On August 22nd, 1987 I saw a movie that changed my life. I didn’t realize at the time how much it would change me, and looking back I feel very lucky that I caught it when and where I did because the screening I attended was the second to last time the movie was shown in my town before it was pulled from theaters after only two short weeks in theaters. The movie was The Monster Squad, and if you’re familiar with this site or pal around with me on social media it should come as no surprise. I talk about it, a lot, and I know that perplexes a lot of my friends and family. I think the number one question folks ask me when I bring up Monster Squad is “Why? Why that film?” Hell, there have been times when complete strangers that chat me up on Twitter or Instagram feel the need to apologize to me if they didn’t like the flick as if that would offend me. I guess I probably tend to proselytize when it comes to the flick, even if it’s subconscious or through my constant sharing of my collection of posters, VHS tapes and other merch for the film.
But coming back to that question, “Why Monster Squad?”, I’ve always had a hard time answering it. For all my love of the film, of the tone, references, homages, script construction, special effects and the acting, I have a hard time coming up with a concise answer. And as much as I love the flick, and I do, dearly, it’s not like I’m pretending that the film sits shoulder to should with the AFI top 100. But no matter how many great films I see, no matter how many amazing screening experiences I have, I always comes back to The Monster Squad, and it all stems back to that day in late august in a theater in Castleberry, Florida where I sat down near the front of the theater and watched that film.
I’m writing about this today for a couple of reasons. The first is that after 10 years of searching, I finally figured out how to get a nice digital copy of the movie section from the Orlando Sentinel from the two weeks where The Monster Squad was screening in central Florida back in August 14th through the 23rd of 1987. For a long time the best quality copies I could find were super, high-contrast copies off of microfiche that were barely legible. But apparently sometime in the last decade, nicer, semi-high quality scans of the paper were added to Newspapers.com, so after 32 years I can finally nail down the actual theater and time of the screening I caught on the 22nd, and I have a very nice copy of the ad that I saw while rifling through the movie section with my friends the week before.
When it comes to my personal nostalgia I’m always conflicted by the lack of facts to back up my memories. Like when I ask my parents to verify something and their memory is even hazier than my own, or that there are just not that many great databases for the minutia (extensive theater listings, showtimes, television listings, etc.) And for some reason it was really important to me to nail down the exact time and place where I first saw The Monster Squad. I knew from memory that it was on a Saturday, that I went with my friend Bryan whose parents (or at least Dad) dropped us off in his old brown and wood paneled station wagon, because those things are burned in my memory. I also know that it was on the 22nd, because we ended up watching a double feature that day as we came up with a plan after the Monster Squad was over to come up with this crazy story about how our parents were late to pick us up and we couldn’t reach them on the phone. We dealt that load of crap to the theater manager who really did not want to deal with two dumb 10 year-olds complaining, so he said we could just go into another theater and watch what ever we wanted to. We chose the Garbage Pail Kids flick, which didn’t start its run in theaters until the 21st, so the Saturday had to be the 22nd.
But now that I have a copy of that weekend’s movie section, I have more concrete evidence of where and when we saw those movies. It had to be the United Artists theater at Lake Howell Square, which was right down the street from where we lived at the time.
Since the Monster Squad was reduced to one-showing per day, 1:30pm only, and since the flick is a tight 89 minutes long, I’m positive that we slipped into the 3:00pm screening of the Garbage Pail Kids, probably about 10 minutes late which feels absolutely right. I can’t quite articulate why, but seeing these ads is very comforting. Just knowing that I can point to this schedule and say, yup, that is exactly where I was at between 1:30 to 5:00pm on August 22nd, 1987. So much of my nostalgia is not nearly this concrete, and it really is a comfort to know this. Though digital, these clippings from that Orlando Sentinel are some of the most precious pieces in my collection of Monster Squad stuff. What I wouldn’t give to have an actual copy of these pages.
The other reason that I’m writing about the Monster Squad today, and getting back to that pesky question of “Why?”, is that I am very proud to say that over the last couple of years I was extremely lucky to have taken part in a documentary about the movie, its fandom, and its legacy called Wolfman’s Got Nards. The flick was the brainchild and directed by of one of the movie’s stars, Andre Gower (who played Squad leader Sean Crenshaw in the film), and along with director of photography Henry McComas (who also co-wrote with Andre, produced and edited the film), was shot during the 30th anniversary revival tour of The Monster Squad as it traveled all over the US and abroad. I was able to help out by donating some ephemera for the production, mainly foreign posters for the film that were used as backdrops for some of the interviews, as shipping my entire collection of Squad stuff for a museum exhibit that was set up in conjunction with the screening of a rough cut of the flick at Fantastic Fest in 2018.
