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Written By:

Katie Driscoll

The best documentaries are not really just about one specific thing: they act as conduits to explore a deeper feeling or theme. Andrè Gower’s documentary on the 1987 failure-turned-cult-classic The Monster Squad is two double bolts of pleasure – a love letter to a film, but also to the biggest nostalgia machine there is: cinema. This is shown from its opening – talking head interviews with the director of The Monster Squad, Fred Dekker, actors, fans, (including Seth Green) about the film that first turned them on to cinema, an experience embedded in all of us.

Despite being made by its central child actor (Gower played Sean, the hero / protagonist of the squad), the documentary doesn’t feel like an indulgent exercise in narcissism, but a labour of love. Gower himself as stated that it isn’t a “behind the scenes” or “where are they now?” feature, but about what it means for a film to find its audience decades later and how cult films inspire a slavish devotion mainstream films just don’t.

Nards shows different viewpoints of the film, not sticking just to diehard fans – one comes from a professor who teaches it in film studies class and criticises the way in which The Monster Squad – like most popular films of the ‘80s – is guilty of certain moments of slut-shaming, fat-shaming and homophobia. This only serves to show that what touches us and what we as an audience fall in love with cannot be explained. We can’t intellectualise the films (and literature and music) that form us.

Some heartwarming moments include Andrè and Ryan Lambert (Bad-Boy Rudy) joining forces during the revival of the film to tour cinemas and finally see the love for the film that was missing when it first came out, hindered by a lack of appropriate marketing and promotion at the time, as well as being beaten to the box office by another teen classic, Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys.

Cinema as a powerful sensory tool for memory, and how we are shaped by it, is a strong theme throughout, with Nards serving both as an outlet for nostalgia for its audience who grew up on The Monster Squad, and for the makers of the film themselves. Dekker and the creators of the movie’s monsters wax lyrical about the magic of creating creatures from their own cinema-going memories.

As we grow older and our film-going becomes more sophisticated and distanced, we yearn to return to the obsessive immediacy of our younger selves. Watching these films – and this documentary – generates the type of joy we only felt as kids, as well as evoking the warm fuzzy feeling that nostalgia brings.


Katie Driscoll

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