After this interview with Fred Dekker wrapped up, we chatted a little bit, and he said something I wish I had caught on tape – watching the newly remastered Monster Squad, he said, he saw details that he had last seen when looking through the viewfinder on the camera on set. Even in 35mm these bits had not been visible; I think that speaks volumes to the quality of this new DVD.
Also speaking volumes: the DVD sold out almost immediately. It’s probably back in stock at your favorite store by now (or order it through CHUD on Amazon!), and you should run out and pick up a copy immediately to really enjoy this lost treasure from the 80s, which was very much resurrected thanks to massive and unflagging fan support.
Now we’re just waiting on the next Fred Dekker DVD release, Night of the Creeps. This is one of my all-time favorite films, and I can’t wait to revisit it. In the interview Dekker said that the DVD could be coming soon, but he’s maddeningly vague on details.
A couple of your films have made our CHUD lists. Night of the Creeps is one of our 50 Most Essential Movies of All Time. As is House.
Essential is defined as how?
Well, there are the ones everyone knows. Your Citizen Kanes and your Lawrences of Arabia. But if you’re going to be a CHUD reader, these are the movies you should have at least seen, and probably should love. Fred Dekker is well represented in that list.
I want to do a shout out to my ex-father-in-law, Andrew Bonime, who produced the movie C.H.U.D. that I always think of when I think of your site.
We’re a little family! It’s sweet.
So Monster Squad has lived on for twenty years – why do you think that is? Is it because of the movie itself, because being unavailable for so long made it mythological? What was it?
It’s tough not to sound egotistical, but I think the movie works. I think it’s pretty good. What it succeeds at doing is painting a portrait of a group of kids who have something in common, who respect each other, who have a sense of humor, who have a passion about something – in this case monsters – and I think all of that is pretty positive stuff. This isn’t a movie about, ‘Look how cool we are,’ although there’s a certain cool element to Rudy, but you have to ask yourself how cool is a 13 year old who hangs out with a bunch of 11 year olds. I think it stands the test of time because those are values that I think we can all relate to. Friendship is real important. The other thing that has occurred to me lately about the monsters in this particular movie – because monsters are generally projections of our fears – in the case o f this movie, I realized that there’s this kind of weird mirror in that you have these misfit kids, who are kind of nerds and outcasts, and then you have these creatures, who are also kind of outcasts. They mirror each other, the good and the evil, the yin and the yang.
When you were shooting the film, were you shooting for the PG-13 or is that something that got slapped on you by the MPAA?
I don’t think we thought about it. I think Shane Black and I wrote the script we wanted to write, and by today’s standards a lot of it is politically incorrect. But a lot of that stuff we kind of are tickled by, and like it. We both felt – and you can tell from his other movies that he feels this way – we don’t like movies that cheese out, when the shit hits the fan but it doesn’t hit it too hard, because people might be offended. We always felt it had to go the distance, or why do it? Do it or don’t do it. This movie gets pretty harsh sometimes; Boris has a 12-gauge shotgun and he blows away The Creature, and that’s probably not something they’d let you do in a movie today, even PG-13. But we didn’t think about it; we just wanted to make it good.
Do you think the Universal Monsters resonate for kids in the 21st century as they did for those of us who grew up in the last century?
I’d be surprised if kids today know the Universal Monsters. And that’s one of the things I’m thrilled with about this DVD – a lot of people who are buying it saw it when they were young and are now old enough to have kids, and they’re going to show this movie to their kids. In a way I feel like we’re carrying on the tradition of the Universal Monsters, and we’ll see if they stand the test of time or not.
As somebody who worked on Enterprise, how do you feel about rebooting the whole Star Trek universe and going back to the beginning?
In the case of Enterprise, that’s the reason I wanted to be part of that – Star Trek to me had played itself out, and to reboot it was the most interesting way to go. Ultimately that’s not what the show did, and that’s why I walked away from it. Rebooting can be very exciting, but it’s done out of people giving up. Die Another Day was financially the biggest Bond they ever made, but they all looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s maybe take another approach.’ And I think Casino Royale is maybe the best Bond film since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. That was a case where the reboot was the right thing to do despite appearances. But sometimes you should leave enough alone. The Universal Monsters, I don’t think…
Well, they’re redoing The Wolf Man.
Yeah, The Wolf Man. Dracula will always be trotted out in a different form, as Francis Coppola showed. And Kenneth Branagh did Frankenstein – I totally forgot about that. And Breck Eisner is doing Creature from the Black Lagoon right now. My problem with culture now is that it’s kind of a snake eating its tale. There’s so much banking on name brands, and rather than coming up with a new creature, they say, ‘We can get the rights to this one that people liked many years ago.’ The presumption that people are going to still care is a little bit egotistical. With Monster Squad I was clearly acting out of ignorance, since I didn’t care if anybody knew or cared about these monsters because I loved them.
We got Monster Squad finally… Night of the Creeps?
Knock wood. The wheels are in motion. That’s all I can say.
Is it going to end up dependent on the sales of Monster Squad?
Well, I think it’s a very different movie. I know there are a lot of people who like both of them, but I see them as having very different audiences. I see it as John Hughes made Sixteen Candles and he also made Weird Science. They’re kind of similar, but they’re not the same, and I think the same thing is going here. I think that Sony will probably respond to the sales of this DVD, but I think they’ll also appreciate that there’s an audience for Night of the Creeps even if there was no Monster Squad.
What’s happening for you next?
I’ve got a picture I’m attached to direct, which Eric Newman, who did Children of Men and the Dawn of the Dead remake, is producing. It’s an apocalyptic, scary science fiction thriller. We’re trying to find a lead actor for that. I have a TV pilot with TNT/Dreamworks, and that’s an hour drama with a fantasy element to it. And I have a couple of other things I’m noodling. I’m putting as many things on the burner as possible.
This seems like a real golden age for genre stuff on television. It seems like they’re really open to it.
Yes, in a way that hasn’t been the case. Three, four years ago you probably couldn’t have sold Heroes except to SciFi. Now the networks and the cable channels are starting to say, ‘Hey, there’s an audience for this stuff, and it isn’t just the guys at Comic Con.’
And the post-apocalyptic film? What kind of scale are you working on?
It’s a very intimate story. I like to say it’s a character piece disguised as a horror movie. Even though it involves the end of the world, it’s not about how it effects everybody, it’s about how it effects one particular guy.