When I was a kid I was obsessed with monsters, specifically those under the Universal Studios title...
...There was something special about seeing these larger than life monsters wreaking havoc on an ordinary world. Watching Boris Karloff emerging from the shadows as Frankenstein’s Monster for the first time is an image that has stuck with me. So, imagine my reaction when browsing the rows of VHS tapes and seeing that now iconic cover and title The Monster Squad. It’s a film that has had an impact on not only me, but thousands of fans both past and present.
I was utterly enamored and thoroughly invested in Sean, Patrick, Horace, Rudy, Eugene, and Phoebe’s adventure in much the same way as I loved The Goonies and Explorers. Because of how these kids were written and acted, they felt like actual kids and it made them real to you as the viewer, especially if you were a young kid. You want to have these same kinds of grand and amazing adventures with your own friends, a sentiment we see expressed and recreated in shows like Stranger Things.
So how is it that a film that was considered a box office bomb (only making $3.8 million in revenue against its $12 million budget) turned into such an iconic film that has remained in the zeitgeist of popular culture and maintained its status as a cult classic 30 years later?
This is exactly what Andre Gower (who played Sean Crenshaw in the film) sets out to do in the aptly named Wolfman’s Got Nards, a documentary that features commentary from the stars of the film, the director, the writers, and even such icons as Heather Langenkamp, Adam Green, and Joe Lynch to name a few. Wolfman’s Got Nards covers everything a Monster Squad fan—or even just a genre fan—could want, beginning with how all films start...the script.
The Monster Squad was written by Shane Black (of Lethal Weapon fame) and Fred Dekker, who would go on to direct the film after finishing filming on Night of the Creeps. In an interview with both Black and Dekker, they reveal the primary inspiration for the film came from watching both the classic Universal Monster films and such entries as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, “To take those two guys and then do the Universal Monsters, and play them straight...because the monsters are actually scarier in that movie” says Dekker.
Between each “chapter” of Wolfman’s Got Nards are these great art pieces featuring the creatures and characters of The Monster Squad done by artists such as Chogrin and Stephen Sandoval. We learn how the special effects and creatures were created by the crew of the Stan Winston Studio; Universal Studios gave them the greenlight to make these creatures their own, and it's plain to see in the designs how much fun the designers had during the making of the film. The Wolfman transformation sequence in the phonebooth is one scene that’s been burned into my brain since I first saw the film as a kid.
It's this love and care that Gower puts into the documentary that shows how important the film was to him as one of the stars, and how important it remains to its fans.
There are never moments where the segments feel rushed or glossed over; everything progresses organically, even when discussing the loss of Brent Chalem (who tragically died in 1997). We get to hear stories from his family friends and learn more about his later life. There is this sense of a missing piece with Brent’s absence and loss; his performance as Horace is one of the most iconic in the film, including his arc from being “fat kid” to having classic lines such as “Wolfman’s got nards” and, perhaps one of the most badass lines that always puts a smile on my face whenever I see it, “My name is Horace”.
Whether the impact of The Monster Squad is something as simple as The Goldbergs using the word “Nards” or the Stan Winston effects inspiring others like Shane Mahan (who helped design the creature in Shape of Water and worked with Stan Winston Studios), it cannot be ignored. But perhaps nothing captures the impact of The Monster Squad like when Gower, Ashley Bank (who played Phoebe in the film) and Ryan Lambert (who played Rudy) go to visit a fan in the hospital. Their laughter and connection shows that this isn’t just a film role for either of them, they genuinely care about the fans they interact with.
“I think Monster Squad is a movie about outcasts, and if you identify with that movie then you are an outcast” says Adam F. Goldberg (creator of The Goldbergs) when asked about how the film connects with its audience. The documentary gives us a chance to hear fans who have gone through difficult circumstances in life discuss how Monster Squad helped them and gave them, as one fan says, “a safety net”.
We all have those movies that we reach out for in times of strife and, especially now in 2020, we often need those types of films more than ever. Monster Squad is one of those films, and Gower manages to connect and highlight those feelings in this documentary. Wolfman’s Got Nards is one of the best film documentaries I’ve had the pleasure of watching. It reminds me why I love the genre as a whole and how powerful film can be when it creates an impact that can change the life of those that it touches.
Wolfman’s Got Nards comes to VOD October 27th.
By Kalani Landgraf