If you’re a horror fan, then chances are you love The Monster Squad (and if you don’t, well, then maybe check to see if you’ve been replaced by a pod person or something). With that in mind, I think anyone who generally reads a genre website already has a pretty good grasp on just why The Monster Squad has endured for over 30 years, becoming even more popular now than it was three decades ago, and so going into André Gower’s documentary, Wolfman’s Got Nards, I was intrigued to see what he was going to bring to the table for his directorial debut, because I felt like we’d seen a good amount of material out there thus far that has done a solid job of diving into the 1987 horror comedy.
But as Wolfman’s Got Nards weaves through a variety of talking head segments, Q&A footage, and delightful animatics, it becomes clear why Gower is the perfect person to capture all the happenings that coincided with The Monster Squad’s 3oth anniversary last year—this is his way to re-experience his involvement with that film, but this time, Gower’s a bit more removed and can see it through a completely new lens. And I think that’s precisely why I absolutely adored Wolfman’s Got Nards, because Gower goes a totally different route than I was expecting, and the results are a heartfelt celebration that not only perfectly captures what makes The Monster Squad so special, but in a weird way, so many of the themes explored here directly relate to horror fandom as well.
Using last year’s 17-stop Monster Squad tour of various Alamo Drafthouse locations for special anniversary screenings as a framework, Gower sets out to give viewers a brief history behind Dekker’s timeless tale of a ragtag group of kids squaring off against the Universal Monsters, led by Duncan Regehr’s still terrifying Count Dracula, but mostly dives into just how this film’s fanbase and legacy has continued to grow throughout the last three decades. It’s no secret that The Monster Squad wasn’t a box office success upon its release, and I think most of us are aware of just how beloved it is in our respective horror communities, but the really interesting aspect of the material Gower presents in Wolfman’s Got Nards is the different ways the film influenced a variety of audiences (not just us hardcore genre lovers), and continues to connect with new fans today. There are some personal stories shared here by fans and filmmakers alike, showing how over time, The Monster Squad has become this cinematic beacon for all the outcasts out there, and I just think that’s awesome.
We get a lot of Gower throughout Wolfman’s Got Nards, but rightly so, because this feels like a deeply personal project for him, but we also get to hear a lot from both Fred Dekker and co-writer Shane Black, who dig into their feelings on The Monster Squad, and I love how candid they both are about their respective experiences (what Dekker says about how The Monster Squad impacted him over time is one of the most beautifully candid moments in Nards, and I’m glad Gower kept it in). Cast members Ryan Lambert (“Ryan”), Ashley Bank (“Phoebe”), Adam Carl (“Derek”), Lisa Fuller (“Patrick’s Sister), Stephen Macht (“Sean’s Dad”), and the aforementioned Regher all make appearances and discuss their involvement with the film.
Gower also talks with the legendary effects artists who brought the monsters in The Monster Squad to life, including Tom Woodruff, Jr., Steve Wang, Matt Rose, John Rosengrant, and Shane Mahan, and they all talk about how they brought new versions of these beloved characters to life for a whole new generation of audiences. Admittedly, this writer has heard most of those stories before, but I loved seeing these guys get commemorated here, just because their efforts on The Monster Squad (as well as countless other movies) are always worth taking a moment to applaud.
We also get interview snippets from the likes of Seth Green, Zach Galligan, Chuck Russell, Heather Langenkamp, Jackson Stewart, Joe Lynch, Adam Green, Adam F. Goldberg, Graham Skipper, Mike Hill, Kristina Klebe and more, who all discuss different topics such as whether or not The Monster Squad is really a cult film, how the movie influenced them and was a reflection of its time, and more. There’s no doubt that every single frame in Wolfman’s Got Nards is made with a monstrous amount of love, and Gower should be incredibly proud of his efforts. Also, one thing I wasn’t expecting is the fact that Nards left me teary-eyed on a few occasions, especially once Gower sets his spotlight on Brent Chalem (“Horace”), who sadly passed away in 1997. Gower and everyone else involved with The Monster Squad have had the opportunity to see just how beloved the film truly is over the last decade since the fan-driven DVD campaign kicked off its resurgence, but Chalem died before all of that, and it’s just a real shame he never got to see how much his character and performance as Horace meant to everyone (and of course, Gower’s title Wolfman’s Got Nards is a lovely tribute to the late actor).
As a whole, I cannot recommend Wolfman’s Got Nards enough for those who love The Monster Squad, for fans of the horror genre, or even for anyone who has ever felt misunderstood by the world at large. There’s a universality to Gowers’ exploration of the long-lasting influence of Dekker’s beloved modern classic, and regardless of what your station in life is, you will come away with something from this doc that is wholly relatable. Wolfman’s Got Nards is an experience that should be shared far and wide once it wraps up its festival run, so here’s hoping Gower’s directorial debut finds a good distribution home in the near future.
Movie Score: 4.5/5
Editor's Note: Check here to read all of our reviews from the 2018 Cinepocalypse film festival!