Is the title of the new documentary Wolfman’s Got Nards the strangest thing about the film? Maybe not.
The movie takes a look at the large, fervent following that has grown up around the 1987 horror-fantasy-comedy The Monster Squad. Directed by Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps) and co-written by Shane Black (Iron Man 3, The Predator), Monster Squad finds a group of misfit kids taking on four monsters from the age of classic Universal horror films. That lineup of baddies comprises Count Dracula, the Mummy, Gillman, and yes, the “nards”-possessing Wolfman. The film was a box office bomb at the time of release, but 30 years on it’s become a beloved cult classic, much to the surprise and delight of Andre Gower, who played one of the kids in the original movie and is also the director of the documentary.
“I was thinking about all of the amazing stories that these fans have told me and our fellow castmates over the last decade of this resurgence,” Gower tells EW. “Those stories never ceased, or slowed down, or stopped. They just kept on growing, and getting deeper and more fascinating. I started to realize that there’s something really special there, that this movie had a really deep impact on a lot of people, and it was different from anything else that I could really put my finger on.”
Gower was just 13 when he shot The Monster Squad. “I’d had a pretty good breadth of work leading up to that time,” he recalls. “But this was the largest and biggest thing that I had ever been associated with. Not only was it a fairly big-budget studio motion picture that we shot for three-and-a-half months straight in L.A., but there was so much going on — a group of kids, monsters, special effects, makeup effects, action. It was absolutely fascinating, mind-blowing, and amazing all at the same time.”
Less amazing? The reception that greeted the film. Critics were mostly dismissive, with Vincent Canby of The New York Times describing the comedy as “cheerless” and the performances “either inept or unlovably coy.” Audiences stayed away, and the film earned less than $4 million at the box office. Gower blames a marketing campaign that made the movie look too scary for the very young and too youthful for teenagers.
“It was certainly disappointing at the time,” he says. “You work so hard and the box office just completely doesn’t happen. But then you learned years later that everybody found it on HBO and at their local video store.”
Gower first became aware the film had acquired a cult following when entertainment journalist Eric Vespe organized a Monster Squad reunion of Dekker and cast members in Austin, Texas, 12 years ago. “We realized that there was this underground kind of fanbase that was kind of floating in the ether and didn’t know that each other existed, [when] Eric Vespe put together a screening at the Austin Alamo Drafthouse,” Gower says. “He invited a handful of us — myself, Ashley Banks, Ryan Lambert, and Fred Dekker. We didn’t really know what was going to happen. It’s like, ‘Is anybody going to come to it?’ And, boy, we were really surprised when we showed up and there was two packed houses, sold-out screenings. [After that] the resurgence phenomenon just kind of exploded. And it’s been growing to this day.”
Why does Gower think the film has accrued such a following?
“I think the heart and the authenticity of Fred and Shane’s script, and what Fred put on screen, ultimately connected with these kids and/or young adults whenever they saw it, because we have plenty of diehard fans that didn’t see it until their 20s,” he says. “But somehow they related with one or more of the characters said, ‘Hey, that’s me.’ It just connected with them, and it never untethered.”
About a year and a half ago, Gower teamed with production company Pilgrim Media Group to work on a documentary about the film.
“I grew up on The Monster Squad,” says Pilgrim’s Henry McComas, who would ultimately co-write and produce Wolfman’s Got Nards. “My brother is about nine years older than me, so I would inherit VHS tapes that he had. We had some sort of VHS [of Monster Squad], probably ripped probably from an HBO stream. The first time I watched it, it was this weird experience where it was like, these kids are on bicycles like me, but they’re fighting these monsters that only were something I knew from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. I would pass this bootleg around my cul-de-sac, and each time we got it, we would draw our own monster on the label.”
While Wolfman’s Got Nards details the film’s production and disappointing release, Gower was determined that much of the running time would show the movie’s influence and impact on its fans.
“I didn’t want this to be a documentary about myself or about my experience,” he says. “I didn’t want it to be about the making of the movie or ‘Where are the cast now?’ We’ve seen all that. I really wanted the focus on the fans. My concept was, let’s turn the focus around on the people that have been celebrating us for 20, 25, 30 years and look into what makes them so connected to this film.”
Gower interviewed fans who turned up to attend screenings on a 30th-anniversary nationwide tour of Alamo Drafthouse theaters he undertook with costars Lambert and Bank. Wolfman’s Got Nards also includes interviews with Monster Squad-loving filmmakers like Adam Green (Hatchet), Joe Lynch (Mayhem), and Jackson Stewart (Beyond the Gates), as well as Adam F. Goldberg, creator of ABC’s The Goldbergs. Finally, the doc boasts reminiscences from cast members, co-writer Black, and director Dekker, who McComas says was initially reluctant to get in front of the camera.
“Fred Dekker was one of the first interviewees we tried to get and one of the last interviews we lined up,” the producer recalls. “Fred Dekker has a very interesting relationship with The Monster Squad, where he recognizes it as his best movie and every time he talks about it he does light up, but because of its release, understandably so, there’s some contention with it. We sent him 30 minutes that we cut together and he took a look at it, and the next day he set up the interview. If you’ll notice, that interview starts with daylight and goes into the night. Once he started going, he kept talking, and it was one of the most inspirational experiences that I’ve had in my work career.”
As Monster Squad devotees know, the film’s title derives from a line of dialogue in the movie uttered by Horace — played by the late Brent Chalem — after he makes Carl Thibault’s Wolfman double over by kicking him in the groin.
“While we were working on it, we were calling it the Squad Doc,” says McComas. “Andre came up with the title Wolfman’s Got Nards, and I think it’s pretty amazing. When you’re on the festival circuit and you’re looking at movies to go see, you’re going to spend a little time on the title Wolfman’s Got Nards. You’re going to take a look at the synopsis to try and learn more about it.”
Wolfman’s Got Nards made its world premiere at the genre-focused Chattanooga Film Festival last April.
“It was awesome,” McComas says. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was like, ‘We’re going to this festival in Chattanooga? [Laughs] Is there an audience there? Shouldn’t we be doing this over in Sundance or something?’ We went there, and our first screening was sold out, we couldn’t leave because so many people were coming up to us talking about their personal experiences with the Monster Squad.”
The Nards team are currently negotiating a distribution deal for the film.
“We’re in talks with interested parties,” says McComas. “The biggest hope and plan is that we will do distribution with streaming, and a limited theatrical release, and a hard copy. We definitely think that fans should be able to own, like, a Blu-ray. Who knows, maybe we’ll [release it on] VHS!”
Watch the exclusive trailer for Wolfman’s Got Nards above, and see the film’s new poster below. More information about the documentary can be found at the film’s official website.