The Monster Squad - 4K Ultra HD Blu-rayOverview -
The Monster Squad finally appears on 4K through Kino Lorber Studio Classics making this '80s classic film about kids fighting classic movie monsters a must-see event all over again. The movie still holds up with its comedy and horror and with the new 4K UHD image, this is the best it's ever looked. The imported DTS-HD 5.1 audio track still sounds good. Not all of the bonus features have traveled over, but quite a few have with a large edition of Andre Gower's terrific 2018 documentary Wolfman's Got Nards. Highly Recommended!
You know who to call when you have ghosts, but who do you call about monsters? The Monster Squad—a group of young kids devoted to protecting their suburban neighborhood from strange things that go bump in the night. They ain’t afraid of no ghouls! Count Dracula (Duncan Regehr) escapes Van Helsing (Jack Gwillim) and adjourns to modern-day Earth in search of an ancient amulet that will grant him final control over the delicate balance between good and evil in the world. To help him, the creepy Count calls on some old friends: the weird Wolfman (Carl Thibault), grotesque Gill-Man (Tom Woodruff Jr.), mildewed Mummy (Michael MacKay) and freaky Frankenstein (Tom Noonan). Standing in their way—The Monster Squad! Produced by Peter Hyams (Running Scared), written by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon) and Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps) and directed by Dekker, the cult smash Monster Squad makes ghost-busting look like child’s play!
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
The Monster Squad is one of the best films from the '80s and continues to impress new generations of cinema lovers today. It's basically The Goonies and The Little Rascals who love horror movies and have to battle real-life classic Universal monsters. Even later in life, through worn-out VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray copies of the film, this movie is still at the top of the list of favorites of all time. Its characters, genuine suspense, and decent costumes and makeup still hold up today as it did when Ronal Reagan was president. And even at the age of 40, this faithful critic wants to be inducted into the Monster Squad.
The film follows a group of middle schoolers who have a monster club where they meet every day after school in a treehouse decked out with horror movie posters and other horror memorabilia and talk about movie monsters. Every 100 years, the Universal monsters consisting of Dracula, Wolf-Man, The Mummy, Frankenstein, and the Gill-Man (Creature from the Black Lagoon) enter our world in search of an ancient amulet that will bring them unmatched powers. In the opening scene, we see Abraham Van Helsing battling Dracula and his fanged vampire minions for the amulet. Luckily, Helsing wrote a diary warning the people of the future about the amulet and what is to come.
We cut to 100 years later, which is the present day, or the 80s to us, where we meet the kids in the monster club. The leader of the group, Sean (Andre Gower) is given that actual diary as a gift from his mom and learns of the impending doom and return of the monsters. After he discovers these monsters are real and witnesses their return, he organizes a plan to send them back to hell with the help of his friends and an old mysterious neighbor. They soon come to realize they are the only ones who can save Earth.
I just love these older films from the 80s where a group of kids set out to save the world, and they really are the only ones that can do anything about it. When I was growing up, my dream makers and heroes were Spielberg, Landis, Carpenter, Dante, Roddenberry, Donner, Brooks, Verhoven, and Romero. And director Fred Dekker takes this industry of cool and geek and re-created what I felt like growing up. I’ll explain further. What ‘Monster Squad' emulates, is that feeling of being a kid and having to grow up. That sense of adventure, fun, and true friendship. I’m not talking about the friends I have now. I’m talking about the friends I had when I was twelve. The friends I would sneak out of the house to go explore with, which was a HUGE deal. We were in our own world and we thought that we were the only ones who knew or thought about an impending monster outbreak or an alien invasion. The group of kids in 'Monster Squad' reminded me of my small group of friends growing up. It really took me back there, watching this again.
The dialogue is spot-on and never silly. And the special effects were top-notch for the time. One of my favorite scenes with a werewolf is from this film, specifically, the scene where the Wolf-Man explodes and his body parts begin to crawl back together to reform the monster. How that shot was done was perfect. They didn't rely on heavy special effects for the sequence, but rather, props and shadows. It's truly amazing.
This film receives my highest recommendation as it still holds up on every level today. It's one of the better coming-of-age films about friendship.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
The Monster Squad kicks its way to 4K + Blu-ray via Kino Lorber. There are three discs included, with one 4K Disc and two Blu-ray Discs. The 4K Disc contains the feature film while the 2nd Blu-ray Disc features the 1080 version with the extras. The third Disc has the new documentary only. The artwork finally comes with an updated version of the original movie poster artwork that looks amazing. The three discs are housed inside a hard, black plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
NOTE: At the moment we haven't been able to pull 4K-sourced images, when we can we'll circle back and add those and hopefully a video sample as well.
