One of my earliest memories involves Monster Squad. I couldn’t have been less than six years old, because the movie didn’t come out until 1987, but I also couldn’t have been in third grade yet, because the memory takes place in Sedan, Kansas, and I moved away from there in my third grade year. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sedan (I’m going to guess that’s all of you), it’s a little nothing town in southern Kansas, near the Oklahoma line. It currently has a population of around a thousand people. In 1990, the entire county had a population of around four-thousand.
We lived on the outskirts of town, about half-a-mile down the road from the fairgrounds. The fairgrounds were mostly old 4-H buildings, though the swimming pool and rodeo arena were right there as well. I spent a lot of time in those fairgrounds as a kid, but this one particular memory stands out.
It would have been Halloween night. I walked, alone, from our house to the fairgrounds. There, inside an old 4-H barn, me and a bunch of other kids sat on bales of hay and watched Monster Squad projected onto the wall. I’ve seen the movie a lot of times since then, so I don’t remember much about the experience of watching it. Was I scared? Exhilarated? I’d actually seen quite a lot of much scarier monster movies already by that tender age, so maybe it was nothing special in that department, but I remember that I loved it, and I remember the walk home, in the dark, down the barely-lighted streets on the edge of town, the night suddenly electric around me.
Years later, my brother would record a showing of Monster Squad off HBO onto VHS tape and send it to me, and I would watch it until the wheels fell off, until I could reliably quote the movie in its entirety, and could probably have accurately reproduced it from memory. If Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 future had come to pass and had included movies, I could have been the kid who safeguarded Monster Squad for future generations.
Monster Squad is a great movie, for all sorts of reasons. It’s written by Shane Black, for starters. The monster makeup by Stan Winston is phenomenal from the top down, and the movie’s version of the Creature is probably the only fishman on film that can hold a candle to the original suit from Creature from the Black Lagoon. Duncan Regehr’s Dracula is more intimidating than the majority of screen Draculas before or since. Tom Noonan’s Frankenstein monster is equally impressive. It’s quotable as hell, and the kids actually talk like kids did when I was one, including the cursing and the talking over one-another. And it holds up remarkably, even if you didn’t see it when you were an impressionable youth just falling in love with monsters. (Ask my friend and fellow-author Molly Tanzer, who only recently got the pleasure of seeing it for the first time.)
I watch it at least once every year, around Halloween. I probably would regardless, even if I’d just seen it for the first time yesterday, but I do it now in no small part because it’s a part of one of my earliest and best Halloween memories. This year, I was going to go see it on the big screen for the first time at the Alamo Drafthouse, but it closed for renovations for the month, so tomorrow a bunch of friends and I are getting together at my place to watch it and celebrate Halloween and monsters and the fact that “Wolfman’s got nards.”