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Monster Squad goals – ‘Wolfman’s Got Nards’

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We all have movies from our childhood that we look back upon with fondness. Even films that perhaps weren’t as traditionally successful have earned spots of honor in the hearts of those who saw them at precisely the right moment in their lives. And sometimes, those films, despite being underappreciated in their time, still manage to find their audiences. It might take a longer time and result in less-than-stellar results in terms of sheer economics, but the love is there.

For many people, 1987’s “The Monster Squad” is one such film. Initially viewed as a bit of a bust upon its release, the film lingered in the corners of the cultural consciousness, winding up in heavy rotation during the nascent days of HBO and doing a brisk business in the world of video rental. The story of a group of young people thrust into circumstances where it was up to them to do battle with a collection of classic monsters became a beloved film, one that inspired a depth of fandom that no one involved with the project truly understood until years later.

It’s that story – the story of how the film became so much more than a kid-oriented commercial misfire – that serves as the central framework of the new documentary “Wolfman’s Got Nards,” a title drawn from one of the film’s most memorable lines. Written and directed by Andre Gower – who was one of the young stars of “The Monster Squad” – it’s an attempt to unpack the energetic and enthusiastic following that has grown around the movie in the decades since its initial release. Through a documentation of a screening tour of the film and a wealth of conversations with those who made “The Monster Squad” and those who love it, it’s a heartfelt look at the notion of fandom and how enough passion can keep alive something thought long since departed.

Director Fred Dekker and screenwriter Shane Black are front and center for a lot of this doc. Both men have an obvious affection for “The Monster Squad,” as well as a degree of discontent with regard to how the situation played out upon the film’s initial release. Dekker in particular seems to have conflicted feelings, viewing the film as one of the best things he’s ever done while also questioning why it took such a meandering path toward success. Black – who went on to become a massive star in the screenwriting world, writing “Lethal Weapon” and many other wildly successful films – also holds this work in high personal esteem.

Additionally, it’s fascinating to hear the accounts of the various special effects artists, all of whom came together under the supervision of industry legend Stan Winston. The monsters – Dracula, Wolfman, the Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster and Gill-Man (from “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”) – were each put together by separate individuals or teams. Tasked with crafting creatures that were reminiscent of the classic Universal characters but not TOO close, they rose to the occasion – “The Monster Squad” features some exceptional design and execution.

And then of course, there are the fans. Wave after wave of people – including a few famous ones like Seth Green and Adam F. Goldberg, as well as an artist who saw the film as a kid and went on to become one of the artists who worked on creating the creature in Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” – share their love for the film. Whether it’s just fond memories or a lifelong connection, we get a sense of just what this movie meant to people. And as we follow Gower and fellow castmates on their 17-cities-in-17-days screening tour to mark the film’s 30th anniversary, we see just how much affection is out there for this movie – a movie that so many involved thought was largely forgotten. Unjustly forgotten, but forgotten nevertheless.

This is the part where I tell you that I am one of those people who carries a deep affection for “The Monster Squad.” I didn’t see it in the movie theater, but it wasn’t long after it arrived on home video that I saw it for the first time. I was at a friend’s house – a sleepover – and “The Monster Squad” was one of the movies that we watched. I was probably 12 years old, right in the age range at whom the film was aimed. And boy oh boy, did it ever land. Over the course of the next year or so, I saw this movie dozens of times; it seemed like every third trip to the local rental place (in our case, the neighborhood convenience store), I would harangue my poor mother until she caved and rented it for me again. “You’ve seen it a million times, Allen.” “BUT I WANT TO WATCH IT AGAIN!”

And on and on we go.

“Wolfman’s Got Nards” is admittedly a niche watch. If you’ve never seen “The Monster Squad,” there’s likely not a lot for you here. If you have seen it, however – and you share in the widespread affection for the film – then you will likely find this documentary to be a heartwarming delight. There’s something wonderful about the idea of a piece of art defying initial perceptions and growing into a well-deserved fandom.

In the end, the real nards were the friends we made along the way.

[4 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 02 November 2020 15:59

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