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Home / Film / Film Reviews / A Holy Writ to ‘The Monster Squad’ (1987): ‘Wolfman’s Got Nards!’ [Film Review]

A Holy Writ to ‘The Monster Squad’ (1987): ‘Wolfman’s Got Nards!’ [Film Review]

Yes, the Wolfman still has nards, and The Monster Squad (1987) continues to resonate with loyal die-hards and a new generation of fans discovering the film’s enduring movie magic. Now, Pilgrim Media Group presents a 90-minute documentary directed by Andre Gower that lovingly revisits the original motion picture, its early stages of production and the longevity The Monster Squad enjoys through cult-like screenings.

First, and foremost, Wolfman’s Got Nards is another in a growing line of horror film documentaries that pays tribute to the nostalgic movies originating in the 1980s. While it pales in comparison to the sheer breadth of Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010) and Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013), Wolfman’s Got Nards offers dozens of interviews with the filmmakers, cast, crew and industry insiders. These conversations lead to a treasure trove of goodies that fans may not know about the beloved movie.

As the documentary opens, Monster Squad’s writer/director Fred Dekker debates whether his iconic horror comedy is or is not a cult film. Ultimately, Dekker resigns himself to the fact that he doesn’t know if The Monster Squad is cult. Dekker’s conversations come off as one of the weaker points in the documentary, because he seems torn about the quote-un-quote success of The Monster Squad. The filmmaker seems pompous at times, particularly his posture, but otherwise the documentary flows smoothly.

In one of his finer moments, Dekker discusses how he pitched the film to writer Shane Black (Lethal WeaponIron Man 3) as the Little Rascals meet the Universal Monsters. In an interesting interview with Cal State Fullerton’s professor of Cinema Studies, Mike Dillion, the PhD admits that The Monster Squad is his favorite film to screen for university students. Rather than examining cinematic classics like Gone with the Wind (1939) and Citizen Kane (1941), Dillion turns to Dekker’s horror flick.

During the production segment, Dekker delves into some of the difficulties making The Monster Squad. Dekker believed that executive producer Peter Hyams wanted to fire him. As a counter balance, Dekker shot numerous master shots to ensure he didn’t miss anything during the filming process. Dekker even jokes about the volume of master shots he took by tying them into a drinking game.

One of the most entertaining trivia tidbits involves the revelation that actor Duncan Regehr (Dracula) scared the hell out of actress Ashley Bank (Phoebe). During The Monster Squad, the Count hoists young Phoebe into the air. Face to face, the two lock eyes. Bank had no idea Duncan was going to open his mouth, flash his fangs and hiss at her. According to actor Andre Gower (Sean), Bank was so frightened that she lost her breath. However, the second take captured the scream that is now infamous in the final footage. These are the type of moments that will beguile audiences of Wolfman’s Got Nards – candid interviews with the cast.

Another delightfully delicious and entertaining interview comes from Tom Woodruff Jr. who served as a special-effects artist while also playing the Gillman. On the first day in the Gillman suit and make-up, Woodruff went off on his own to rest. He fell asleep and took a nap. When Woodruff woke, he forgot about being encased in the Gillman costume. The actor freaked out and had a claustrophobic moment until he finally talked himself down off the ledge, so to speak.

One of the major hurdles filmmakers faced was the fact that their film’s creatures couldn’t look exactly like the Universal Monsters. This is the same issue Hammer faced in the 1950s as they looked to resurrect Frankenstein and Dracula for a new generation. One way The Monster Squad altered the Mummy was by making him smaller.

Museum mummies are quite minute, so Dekker decided to go that way to distinguish their mummy from the Universal Monster. Dekker’s thought process was that The Monster Squad already had a large, lumbering monster in Frankenstein’s creature. So, it was a no brainer for Dekker when rewrapping the Mummy.

Another fascinating revelation in Wolman’s Got Nards, which die-hard fans probably know already, is that The Monster Squad was an absolute box office bomb in 1987. Dekker said he visited a 300-seat theater in the Valley and only seven to eight people were in the audience. The Monster Squad made $3.8 million domestically, but that was a far cry from the film’s $12 million budget.

However, cable television channels like HBO helped fans rediscover the flick and exposed the film to a new audience. Patrons could also rent the film in stores, with the advent of video tapes, but because VHS cassettes were so expensive in the early days ($89.99+) odds were no one owned the movie.

Whether Dekker can or can’t come to terms with it, The Monster Squad is clearly a cult classic. It meets all the criteria for such a phenomenon. The Monster Squad is clearly a film that financially flopped, but the movie endured and found a new audience over time. 30 years later, fans now fill up theaters for special screenings hosted by notable cast and crew members. This revelation of The Monster Squad’s historical context and its place in modern cinema – three decades after its release – is another strength of Wolfman’s Got Nards.

The first cast-reunion screening took place at the Alamo Drafthouse theater in Austin, Texas 19 years (2006) after The Monster Squad’s original release. Eric Vespi convinced Alamo’s Tim League to take a chance on The Monster Squad and the rest is cinematic history.

While still available on VHS, The Monster Squad didn’t receive a release on DVD until 2007 – two decades after the movie’s theatrical release. An DVD letter-writing campaign eventually led to Lionsgate taking up the task and releasing the film in 2007 for the movie’s 20th anniversary.

In what must be Wolfman’s Got Nards most heart-wrenching segment; actors, crew, friends and family remember the tragic passing of young Brent Chalem who played Horace in The Monster Squad. Ten years after the film’s release, Chalem passed away due to complications of pneumonia. Horace, of course, had two of The Monster Squad’s most memorable moments: 1) Kicking Wolfman in the nards. 2) Cocking the shotgun/blowing away the Gillman – “My name is Horace!”

Now a cult classic, The Monster Squad is consistently screened by Alamo Drafthouse. And The Monster Squad even enjoyed a 30th anniversary screening at the Prince Charles Cinema in London, England prior to returning to the Alamo for a 30th anniversary fan event.

In conclusion, Wolfman’s Got Nards is a well-structured and wildly entertaining documentary full of historical information and behind-the-scenes goodies. If you enjoyed You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night (2016), chances are you’ll delight in this engaging making-of. And be sure not to skip the credits, as there is a tribute to the original Stephen King Rules t-shirt worn by Sean in the movie.

Recommendation: SEE

About Steven Thrash

Thrash graduated Cum Laude from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communications, focusing on film studies, journalism and theatre. He then pursued his MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University. Dubbed a "prolific" writer by Hollywood icon Kenneth Johnson (The Incredible Hulk, V, The Bionic Woman, Alien Nation), Steven has been honored by the Arkansas College Media Association for his story writing prowess. He has also received recognition for his dramatic writing from the Eerie, Shriekfest and Screamfest horror film festivals, and his first play "Subconscious Lee" was published in December of 2017. Other publications include: Carroll County News, Benton Courier, Saline Courier, Forum, Echo, ABC Financial, Moroch, Dread Central, Morbidly Beautiful, Rue Morgue and Screen Rant.

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