As a film critic there is nothing better than watching a stimulating film. Something that feeds the mind and gives you nights of discussion with fellow cinephiles were one can debate the symbolism or message of a certain work or filmmaker.
You know what else is great? watching a film that reminds you of the fun you’ve had as a kid or a teenager, a film that seeps into your memory and becomes a part of your movie-loving life.
In the eighties Richard Donner had a one-two punch of smash hit films where kids went up against monsters. “The Goonies” was his 1985 hit about a group of kids who go on an adventure inside a spooky cave and search for a treasure. The film was a great success and became a pop culture child of its decade.
In 1987 there was another film that came out about a group of young friends who go up against the combined forces of Dracula, The Gillman, The Mummy, The Wolfman, and Frankenstein’s monster.
Shane Black and Fred Dekker’s “The Monster Squad” was released in summer of 1987 and was to be the next Goonies-sized hit for the younger movie-going crowd. The only problem? Richard Donner’s “The Lost Boys” beat it to the box office punch and stole its thunder. Donner’s film was a smash, but Dekker’s film was a huge flop and died a hard death, vanishing quickly into the otherworldly oblivion of “Hey, do you remember that one movie from long ago?”
As the VHS craze gave way to the DVD boom, “The Monster Squad” became a harsh casualty. Many films were left flapping in the wind, as not everything was fast-tracked to DVD. If you didn’t already have a VHS copy or a recording of “The Monster Squad” you were out of luck, as it took twenty years to make it to DVD and only after some deep research in trying to get a print of the film. It seemed to have vanished, but film historians found the last print available in New Zealand!
Not only was Dekker’s lost film discovered after an Indiana Jones-styled expedition to find it but, after all those years of Monster Squad limbo, something else came to light … the fans.
Andre Gower’s warm and entertaining documentary “Wolfman’s Got Nards” (fans of the film will get the title) examines the impact the film had on its unheard legion of fans since its release and debut on HBO, where it truly found its following.
This is a wonderful little film with a pure heart that is chockfull of access to the cast and filmmakers who speak in depth about its making, how they handled its subsequent failure, and the many years since its release.
Bower’s piece goes beyond making-of territory as it tracks “The Monster Squad” from inception to release and ultimate box office failure, to its rediscovery and official honor as one of the most adored films of the eighties.
Along with the many interviews with cast and crew, the best parts of the documentary are those when Bower turns his focus on the immeasurable and dedicated fan base that exists around the world. These fans have carried the film in their hearts since childhood, many of them sharing it with their own children.
The crux of this documentary is following the three stars of the film, now adults. Lest we forget, our director Andre Gower was young Sean, the unofficial leader of The Monster Squad. He is joined by his fellow cast members Ryan Lambert and Ashley Blank as they embark on a whirlwind tour of the U.S. and England, screening the film, doing Q&As, and learning just how much their thirty three-year-old film means to its followers.
After premiering at films festivals all over the U.S. in 2018, Bower’s documentary has been in its own kind of limbo waiting for a release. The wait is over. “Wolman’s Got Nards” is finally coming to on-demand and Blu-ray for Halloween 2020.
Whether one likes “The Monster Squad” or not, the exuberance of its fanbase (proud misfits all!) is truly infectious. It is next to impossible not to get swept up in their lives that are bathed in Monster Squad memorabilia both in their houses and in their hearts.
“Wolfman’s Got Nards” is a love letter to not only the popcorn fun of Fred Dekker and Shane Black’s beloved eighties classic, but also to the horror genre that federates so many who share a passion of films that keep all of us young at heart.