?Since the days when Velcro sneakers and Koosh balls were in vogue, it has been fashionable to dismiss The Monster Squad (1987) as an inferior rip-off of The Goonies (1985). While the success of the latter may have helped the former get made, the films’ only real similarity is that both feature a gang of kids who get into serious trouble (okay, and they both have a fat kid). But aside from that, they’re fairly different films (and if The Monster Squad is a rip-off of anything, it’s Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein).
But there are still those who insist on dismissing The Monster Squad in comparison to its Spielberg-produced predecessor. Well, I’m here to set the record straight: I contend The Monster Squad is not just better than The Goonies, but more fun, too. Before I go any further, let me state for the record that I love Goonies; however, given the choice, I’ll watch The Monster Squad ever time. Here’s why.
8) More Monsters
Now, The Monster Squad has five monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, the Gillman, and the Mummy. And while Dracula is a bit stiff, the others have all been updated visually (especially the Gillman) with modern special effects and look fantastic. That’s a 5-to-1 monster ratio!
?The Goonies has only one monster, Sloth. But he’s a good guy. And even calling him a monster is unfair, because he’s really just a victim of severe neglect whose disfigurement is played for laughs.
7) Less Constant Yelling and Talking Over One Another
If you haven’t watched The Goonies recently, allow me to suggest a potential substitute: walk to your local playground (note: do NOT wear a trenchcoat or drive a windowless van to said playground, unless you’ve been meaning to get registered as a sex offender) and spend five minutes listening to the kids gabber at one another. It’s essentially the same experience as watching The Goonies, where the kids often seem unaware they’re being filmed.
In The Monster Squad, the kids just, y’know, say their lines. It’s better.
6) Scary German Guy
The Goonies has no shortage of odd characters, but none of them are quite as interesting as The Monster Squad’s Scary German Guy. The kids go to him because they have Abraham Van Helsing’s journal, which is written entirely in German.
Played by the charismatic but decidedly non-German actor Leonardo Cimino, the SGG never gets a real name, but he does get the movie’s one unusually solemn moment: after the kids say to him, “You sure know a lot about monsters,” SGG responds, “Now that you mention it, I suppose I do,” and as he closes the door, we see his tattoo from a Nazi concentration camp.
It’s an off-key moment to be sure, and arguably tacky (at best) in a movie like this; yet one wonders how many kids first learned about the Holocaust when they asked their parents about that scene.
5) Stan Winston’s Gillman
Stan Winston supervised the creation of the Gillman, which was easily the coolest update of the various Universal Monsters.
This design is why I desperately want action figures from The Monster Squad (seriously, we get The Munsters but no Monster Squad?). Winston’s Gillman is far more fish-like than the original Creature from the Black Lagoon and far more evil-looking. Too bad he goes out like a bitch (see below).
4) A Cooler Fat Kid
Sure, we’re all fond of Chunk and his Truffle Shuffle, but The Monster Squad’s Fat Kid is a total badass, and gets one of the best scenes in the film. Near the end, the Gillman bursts from a manhole and advances upon the Fat Kid, who has tugged a shotgun from a dead cop. Fat Kid backs toward a shop, begging a pair of bullies who previously tormented him to let him inside; cowering in fear, they refuse.
Left with no other choice, Fat Kid aims and pumps a round into the Gillman, who collapses. The bullies tentatively come out: “Hey Fat Kid…good job!” Fat Kid: “My name–” (cocks the shotgun) “–is HORACE.”
It’s clear Fat Kid has had his moment of catharsis and won’t be taking any shit from a bully ever again. Because otherwise he’ll fire a shotgun in their fucking face.
3) Better One-Liners
The Goonies doesn’t really have any one-liners. The most memorable line from the movie is “This is our time,” and “Goonies never say die!” both of which would sound like they’d be better suited to an inspirational sports movie.
But in The Monster Squad, awesome one-liners are dropped every few minutes. There’s “Mummy came in my house” and “Creature ate my twinkie.” There’s the scene where Dracula blows up their treehouse: “Meeting adjourned.” Or when Rudy stalks off with a crossbow to kill the vampire bitches: “Rudy, where are you going?” “I’m in the goddamned club, aren’t I?”
And of course, there’s this famous exchange when Fat Kid’s being attacked by the Wolf Man:
Sean: “Kick him in the nards!”
Fat Kid: “He doesn’t have nards!”
Sean: “Do it! Do it!”
(Fat Kid kicks Wolf Man in the nuts and he goes down)
Fat Kid (amazed): “Wolf Man’s got nards!”
2) More Violence, More Profanity, and Even a Little Sexual Suggestion
The Monster Squad may be the one of the hardest PG-13 films of all time. This is ostensibly a kid’s movie that features the following:
? A werewolf being blown apart by dynamite and then the bloody chunks reforming into the monster
? A teenager casually smoking and making bullets in shop class (you’d never see this in a kids’ movie today)
? A 6-year-old girl saying “Don’t be chickenshit”
? A lengthy discussion of whether a teenage girl is a virgin
? A 12-year-old kid killing a monster with a shotgun
? A terrified cop getting blown up in his car
? Dracula calling a 6-year-old girl a “bitch”
You can argue whether all this is appropriate for a 13-year-old, and obviously more violence, strong language and adult situations doesn’t mean “better.” But watching these films as an adult, I prefer the edginess of The Monster Squad to the childish charm of The Goonies.
1) It’s Actually a More Realistic Depiction of Childhood
Related to all the violence and language is the fact that the kids in The Monster Squad represented a less idealized but more realistic view of a 1980s suburban childhood.
The kids in The Goonies seem like they come from a simpler time, i.e., the 1950s when Steven Spielberg and Richard Donner were growing up. They’re little rascals who dream about pirate treasure (“the rich stuff”) and, in the case of big brother Brand, winning his high school sweetheart from her preppy friends.
The kids in The Monster Squad could have been my next-door neighbors. They swear a lot, peep on girls undressing, get in trouble at school, read Stephen King, watch slasher movies (which their parents don’t object to)… and kick people in the nards. Admittedly, these people are monsters, but whatever. The kids are far more realistic than those goodie-goodie Goonies.