Every now and then I like to partake of B-movie imports that are, shall we say, odd? Mixing elements of Wishmaster, Hellraiser, and The Monster Squad, you get this little comedy-horror Canadian gem that is about silly as you can get.
Writer/director/producer/SPFX make-up artist Steven Kostanski loves his low budget movie making, having made some really forgettable films like Father’s Day, Manborg, and Leprechaun Returns. This blood-filled tongue-in-cheek supernatural horror/sci-fi comedy deals with two children in Somewhere, USA (okay, it’s in Canada) that are playing a complex game called Crazy Ball, a variation of dodgeball, when they discover a glowing red crystal in their backyard. What they don’t know is, that orb is the life-force of an unimaginably dangerous creature that wants it back so it can destroy the galaxy. Matthew Ninaber plays the monster with Steven Vlahos as its voice.
Problem is, the gem is in the hands of 12-year-old Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna), the nastiness, meanest, cruelest kid in the neighborhood. This girl makes Rhoda from The Bad Seed look like Punky Brewster. Talking like a 16-year-old high school Mean Girl, she not only belittles her brother, Luke (Owen Myer), but uses the gem to command and verbally abuse the horrific looking “Arch-Duke Of All Nightmares”, whom she renames Psycho Goreman, or PG for short. As long as she wields the gem, the alien PG must do what she says, and this pig-tailed brat wants alot!! She even has PG turn her friend, Alistair (Scout Flint), into a large bulbous pink-brain thingy with eyes!
Meanwhile, on the Planet Gigax, the race of Templars (think intergalactic Avengers, but they look like rejects of The Vindicators from Rick & Morty) send their leader, Pandora (Kristen McCulloch) to fight and kill PG once and for all. But PG has already summoned his old fighting buddies to join him, which doesn’t go exactly as well as he’d hoped for. Mimi & Luke’s parents (Alexis Cara Hancey & Adam Brooks) are shocked at first seeing this 7-ft tall evil looking monster, but soon accept him in a series of wacky montages straight out of an 80’s movie.
Pretty soon, of course, there’s the inevitable battle between good & evil, PG vs Pandora in all her battle armor that resembles an anime character. On one hand, this film is thoroughly silly, ridiculous, and ludicrous with a giant evil alien spouting delicious and clichéd villainous dialogue and then being slapped down by a wicked little girl whose every bit as nasty as him! On the other hand, the story may be old, but it’s funny as hell with unexpected cutaways and scenes changes, and excellent make-up, featuring only practical effects with no CGI! All the creatures you see are done with old-school latex prosthetic masks that look fantastic. Oh, and the blood and gore is plentiful.
You can tell Kostanski had fun with this one, not taking any of it seriously. Casting his lead, Nita-Josee Hanna, was a bold choice, as this was her film debut, but it paid off. She’s eats the screen and, although she is way over-the-top, she comes this close to becoming annoying and unlikable. Movie and TV veteran, Owen Myer, fares better as he shows off his acting chops, balancing the loose cannon acting of Hanna. There’s a fine line for making horror/comedy movies and sometimes they just don’t work. Movies like Zombieland does, while Little Monsters doesn’t. This movie strikes the funny bone just right for being completely stupid, but keeping it’s center and story intact.
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The Monster Squad (1987)
You can’t get more 80’s than this movie which bombed at the box office initially, but gained a huge cult following afterwards on the home DVD market. AND this movie is famous for the iconic line, “Wolfman’s got nards!”, a catchphrase that’s repeated to this day.
It’s a quiet little town in Somewhere, USA where a bunch of Goonies-like kids hang out together in a treehouse, calling themselves The Monster Squad, and idolizing the Universal classic monster-movies like Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy, etc. There’s the leader Sean Crenshaw (Andre Gower), his BFF, Patrick Rhodes (Robby Kiger), clumsy overweight Horace (Brent Chalem), “Fonzie”-like Rudy (Ryan Lambert), and quiet Eugene (Michael Faustino). Sean also has a little sister named Phoebe (Ashley Bank) who desperately wants to join their club. The gang find the diary of legendary monster hunter, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, but it’s written in German, so they visit an elderly man they call, “Scary German Guy” (Leonardo Cimino)–who is actually a kind gentleman–to translate the diary.
The diary tells of an amulet that must be found to send a bunch of monsters back through a wormhole into limbo where they belong. . . before midnight. . . while reciting a incantation in GERMAN. . .AND by a virgin! Whew!! Meanwhile, Count Dracula (Duncan Regehr) shows up to get the amulet and awaken his buddies: the Mummy (Michael MacKay), the Gill Man (Tom Woodruff, jr), the Wolfman (Carl Thibault), three vampire school girls (Mary Albee, Joan-Carrol Baron, and Julie Merrill), and finally, the Frankenstein monster (Tom Noonan). As the monsters wreak havoc all over town, only the kindly and confused Frankenstein creature makes friends with little Phoebe and the squad.
Naturally, the local police (Stan Shaw & Stephen Macht) are stymied at all the weirdness going on in town, refusing to believe the kids when they tell them it’s monsters! So, it’s up to the children to rid the their community of these horrific creatures by themselves, which they manage to do either by accident or sheer dumb luck. Finally, with the help of Phoebe and “Scary German Guy”, they open the wormhole and send Dracula back to limbo, just as the Army shows up asking what’s up!
Yeah, it’s all very silly and non-nonsensical, but this was made for kids by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon 1 & 2) director Fred Dekker (Robocop 3) who aren’t known for being too serious. The movie was filled with no-name actors, lotsa fun and silly movie-monster references, and aimed squarely at children, although it was rated PG-13 for some over-the-top cartoony violence and some very scary visuals. Dracula, for example, didn’t play his role comical AT ALL, as he scared the beejeebers out of little Ashley Bank in the finale for real! Tom Noonan played his Frankenstein monster with such a lost puppy dog appeal, that he made you feel sorry for him, and the Gill Man was both funny and creepy!
You gotta hand it to Dekker who manged to give audiences the classic Universal monsters without having them LOOK like the Universal monsters, thus saving copyright fees. And the kids were all wonderful, if not quite the top-notch actors like in Goonies. Yes, they were all wanna-be’s, but some actually went on to have a nice career in TV and the movies.