The Monster Squad has never looked better. This new release comes with a brand new 2160p UHD 4K transfer and it looks like this is a new scan from the original camera negative. Dolby Vision has also been added with some great upgrades.
Upon first glance, the image here is darker and bolder than the previous Blu-ray release. That former 2009 version is much brighter with bigger highlights. In fact, that version looks to be included in this set and the difference is immediate from the first two scenes. Colors this time around are more nuanced, including that opening sequence hundreds of years ago with different shades of amber, orange, yellow, and brown that lit up the castle. The amulet gives off some great greens and purples when it flashes and the blood dripping from the vampiresses is richer. The Dolby Vision gives those black levels and amber colors more nuance. When the film transitions to the '80s in high school, primaries are strong with tons of blues, greens, reds, and yellows. Sean's Stephen King shirt is the perfect red and gold while Rudy's leather jacket is that amazing shade of black and light brown. That famous shot of the Squad walking during sunset with Frankenstein's monster is now the exquisite shade of orange and yellow that is the way it is meant to look and not overly bright like the last release. Black levels are deep and inky without any murky shadows and the skin tones are natural.
The detail is sharper than before in most instances, but since the source material is not in pristine condition, there are some softer moments still at play, mostly in the first half of the film. There is some age-related wear and tear in a few places, but that gives the '80s glow of nostalgia in its filmic state. This doesn't look digitized by any means, which is a great thing. It looks like Kino Lorber took their time with this new video transfer. Closeups reveal some excellent latex and rubber makeup applications, individual fur on the werewolf and actor's heads, along with that slimy texture of the Sea Creature. The duty ribbons on the Mummy look fantastic as well. There are no major issues of banding, aliasing, or heavy noise here, making this the best the film has looked to date.
Unfortunately, there is no upgraded audio mix, meaning there is not a new Dolby Atmos track. And from comparing the two Discs, this looks to be the same DTS-MA 5.1 track from the previous release. The dialogue is crystal clear without any hissing or cracks. The '80s score and songs burst through the surround speakers with the creepy ambient noises coming through the rear speakers often. The bigger noises, which include a bit of bass, happen at the beginning and the end of the film and do not disappoint. Otherwise, this is a dialogue-heavy track that sticks to front and center. Perhaps down the road, someone will curate a big Dolby Atmos option, because the height speakers alone would make a big impact here.
- Wolfman's Got Nards Documentary (HD, 91 Mins.) - Andre Gower's documentary he released in 2018 has made its way to this set on a separate third disc that discusses the making of Monster Squad and the fans that have been championing this movie for decades. It's a wonderful, MUST-SEE documentary.
- Audio Commentary Part 1 - This specific commentary track is with writer/director Fred Dekker, who is joined by the cast of Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert, and Ashley Bank. It is a lot of fun to hear all of the kids, now grown up watching the film and talking about how much fun they had making it. There are tons of great stories here. In the end, you really want to be friends with these guys. A must listen.
- Audio Commentary Part 2 - This commentary track has writer/director Fred Dekker and cinematographer Bradford May. The duo go over most of the technical aspects of the film. If you are a fan of movie-making, this is a great listen, otherwise you might get bored.
- Monster Squad Forever: A Five-Part Retrospective (HD, 76 mins) - Here is over an hour of interviews, behind the scenes, and more, covering all aspects of making Monster Squad. I've outlined each segment for you.
- A Conversation with Frankenstein (HD, 9 mins) This is an amazing extra, which was filmed back in 1986, which is an interview with Tom Noonan in the character of Frankenstein, as he discusses the film career of Frankenstein. Amazing.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 14 mins) Here are several deleted and extended scenes from Dekker's personal copies of the film. They're fun to see, but nothing is really a must-see here. And though it says it's in HD, it looks very rough.
- Animated Storyboard Sequence (HD, 2 mins) Here is a side-by-side comparison of the storyboard sequence and actual footage of the scene where the squad is trying to fight The Mummy on a movie vehicle.
- Still Gallery - Production photos from the film.
- Theatrical Trailer and TV Spot (HD, 4 mins) - The theatrical trailer and TV spot for the film.
The Monster Squad is still a wild, endearing, and fantastic film almost 40 years later. It speaks to multiple generations of movie fans and manages to be as funny, poignant, and scary as it was back then. The new 4K image with Dolby Vision is the best the film has looked to date and the imported DTGS-HD 5.1 audio mix sounds good. While not all extras were transported over, many traveled over with a big new addition of the Wolfman's Got Nards feature-length documentary on a separate disc. This is worth the re-buy. Highly Recommended!
Order your copy of The Monster Squad on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
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