a fair approximation of the casserole that is in store in Monster Squad. The film starts with a nicely done prologue (including a nice little textual introduction that has a simple but effective punch line) showing legendary vampire hunter Edward Van Helsing attempting to prevent some sort of tragedy that has something to do with a glowing orb. There's the requisite virgin (one assumes, anyway) in tow, who is given an incantation to recite, but everything goes horribly awry and some sort of interdimensional vortex opens up, sucking just about everything around it into its gaping maw.
We segue to the present time where a bunch of monster obsessed kids have gotten in trouble at their school for not paying appropriate attention to their science teacher. In the meantime, we've seen a freight airliner literally drop Dracula (Duncan Regehr) and Frankenstein's Monster (Tom Noonan) from its cargo bay, and soon these iconic Universal monsters are joined by The Mummy (Michael MacKay), The Wolf Man (Carl Thibaut) and The Creature from the Black Lagoon (Tom Woodruff, Jr.), all of whom have converged on the small town where the aforementioned kids live and where that glowing orb may hold a scary secret or two that makes it catnip for the aggregation of legendary bad guys (and/or creatures). (Those of you who love to spot continuity errors should keep an eye on the stenciling on the crate that Frankenstein's Monster is initially housed in on the plane, and which later is dredged up from a swamp.)
The rest of The Monster Squad plays out in fairly predictable, but also highly enjoyable, fashion, as the kids figure out their town has been overrun with monsters and that the long lost magical object is the source of the invasion. The script, co-written by director Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps) and collaborator Shane Black, nicely walks a tightrope between silly humor and spookier elements, as the kids fight their own inherent fears as well as the (of course) initial disbelief of all of the adults. For such a relatively low budget affair, Dekker also does really well in staging this film and the special effects and makeup, while not breathtaking, are certainly well above average and help to create a suitably fun atmosphere.
The film is actually kind of sweet at times, with Frankenstein's Monster showing his "kinder, gentler" side and banding with the misfit kids. But there's also a funny yet believable subtext of kids who are frightened by "imaginary" monsters and how exasperated their parents can become at trying to handle the situation. The Monster Squad proves that more than just Monsters, Inc. 's Sulley and Mike can be hiding in a closet, and that no matter how much a child screams about it, the parental unit will more than likely remain completely clueless.
The Monster Squad Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Monster Squad is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.36:1. If I had the ability to grade in quarter points, I'd probably give this a 3.75 rather than 3.5, for it's a generally nice looking high definition presentation that is only occasionally hobbled by some fuzziness and lack of fine detail. While the elements here occasionally look just slightly faded, overall the colors are wonderfully robust and well saturated. I frankly never owned the Lionsgate release, but from a cursory comparison of the screenshots it looks like the Olive release boasts better overall clarity as well as a generally brighter ambience. Neither of the video anomalies which my colleague Dustin Somner mentioned in his review of the Lionsgate version is evident in this new transfer (though the first issue, which actually is a few seconds past where Dustin marked it as occurring on the Lionsgate version) appears to my eyes to perhaps have been nothing other than slightly mispulled deep focus).
The Monster Squad Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Monster Squad features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix which may frustrate some audiophiles, since Lionsgate's Blu-ray featured a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. (This brings up another corollary element to these licensing deals—frequently the preexisting audio mixes are not licensable and distributors like Olive need to craft their own new ones.) Why Olive chose not to offer a surround mix since one would assume there were multichannel source elements available is anyone's guess, but as far as it goes, this stereo mix presents everything with decent enough fidelity, if an obvious narrowness that also suffers slightly from a lack of depth on the low end. Dialogue is always well prioritized and easy to hear and the film's many foley effects generally sound fairly crisp and effective.
The Monster Squad Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Unlike the Lionsgate Blu-ray release, this Olive Films version offers no supplementary material whatsoever.
The Monster Squad Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Monster Squad isn't quite as intentionally cheesy as Fred Dekker's Night of the Creeps, but it has that film's same insouciant humor. This outing frankly isn't all that scary (at least for anyone over the age of seven or eight or so), but it's a lot of fun nonetheless. Anyone who wasn't part of the "cool kid" brigade in elementary school is going to empathize with the misfits who make up The Monster Squad, and any kid who ever tried to convince his or her parents of anything which the old fogies weren't inclined to believe will understand the kids' frustration at the initial incompetent response by every adult in this film. Boasting some unexpectedly decent special effects, The Monster Squad isn't a masterpiece by any stretch, but it's a lot of fun and should certainly have a kind of nostalgia value for either those who grew up watching it or have a longer memory of the iconic Universal Monsters. This Blu-ray is kind of a "glass half full, glass half empty" situation, though. It boasts marginally better video quality than the Lionsgate release, but no surround mix and no supplements. Taking the now out of print Lionsgate release out of the discussion just for sake of argument, this Olive release comes Recommended.
The Monster Squad: Other Editions
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The Monster Squad Blu-ray, News and Updates
• More Catalog Titles Coming Up From Olive Films - December 3, 2012
Olive Films have revealed that they are planning to release six more catalog titles in February: Night of the Demons 2 (1994), The Monster Squad (1987), Live Nude Girls (1995), Highlander 2: Renegade Version (1991), Julius Caesar (1970), and Innocent Bystanders ...
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