As cool as being able to contribute some of and to showcase my collection for the documentary, I was very humbled by being asked to sit for an interview for the film itself. So back in 2017, towards the end of the Alamo Drafthouse tour of the Monster Squad revival, Andre, Henry and two other really rad guys (Westley Caldwell as the sound engineer and Esteban Favela on the back-up camera) made the trek up to Maryland to shoot an on-camera interview in my office. I haven’t had a lot of luck when meeting actors, writers and artists that I’ve admired over the years, but I can say with full faith that Andre Gower is one of the coolest and most gracious folks I’ve ever met. We spent the afternoon together chatting while Henry, Wes and Esteban set up my office for the shoot, and then when it came to filming the on-camera portion Andre made what should have been a nerve-wracking time (I’m not built for on-camera) the smoothest and easiest experience. Aside from the sudden urge/need to touch my face constantly (which thankfully I recognized and kept myself from doing), I felt as cool as a cucumber and had an absolute blast. We even did a slight bit where we improved a joke that is probably on the cutting room floor, but in the same breath it’s fun to say that I acted in a scene with Andre (even if my part was a million miles from actual acting.)
As a side note, since I had a bit of a heads up about the interview I was able to prepare and to throw in a couple of Monster Squad homages to the interview. The first is hopefully very obvious, where I wore my heart on my sleeve a bit literally and commissioned one of my favorite artists, Travis Faligant (iBtrav on social), to create a one-of a kind t-shirt of my favorite Squad member Horace. I’ve told this anecdote a million times, but as a kid I WAS Horace. Like physically and emotionally, so much so that when I watched the flick I was kind of in awe that there was a character so much like myself on film. We both wore the same clothes (T&C surf shirts, loud-colored surf shorts, and surfing jackets), had the same haircut, were both “husky” kids, and both would have rather started a Math Squad where we did long division and word problems.
Travis is a very talented artist I stumbled upon online years ago, and he just so happened to work on the first DVD release of The Monster Squad back in 2007. He illustrated a bunch of stuff that plays during transitions and in the background of the included documentary short about the film, so he was the first person I thought of to create a t-shirt I could wear for this documentary. His Horace shirt is now another of my most prized possessions.
The other, and more subtle, homage to the original film is the inclusion of the Adidas jacket I wore in the interview. Adidas was one of the main sponsors of the flick back in the day (most of the kids were sporting them in the film, and Andre’s character Sean whore a white satin Adidas jacket in the finale of the movie. I would have tried to pick up a white one, but that is just not my color, so I chose to try and get one as close to the blue in the original poster art that I could find.
Well, the documentary was official released last year, and after traveling on the festival circuit throughout the summer, fall and winter, it’s making its first more public screening tour this October. Call the Doc Until You Drop Tour, Andre, Henry and the film are traveling to a bunch of Alamo Drafthouse locations across the country, and I can’t wait to finally scope it. I’m just a very tiny contributor to the flick, but it features a lot of way cooler and knowledgeable folks including interviews with the original effects team (like Steve Want, John Rosengrant, Shane Mahan, Matt Rose, and Tom Woodruff Jr), the actors (Stephen Macht, Duncan Regher, Ryan Lambert, Ashley Bank, and Adam Carl), director Fred Dekker and Shane Black who co-wrote the film, as well as a bunch of cult film luminaries and other rad fans such as Seth Green, Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn, The Movie Crypt), Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Zach Galligan (Gremlins), Adam Green (Hatchet, Frozen), Ciro Nieli (artist, designer, and showrunner of the recent Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series) and Adam Goldberg (creator/writer of the Goldbergs series.) So if you live near any of the Alamo Drafthouse locations playing the film, I’d love it if you helped to sell out the screenings (I’ll post the schedule at the bottom of this piece.) You can check out the trailer for the flick below…
It’s crazy to think that I was involved, even in the minute amount that I am, in a film that features so many folks I’ve looked up to for most of my life. It’s just insane and awesome. And now, when folks ask me “Why Monster Squad?” I can just point them to this documentary!