Face-Off: The Lost Boys vs. The Monster Squad

Andy Muschietti's Stephen King adaptation IT has, as of right now, made around $270 million at the domestic box office, making it the highest grossing horror film of all time. (Not adjusted for inflation; if you do that it still has a long way to go to catch up with THE EXORCIST.) To celebrate the film's massive success, we have decided to take a look back at some older films about young kids taking on supernatural evil. A couple of movies like that just happen to be celebrating their 30th anniversaries this year: Joel Schumacher's THE LOST BOYS and Fred Dekker's THE MONSTER SQUAD. While IT's gross continues to climb higher and higher, lets see how these youthful monster hunters from the past do when pitted against each other.
Santa Carla, California has earned the reputation of being the "murder capital of the world" thanks to all the damn vampires they have running around, snatching people off the boardwalk. The leader of the bloodsuckers, a kindly fellow named Max, is able to keep his kills under the radar and pass himself off as a productive member of the community, but he has turned a group of teenagers who just want to spend their nights causing trouble, performing daredevil tricks, racing around on their motorcycles... and of course, sucking blood, with their victims tending to be undesirable types. Having vampires in your town is always a bad thing, but this bunch becomes a direct threat to the new family in town, the Emersons, when the younger vampires want teenage Michael to their ranks and Max wants to turn Michael's mother Lucy so she can help him try to keep his "kids" under control.
The baddest of the bad have descended upon Baton Rouge, Louisiana. An intimidating iteration of Dracula leads a reunion of most of the major Universal Monsters (even though this wasn't a Universal movie). There's the Mummy, shambling around in its bandages, and the Gillman, both devoted servants to Dracula. There's also the Wolfman, a servant to Dracula when in wolf form but in human form he's a good guy who's terrified of what his alter ego does. Frankenstein's Monster is another servant who doesn't work out for Dracula, as he's too good-hearted. Dracula has some apocalyptic plans he's seeking to carry out. Good and evil are held in balance by an amulet made of concentrated good, but if Dracula can destroy the amulet at midnight on a certain night the balance will shift and evil will rule the world. These monsters aren't just a threat to a town or a family, but to the entire planet.
Sam Emerson thinks he's pretty cool, although his fashion sense says otherwise. He likes MTV and comic books, and his interest in the latter brings him into contact with Edgar and Alan Frog, brothers who have figured out that Santa Carla has a vampire problem and have dedicated their lives to eradicating the bloodsuckers. Or, they plan to. They talk tough, they've gotten all the necessary info from comic books, but they haven't come face-to-face with a vampire just yet. Michael draws the attention of the vampires because he's a good guy with tastes similar to theirs, and he falls for the sole female in the group: Star, who isn't as bad as her gleefully evil companions. With Star a full-fledged vampire and Michael on his way there, the monster hunters have a couple monsters on their side.
Most horror fans, particularly those who got into the genre at a young age, can probably relate to the kids who make up the titular Monster Squad. The main character is Sean, who is so obsessed with horror that he has founded a club that gets together just to celebrate monsters. To get in, you have to pass a test to prove you know your stuff. In the club are Sean's right hand man Patrick, a little boy named Eugene (and his dog), a bullied kid named Horace but called Fat Kid, and the bully-busting Rudy, certainly the coolest of the bunch. Sean's little sister Phoebe would like to join the club, but Sean has banned her. The Monster Squad are a likeable bunch, more fun overall than the Lost Boys heroes, and the group gets even cooler with the addition of a Scary German Guy and Frankenstein's Monster.
Sam is pretty freaked out when Michael starts showing signs of vampirism, and who wouldn't be scared to see their sibling floating outside their window? The youthful monster hunters get quite a fright when they enter the vampires' lair during the day and see the vamps snoozing while hanging upside down from the ceiling. They're even more frightened by the intense reaction a vampire has to being staked. They're drenched with gore and Sam is nearly killed by the vampire David, only to be saved by a beam of sunlight. That's the biggest scare sequence in the film... at least until the vampires raid the Emerson home.
This being a more kid-friendly film, there aren't a lot of serious scares to be found in here. Waking up in the night to find that the Mummy is hiding in his bedroom closet is probably traumatizing for young Eugene. Squad members get a bigger fright when they enter the old house Dracula has moved into and get cornered by the Count, the Wolfman, and Dracula's three brides. They only escape that scenario thanks to a kick to the nards and a slice of garlic pizza. Poor little Phoebe has to face both the Mummy and Dracula. If I were Sean, I would be especially haunted by the thought that I was nearly dragged into a vortex to limbo by Dracula.
Seeing a shirtless, oiled up Tim Cappello playing saxophone in concert on the boardwalk would be a highlight of anyone's life, and that's an experience Michael, Sam, and Star all have. Michael and Star have some fun private experiences later on. The Frog brothers are pretty serious characters overall, but they bring some fun to the film as well, especially in a scene where they help Sam perform a "vampire test" on Max one evening, shoving a mirror in front of the man's face and putting an excessive dose of garlic in his food.
The Monster Squad kids remind me of myself when I was that age, I just didn't happen to have such a solid Squad around me, despite my best efforts to turn my friends into horror fans. If I were in this group, I'd be looking back at this entire time as a fun time. At least until the monsters start killing people. Even then, the kids seem to be getting some enjoyment out of the fact that they are besting actual monsters and saving the world. The situation only really seems to take a toll on Rudy, who has to do most of the killing.
When they enter the vampires' lair, the Frogs load up with wooden stakes and a canteen full of holy water. Knowing the vampires will be coming for them at the Emerson house, the Frogs later help Sam and Michael prepare for war. A bathtub is filled with holy water and garlic (even though garlic doesn't have any effect on these vampires), Sam arms himself with a bow and arrow, squirt guns are filled with holy water, and of course there are more stakes. Stakings make sense, a bow and arrow makes sense (especially with the assist of a stereo), holy water makes sense... but why does David die when impaled on a pair of antlers? That's weird, but otherwise the monster deaths in this film are pretty spectacular.
It's a good thing Rudy takes shop class, because that's where he makes not only the wooden stakes to use against the vampires but also the silver bullet they'll need to use against the Wolfman. That's the only thing that can stop the Wolfman, which even reforms after being blown up with dynamite. Regular bullets are fine to use against the Gillman, the stakes and arrows (also supplied by Rudy) take care of Dracula's brides, the Mummy gets unravelled. It's the amulet Dracula wants that is his undoing, as that sucker can open up a vortex to limbo if a virgin speaks the right words in German. The vortex thing is a huge advantage, but the way THE LOST BOYS go out is more impressive.
This may be a controversial choice, I know THE LOST BOYS is extremely popular, but when all categories are taken into account I have to give the win to THE MONSTER SQUAD. Even though THE LOST BOYS has a cool soundtrack, some good horror moments, and better monster deaths, I find THE MONSTER SQUAD to be the more entertaining film overall. I like the kid characters better, the Universal tribute monsters are more interesting than teenage vampires, and the movie is fast paced fun.

Do you agree with the outcome of this Face-Off, or do you prefer THE LOST BOYS over THE MONSTER SQUAD? Share your thoughts on these films below, and if you have suggestions for future Face-Off articles you can send them to [email protected].



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