Disclosure: Andre Gower's Wolfman's Got Nards features talking-head testimonials from a few people I consider pals. Didn't impact my opinion of the film, but if that sort of thing matters to you - now you know!
I remember everything about the first time I saw The Monster Squad.
I remember being excited when my mother announced we were going (I was huge into monsters at the time), I remember having a last-minute anxiety attack on the drive over (what if it was too scary??), I remember the theater where we saw the film (the long-since vanished Loews Chisholm in Plano, Texas), and I remember how drunk in love I was by the time the credits rolled. I didn't have much context for Fred Dekker's film - I'd seen only a few horror movies by that point, all of which were mild by comparison - but I knew I was crazy about it. Inspired, even: a few weeks later, I landed in hot water with my Sunday school teacher when I sketched Frankenstein after being invited to "draw a picture of Jesus".
Seeing The Monster Squad at that age further instilled in me a lifelong love of monsters, not to mention the love I feel for the horror genre today. Sure, certain segments of the film geek population like to dismissively wave away the love many '80s kids feel for movies like The Monster Squad, Clue or The Goonies (the implication being that each film's fanbase is coasting largely on nostalgia), but I maintain that my love is genuine. I saw The Monster Squad at the perfect time, and I'm thankful for the impact it had in my development as a film lover. I think a lot of us are.
Now there's a Monster Squad documentary, and it seems to have been made with the express purpose of returning that thankfulness to fans. Directed by The Monster Squad star Andre Gower (who played Sean in the film), Wolfman's Got Nards is a love letter to the entire history of Dekker's film, from the cast members to the makeup artists who brought the movie's creature designs to life, from the obsessed fans to the horror filmmakers who wouldn't be where they are today without it.
Gower walks us through the film's entire history: interviews with Dekker and screenwriter Shane Black cover the earliest stages of the film's development (Black's pitch: "It's The Little Rascals meet the Universal Monsters"), an impressive number of cast members appear to relay their memories from the shoot, filmmakers and present-day film bloggers pop up to offer their commentary on the film's place in '80s movie history, and - quite refreshingly - everyone involved is very candid about how poorly The Monster Squad was received upon release.
This, it turns out, is very important. There are times where Wolfman's Got Nards feels a little surface level, a feature-length version of the sort of retrospectives you might find attached to a 20th anniversary DVD release, but every time this threatens to occur, the doc takes another unexpected turn. Nothing revelatory, mind you, but acknowledging things like the film's problematic '80s dialogue (which includes an unfortunate and cavalier use of the word "faggot"), the sense of failure Dekker felt after the film didn't catch on with audiences, and the tragic death of star Brent Chalem (who played Horace in the film, and was gifted with one of the script's best lines) all serve to elevate this doc above what could've been a standard-issue special feature. It's not wildly substantial, to be sure - it's unlikely anything here will catch you completely off guard - but there's still plenty to chew on.
Will Wolfman's Got Nards appeal to folks who haven't seen The Monster Squad, or those who don't consider themselves fans? The former feels unlikely; this isn't a Best Worst Movie scenario, where the story being told is so incredibly unlikely that it's enough to carry newcomers through its run time. The latter feels like a safer bet: this doc pleads a very good case for fans of Dekker's film, and I think some Monster Squad grouches could be won over by the enthusiasm on display, not to mention the quality of the on-camera interviews (several unexpected faces show up, each one of them a delight). I suppose it's neither here nor there, though: the kind of person who'd watch this doc and not have their heart melted a little bit is not the kind of person I wanna be associating with, anyway.
Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give Wolfman's Got Nards is this: the moment it was over, I wanted to watch The Monster Squad again. I've seen that film more times than I can possibly count, but Gower's doc made it all feel exciting and new again for the first time in ages, and left me feeling a bit of that same excitement I felt when I caught Dekker's film on its opening weekend back in 1987. Can't ask for much more than that.
Wolfman's Got Nards will screen at the Overlook Film Festival this week in New Orleans, LA. Make a point to see it if you're there, and stay tuned for further updates on its general release as they become available.