In the late 1800s, Van Helsing and pals try to kill all of Universal Studio’s lineup: Dracula (Duncan Regehr), Frankenstein’s monster (Tom Noonan), the Mummy (Michael Reid MacKay), the Wolfman (Carl Thibault), and Gillman (the Creature from the Black Lagoon) (Tom Woodruff Jr.). “They blew it.” So 100 years later, the task is left to the Monster Club: leader Sean (Andre Gower), who happens to have Van Helsing’s diary, sidekick Patrick (Robby Kiger), Goonies-style “fat kid” Horace (Brent Chalem), tough guy Rudy (Ryan Lambert), little Eugene (Michael Faustino), and Sean’s five-year-old sister Phoebe (Ashley Bank). Eventually they find out that Dracula is after an amulet that, if destroyed, will allow evil forces to rule the world. The club teams up with Patrick’s teenage sister (a virgin is needed to read an incantation) (Mary Ellen Trainor) and Scary German Guy (who’s not really so scary—he gives them pie) (Leonardo Cimino) to translate the diary and send Dracula and his buddies into a portal forever.
Sound complicated? It is, for a family movie. I hadn’t seen this in a good fifteen years or so and was scrambling to keep up in my notes. Speaking of which, though it has some young characters, it is PG-13. There are some potentially scary moments for wee ones, for example the opening sequence, which has some creepy shots of Dracula. There is also a fair amount of bad language, uttered mostly by the children, including asshole, shit, goddamn, son of a bitch, and Jesus Christ; even Phoebe uses the word chickenshit. The most offensive in my opinion is faggot, though that is spoken by a bully who shortly after gets his comeuppance. Some questionable behavior is also displayed: Rudy smokes, drinks beer, and ogles a teenage girl undressing in front of a window. Then there’s the premise of kids killing people, albeit monstrous ones. In addition, Horace kicks the Wolf man in the crotch, discovering that “Wolfman’s got nards.” Horace is pretty great.
That said, I saw the movie fairly young and was unaffected. I remembered it fondly, and upon watching it as an adult, I still love it. Though it can be corny (the Army shows up at the end looking for Eugene, who sent them a sloppily written, incorrectly addressed letter for help), and Frankenstein’s friendship with Phoebe can be a little cloying, these moments are few and far between. The film harks back to the olden days of monster movies, when Universal ruled and unbelieving adults were always telling young people they were crazy, or as Sean’s dad Del (Stephen Macht) says, “Science is real. Monsters are not.” It also pokes fun at holiday-themed slasher movies, with Sean dying to see Groundhog Day: Part XII. Del tries to dissuade him: “Sean, he always returns from the grave. If they blew him up, put his head in a blender, and sent the rest of the pieces to Norway, he would still return from the grave.” Sean: “That was Part VII.”
Overall, it’s funnier than it is cheesy or sappy, but it’s not for very little ones—unless you’re prepared to deal with your child worrying about finding a mummy in his or her closet, as happens to Eugene. Don’t be surprised if you start craving a Pepsi or a Whopper.