Aaron R. Davis
I’ve been hearing some noise lately that remake factory Platinum Dunes is next going to be tainting The Monster Squad. I am … puzzled.
I’m not going to say I’m against the idea of a remake because (a) I’m philosophically opposed to remakes (I’m not) or (b) I love the original film so much (though I do). Honestly, I’m against the idea of a remake because today’s kids are total pussies.
See, one of the things that makes the original 1986 movie so much fun — and a lot of other movies at the time, like The Goonies, Explorers, Stand by Me, etc — is that it took realistic kids and put them in fantastic situations. Those kids swore, they smoked, they ran all over the place looking for something to do and they spent a lot of time without any parental supervision. They lived in their own kid universe, and that’s part of what made those movies so cool — in their faux-jaded little world, there was still room for adventures with pirate ships and Frankenstein’s monster.
Now look at today’s kids. They’re wimps. They have parents who are terrified of letting those kids get six feet away from the house. They don’t play outside, they play inside. They have an entire electronics store in their bedrooms to distract themselves from how their muscles are atrophying. They think vampires are supposed to sparkle and cry and that werewolves are shirtless little faux-beefcakes. Kids today are so sheltered and sequestered and play-dated into blandness that I just don’t see them getting around enough to try and save the world from monsters.
When you teach at a school and you’re told that kids aren’t allowed to use half of the equipment they have anymore … when you see a news story about kids who are tied to the playground fence by their parents to keep them from getting hurt … when you see that dodgeball gets banned from gym classes because parents don’t want their dainty little snowflakes getting hit with the balls … well, you have to wonder what kids today would actually fight monsters with. Their food allergies? Their Nintendo DS?
Besides, this is modern Hollywood we’re talking about. You know the reason Silk Spectre didn’t smoke in Watchmen? Because Warner Bros. head Alan Horn hates smoking. He let the Comedian smoke because he was a villain who got punished, but otherwise … In an industry that is discussing whether or not a scene of someone smoking should get an automatic R rating, what hoops are filmmakers going to have to jump to in order to keep The Monster Squad at the all-important PG-13?
And I’m not one of those people who thinks you can’t make a decent action or horror movie that’s PG-13 — I think Drag Me to Hell showed that you can make an intense horror flick without letting the rating hamper you — but I do think if it’s something that’s aimed at kids, what you’re going to end up with is a movie like Aliens in the Attic: not bad, but sort of bland and very, very safe.
Another reason a Monster Squad remake seems unpalatable is … which monsters do you use? Part of the genius of the original is that it used the classic Universal monsters in an interesting way. The Universal monsters were old hat in 1986, and seemed toothless and defanged enough by then that they could be in a movie for kids. But the kids in the movie take the monsters seriously as legitimate threats, and they did so precisely because those specific monsters — Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon — were familiar kids’ TV fodder. Sure, this was a sort of golden age of slasher movies, but movies like The Monster Squad and Fright Night were there to make sure that old school monsters were still getting their due.
In fact, The Monster Squad even goes out of its way to say that movies like Friday the 13th are bullshit. And while I don’t totally agree with that assessment, I have to wonder where this Monster Squad remake is going to cull its monsters from. You can’t stick Jason and Freddy types in this movie, can you? I mean, slashers in a kids’ movie? That sort of necessitates a certain amount of violence that doesn’t seem very PG-13 to me.
I think part of what’s so great about the Universal monsters is that they had character. They had drama. There was a point to them; they had fears, passions, weaknesses and flaws. They could be killed. They weren’t unstoppable. Where’s the dramatic tension in Jason? When it comes down to it, what does Jason even want? Answer: nothing. He just shows up, kills people, is temporarily stopped and then goes back to killing people. There’s nothing else to it.
Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster … those monsters are lovable. They inspire devotion, the way Godzilla does or Mickey Mouse. There’s a reason these things have been around for nearly a century. And while I know there are fans of slasher movies — and I am one of them — I have yet to be convinced that Freddy or Jason aren’t just coasting on nostalgia. And if their movies continue to be as bad as they are now — thanks for those, too, Platinum Dunes, you assholes — they may not survive until, two decades down the road, someone decides it’s time for another remake.
So I hear that The Monster Squad is being remade and I think, combining the general wussiness of kids, the timidity of Hollywood and the commercialist soullessness of Platinum Dunes, we’re either going to get something as cruel, cynical and mean as that dreadful Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, or something that just hangs there without inspiring any feeling at all like Van Helsing.
Do your kids a favor and rent them the original Monster Squad. It’s good for them.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.