Horror History

Daily Horror History: ‘The Monster Squad’ Released; ‘The Exorcist’ Begins Filming

It’s a bit unusual to call a horror film “beloved,” but The Monster Squad is certainly one of the most beloved horror films of the 80’s, particularly among a certain age bracket that first saw the film where they could see themselves as the kids in the film.

Kids in horror movies–or in any movie, really–can prove aggravating, and as annoying as they can be to adults, they’re even more so to other kids. All too often the grown ups in charge of such characters have no clue how to make them even tolerable, much less realistic or even likable. This is, I think, part of the charm of Stranger Things and the most recent adaptation of It; history tells us that there’s an even greater degree of difficulty when writing a non-kids story centered on a bunch of kids. But before either of the aforementioned stories pulled it off–even before the original adaptation of It and just one year after the first screen version of a child-centric story penned by Stephen King–there was The Monster Squad.

Given the apparent, recent blitz to capitalize on the popularity of these types of properties (see also the upcoming, reportedly lackluster Summer of ’84) I wouldn’t be surprised if the previously cancelled remake of The Monster Squad was resurrected, though it’s a classic case of a property that ought to be left alone. The movie gets just about all there is out of its premise, and has its own nostalgic layer at the time of its release, with its villains being Universal Studios versions of monsters that hadn’t been popular in decades. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, however, and neither is “nerd culture” or “geek culture” or “fandom” or whatever the hell you want to call it. Pre-teen kids in Louisiana gathering in a clubhouse to discuss horror stories and movie monsters were understandably portrayed as quasi-outcasts in 1987; in 2018 and beyond there are numerous professional websites full of grown folks devoted to such things. Comic book heroes are all the rage, a series about dragons and mystical winter zombies is the biggest hit show on the premium cable channel that basically invented “prestige television”, and a show about a psychic girl saving her newfound friends from monsters in “the upside down” can be the talk of the internet and the office. The Monster Squad would be an entirely different animal if it were brought into the current pop culture climate.

The Monster Squad came to theaters on August 14th, 1987, where it went wildly unappreciated before eventually becoming something of a legend on cable and home video.

This date also marks the first day of production for The Exorcist, back in 1972. Typing the words “Exorcist filming” into Google bring up references to the production being “cursed” in the top two hits.

Off camera: Real demons! Everywhere, surely!

Given the way people discuss the thing, you’d think there were tragedies associated with filming on par with those of The Conqueror, only less explicable, because it’s a story about demonic possession, of course. A deeper dive, though, reveals an onset fire that delayed production, a painful but decidedly non-injurious onset injury that occurred during filming, actor Jack McGowaran dying of the flu after filming was completed, and amateur 89-year-old actress Vasiliki Maliaros also dying before the film’s release, presumably of being 89-years-old. Other deaths “associated” with the filming of The Exorcist actually involve relatives of cast and crew, and one cited in a 13th Floor article happened 15-freaking-years later.

Related:  Confessions of a Fearphile: The Alien

Was the filming troubled and laborious? Sure. The same could be said for Jaws, but it isn’t a movie about one of Satan’s goons so it’s just labeled an infamously difficult production, not a “cursed” one.

Moving on, other notable releases that share this date include Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell (1968), Motel Hell (1980), Fulci’s final “Gates of Hell” film The House by the Cemetery (1981) and, on the much lighter / horror-adjacent side of things, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which debuted in London on this date in 1975.

To close things out, today is the birthday of actor Tony Moran, who’s had parts in several small, short, and/or bare-budget horror films in recent years, but is most notable among horror fans for playing the unmasked Michael Myers in the original Halloween.