For devoted horror fans who grew up in the 1980s, The Monster Squad has a special, firmly placed stake in their hearts.
Paying tribute to the icons of the classic Universal monster pantheon while weaving a modern storyline into the mix, writer-director Fred Dekker’s 1987 cult favorite is a film that is scary and funny, entertaining and touching all at the same time.
Chronicling the adventures of a group of young friends obsessed with monsters who suddenly find themselves up against creatures of the night, The Monster Squad’s 30th anniversary has unleashed a series of special screenings across the country, featuring three cast members in introductions and Q&A sessions.
Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert, and Ashley Bank kick off a 17-date tour here in San Francisco at the Alamo Drafthouse on Monday, Aug. 14, and all three look forward to interacting with fans.
“It’s been incredible watching the journey this film has taken, and getting out to meet the fans at screenings or conventions around the world has been a thrill,” says Lambert, who lived in San Francisco and played music here for years after making the film.
“I think it resonates with certain ‘kids,’ as far as being in a club exclusively for kids who couldn’t get into any clubs,” he says. “As a film, it takes you back to that magical time in the ’80s where adventure films were something of a spectacle. These days, you’ve got one of those released every week. Back then — when, say, E.T. arrived — it meant something. Although Monster Squad wasn’t a box-office success, it still provokes those same emotions.”
In the movie, Dracula comes to the kids’ town in search of the diary of his arch-nemesis, Van Helsing. The tome can be used to give the powers of darkness eternal rule over the universe — or to send them back into Limbo and restore the balance of good to the world.
After Gower’s character, Sean, comes into possession of the diary, and the group realizes that the monsters are after them, they attempt to decipher the book — written in German — leading them to consult the neighborhood recluse, dubbed “Scary German Guy.”
After translating the diary, the kids are surprised to learn that Scary German Guy seems to know so much about the subject. In one of the more serious scenes, he replies that he “knows something about monsters,” and a close-up of his arm reveals a tattoo from a Nazi concentration camp. Many critics and fans have pointed to this as a plot point that lends the film a sense of history and an emotional gravitas, something the cast members agree with.
“I think it does bring an element of reality,” Bank says. “These monsters are fictional, but there are real monsters in the world. There is evil. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, so I knew what that was when I was five when we were filming. My grandmother had a similar tattoo.
“To me, that always resonated as, ‘There is evil in the world and you have to stand up to it. No matter who you are, you have the ability to do that,’ ” she adds. “And I think that’s one of the great messages of the film. You don’t have to be the coolest or the strongest or the most grown-up. Anybody’s capable.”
While this upcoming undertaking will be the biggest event the three have taken part in, they have been appearing together at many other screenings and reunions over the past 10 years, and are awestruck and appreciative at the response they’ve gotten from their fans.
“To go around and interact with the fans is really what it’s all about,” Gower says. “And to have something like Monster Squad — that didn’t do well 30 years ago in the theater, but now really has this gigantic following of super-loyal fans — is really awesome. The fact that we have this whole second generation of fans lends credence to the lasting power of the story, of the adventure and kids working together and doing something bigger than themselves.”
Bank echoes that sentiment, adding that fans have told her they’d named their children after her character.
“I think people who really love film — directors, writers, actors, people who want to create content — I think our whole drive behind it is that we want to move and touch and inspire people, and we want to make an impact on the lives of other people,” she says. “To be able to be a part of something that’s had such a huge impact on so many people is kind of a dream, we’re very lucky.”
The Monster Squad 30th Anniversary, Monday, Aug. 14, 7 p.m., at the Alamo Drafthouse, 2550 Mission St. $28; 415-549-5959 or drafthouse.org