Filmmakers André Gower and Henry McComas Talk WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS!
“Wolfman’s got nards”, a memorable and instantly quotable line of dialogue from 1987’s THE MONSTER SQUAD, sums up the film perfectly. It’s Universal Monsters meet THE GOONIES in a wild adventure that’s beloved by horror fans world-over for its unqiue balance of tongue-in-cheek gags with a real sense of danger supported by fantastic creature designs!
Largely ignored upon its theatrical release, it was home video and cable tv where THE MONSTER SQUAD grew in popularity, becoming a cultural touchstone for 80s horror kids and general misfits everywhere. This year the film finally gets the attention it rightly deserves with a brand new documentary called (of course) WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS, packed full of interviews and fascinating behind the scenes tales from the cast and crew of the film.
Ahead of the documentary’s South Australian Premiere at this year’s MONSTER FEST TRAVELLING SIDESHOW, Cult of Monster’s David Churack talked all things Squad with THE MONSTER SQUAD cast member and WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS writer/director André Gower, along with writer/producer Henry McComas!
One of the clearest things I took from the documentary is that there are a lot of people with a LOT of love for THE MONSTER SQUAD. If you had to put it into words, what is it about the film that you think continues to resonate with people?
HENRY MCCOMAS: If we played our cards right, WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS is a romantic comedy about an undying love between a movie and its audience. One of the most enjoyable things about the festival circuit is watching audience members who have never seen THE MONSTER SQUAD connect with the doc. WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS resonates with them because they can relate to falling in love with a movie…they remember being swept away by genre and escaping in a dark theatre. We worked hard to capture that experience. On a personal note, the thing that impacted me the most was re-evaluating what ‘failure’ means. THE MONSTER SQUAD was panned by critics when it first came out, 30 years later it’s a movie that people refuse to forget and continually love. As a creative, that’s pretty inspiring.
ANDRE GOWER: I think it originally was that they found something to connect with or related to the characters. They felt they could be part of the adventure and then went out and made their own. What made it impact and continue to resonate was the heart and authenticity in which Shane Black and Fred Dekker put into the story.
The documentary thoroughly pores through the 30-year legacy of MONSTER SQUAD – what were your favourite discoveries?
HENRY: I loved finding the filmmakers and artists that THE MONSTER SQUAD influenced. It’s a trip thinking that we wouldn’t have some of my favourite movies if it wasn’t for the Squad. THE PREDATOR, THE SHAPE OF WATER, THE NICE GUYS…so many other films/shows came from THE MONSTER SQUAD and the crew who worked on it. From script to creature design, TMS set standards and paved ways…but you’ll have to watch the doc to find out how.
ANDRE: My favourites are when people realize they have an ongoing connection that has shaped their world and brought it full circle to today.
Revisiting MONSTER SQUAD, I was struck by how adult the film is regarding the language and the sincere peril the kids are placed in. Do you think this is key to the film’s continuing appeal to an adult fanbase?
HENRY: I remember being petrified when Atreyu’s horse, Atrax, was drowning in THE NEVERENDING STORY. The threat was real because death was taken seriously and in the 80s any kid could get it. THE MONSTER SQUAD didn’t talk down to children instead it spoke to them, like it was one of the kids. The voice of Black and Dekker’s script was so real that we responded to its authenticity.
ANDRE: I think it was a major factor in why people got stuck on it. It was their first experience with something dangerous. It became the “gateway” movie that led them into their attraction to horror and scare fare.
Henry, how did you personally come to find THE MONSTER SQUAD?
HENRY: I inherited a dubbed VHS from my older brother. I would share it with friends from my cul-de-sac. We would take turns drawing monsters on the white sticker label. Mine was Gillman. We would ride on our bikes and play monsters in construction sites. A few years later I would knock on my neighbors doors asking for their broken VCRs. Then I would repair them and construct a makeshift linear editing studio. By the time I was 13 I was making VHS short films on my parents camcorder. Now I get to make movies with the real Monster Squad, that’s how the movie impacted me.
How difficult was it tracking down the many cast and crew you interview for the film? Andre – have you stayed in touch with most of them over the years?
HENRY: Everyone was pretty much game because they loved their experience working on THE MONSTER SQUAD. Most of the crew have their prestigious careers because of TMS and the cast remembers their time on set as one of the best times. Andre does a great job staying in touch with everyone, he’s sort of a gate keeper for all things THE MONSTER SQUAD.
