The power of film is mystifying. The Monster Squad was considered a financial and critical failure upon its initial release, yet it didn’t matter to kids like me all over the world. There’s magic in that.
I had it pretty rough as a kid as the victim of child abuse and I found shelter in horror. The scary stuff on screen could never be as bad as what I had gone through and I found friends in monsters. These friends were nowhere more prominent than in The Monster Squad. The first time I ever rented the VHS was from our local public library and after that, I was hooked. We rented the tape weekly and I became a lifelong fan as many of our readers and listeners know. To this day, that film is perfect to me. I wanted to be in the squad. I wanted to be in the “god damn club”. And, as I would learn, so did many other monster kids just like me.
There’s a potent energy that causes a 30-year-old film to grab ahold of people like that and not let go. This is something that filmmakers Andre Gower (star of the original film) and Henry McComas knew and it was that knowledge that launched a year-long whirlwind journey to create one of the most moving, beautiful, and heartfelt documentaries in Wolfman’s Got Nards.
The most striking thing about the doc almost off the bat is the scope. Andre, Henry, and company were not only able to secure interviews with many important players in the cast and crew but they also went on an exhaustive hunt to find fans (travelling across the country including a nationwide screening tour at Alamo Drafthouse theaters) as well as artists, genre journalists, actors and other filmmakers. Each and everyone one of those people shares in not only their love of The Monster Squad but also how the film has touched their lives and in many cases launched their careers. You would assume that the film would slouch because of the magnitude of personalities involved but it only comes out stronger for it. There isn’t a single interview that feels unneeded. Every story builds the bittersweet mythos of The Monster Squad.
Fred Dekker, the original film’s director, provides the most fascinating relationship with the film and his material is worth the price of admission alone. It’s a sad, poignant, and inevitably uplifting look about the complicated relationship artists can have with their art and how the pay off for your work can come at times you would least expect it.
There are a few missing faces that would have been interesting to hear from like Tom Noonan, who played the Frankenstein’s monster or Jason Hervey (especially since the documentary touches on some of the problematic content and language of the original film) but those omissions are minor when you consider the involvement of folks like Shane Black.
The doc moves along thanks to fan artwork that acts as chapter markers in a really fun way and it’s populated by a score that was provided by Ryan Lambert (another star of the original film) and others involved with the production. It’s things like that that prove what a love letter this documentary is. It’s not just bootstraps filmmaking. It’s family. It’s a family that makes everyone who has ever seen The Monster Squad feel a part of and the documentary ultimately does a stellar job of capturing why the film has the power that it does.
In many ways, this feels like a bookend for the legacy of The Monster Squad. It encapsulates the history of the making of the film as well as its immediate and far-reaching legacy. It sees Andre Gower behind the camera as opposed to in front of it, in many ways beginning a new chapter in his own life and it gives fans the opportunity to celebrate together. I have no doubt that we will hear more of The Monster Squad in some form or fashion, especially as new generations of kids like me and those featured in the doc see the original for the first time. But this documentary, the complete triumph that it is, is a fitting placeholder for the future.
We give this one a 5 out of 5.
Wolfman’s Got Nards is currently out at festivals and will play next at the Overlook Film Festival this weekend. Be on the lookout for our interview with Andre Gower and Henry McComas coming next week and if you’re still in the mood for more squad coverage, check out our interview with the film’s stars from last years CFF.