ANDRE: I was fortunate to be able to reconnect with Ashley, Ryan and Fred a while ago in 2006. Since then we have all stayed close and see each other regularly. It’s also great to see others such as Stephen Macht and Duncan Regehr and others at various conventions and to have Adam Carl and Lisa Fuller in the doc is outstanding. Ryan and I work on many endeavours together such as our show on Nerdist’s ALPHA channel called Short Ends in which we showcase short films and filmmakers. We also have a podcast called Squadcast w/ Ryan and Andre.
One of the most fascinating stories in the film is about Fred Dekker and his complicated relationship to THE MONSTER SQUAD. Were you aware of this prior to making the film, and as filmmakers, what are your personal thoughts about what happened with his career?
HENRY: Fred’s story is an inspiring one because it shows that time will dictate what lives and dies. THE MONSTER SQUAD and NIGHT OF THE CREEPS are resilient films that become more popular with age. Some blockbuster films from the 80s fade away but Fred’s flicks maintain a spot in our hearts and on top of the genre lists. I’m so glad we got to interview Fred when we did. It took some effort to setup the interview but when it all fell in place you can literally feel the magic in the room. When you watch Fred’s interview you’ll notice that we start in daylight and when it ends it’s night time. Fred gave us everything and I learned so much from that conversation. I’m thankful for his time, insight, and movies. Plus how good is HOUSE? That concept is brilliant.
ANDRE: I knew Fred has had a complicated relationship with this film for a long time. I understand why/how he can have mixed feelings for sure, I just hope that he can focus on how many people love his work more than what happened, or didn’t happen, a long time ago. I think it’s certainly unfair that some filmmakers get a short shake despite what they ultimately have to offer and others are allowed to continue on and find that break. I do hope this a good year for Fred (and Shane) with THE PREDATOR coming out and potential projects on the near horizon.
Andre, while you were working on the film, did you ever expect it to become the monster hit that it did?
ANDRE: The short answer is – no. We wanted it to be a monster hit when it opened! With that said, since it wasn’t, and we have had this amazing resurgence and following, I always say I would rather be a part of something like this than be the lead of the top film of 1987 that no one remembers.
The title of your film obviously takes after the most iconic line from the film, but there are plenty of other standout lines. What are your favourite lines and scenes?
HENRY: I grew up plump…who am I kidding, I’m still plump. Horace was a hero. The shotgun moment may be one of the most cinematic scenes in film history, I’ll debate any nay-sayers, any day, any time.
ANDRE: I think my favourite line might be an off-screen throwaway line from Phoebe: “I heard he killed his Dad.”
We’re currently experiencing a wave of nostalgia for 80s culture, and 80s film in particular. What do you think is so special to people about that decade?
HENRY: The kids are grown. We have cameras and if we’re lucky enough to find a budget we’ll make the movies we love. We were infused with Amblin and genre. We remember flashlight tag, bicycles, and mischief. We hate being tethered to our mobile phones and screen even though we depend on them so we escape to a time when things were magical. When right and wrong was classified by good and evil. When all you needed to fight the bad guys were some friends, some hardware, and optimism.
ANDRE: Well, it was certainly a time filled with new ideas, technology, economic progress and social celebration and some great art (music, films and TV). It was special all around. Everyone that grew up in that era are now the creatives, development execs and decision-makers in entertainment. Therefore, they are making and producing things that have the taste and feel of their favourite time. A time that shaped everything in their lives and they want to revisit and express that.
THE MONSTER SQUAD wasn’t very successful in theatres, but it found its home later on VHS and home entertainment. Do you think the film, and similar outsider art, would find an audience in today’s media landscape?
HENRY: If THE MONSTER SQUAD was made today it would be gangbusters. It was ahead of its time by a few decades. But don’t fret, lucky for you we have WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS: A DOCUMENTARY.
ANDRE: Well, the internet is now the central depository for…everything. It has definitely allowed access to a great many things that we would never have been able to experience before in terms of art (film, books and music etc.). It’s almost too easy. You don’t have to get on your bike or skateboard and go to the store! However, certain things, like THE MONSTER SQUAD, still need a core group of individuals to build a foundation that others can find and then join. I think we have THE BEST group of those type of people. The ones that aren’t afraid to love something that wasn’t popular and carry that banner for others to follow and connect with each other.
You can catch a Super 80s Sunday screening of THE MONSTER SQUAD at MONSTER FEST TRAVELLING SIDESHOW on Sunday July 29th 2:30pm, just prior to the South Australian Premiere of WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS at 4:30pm.