Monster Squad, my VHS holy grail…


By Shawn Robare

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For the longest time it seemed like I was the only person who even knew that The Monster Squad existed.  After moving away from Florida during the winter of 1990 it seemed like I left behind everything I thought I knew and moved to a snowy wilderness where none of the other kids wore T&C Thrilla Gorilla shirts or obnoxiously colored surf shorts, nobody seemed to have a skateboard, and no one I met had heard of The Monster Squad.  New Hampshire felt like a completely different planet as a preteen who had spent the last 11 years growing up in sunny Tampa and Orlando.  During this period of change my mother and I developed some strange habits to try and stay connected to the world we left behind.  We had these daily ritual movie-watching sessions where we’d watch and rewatch the same handful of movies to a point where we knew every line of dialogue by heart and the tapes started to deteriorate.  VHS ownership was still an expensive hobby in 1990 as it was still in the middle of the initial boom and many catalog titles were only being manufactured for sale to video rental stores at exorbitant prices.  We had a handful of movies we’d taped off of HBO including a copy of Willow that I know for a fact was played over three hundred times during that year or so where we felt like we were in limbo.  And regular trips to the video rental shop were as important as eating or breathing.

I subsisted on a steady diet of about six VHS tapes that I watched to death, copies of Robocop and the first Tim Burton Batman flick that we owned, that beat up, taped copy of Willow, and rental copies of Rad, Red Dawn and The Monster Squad.  It was around this time that I developed a desire to own copies of the movies that I loved.  As I mentioned, buying copies of a lot of films was cost prohibitive as you had to purchase them through video store distributors and a single movie carried a price tag anywhere between $79.95 to well over $100.  For a thirteen year-old kid that seemed like an impossible dream.  When I could I’d tape movies off of HBO, which wasn’t perfect, but with recording in EXP mode and cramming three full movies on a single tape, the $5.99 per blank tape cost was much more in the realm of my budget.  Even so, I never managed to record The Monster Squad on TV, so it became the first hole in my collection, the movie I was constantly on the lookout for.

US Retail - Store VHS Vestron Advertisement 1988

I would have battled the vampire in the above VHS trade advertisement for a chance to own the flick.  Also, on a side note, I think it’s kind of funny just how much of the Monster Squad marketing riffed off of Ghostbusters, specifically in the ad above.  I guess the copy writers were trying their best to align it with the gold standard of horror comedies at the time.  “The Monster Squad ain’t afraid of no Ghouls!” indeed.

Getting back to my collecting woes, I wouldn’t own a copy of the film until a couple years after I graduated from high school.  In and around 1998 there was a rental store called Home Video in my neck of the woods that was beginning to thin out some of its stock to start making room for DVD rentals.  I had a full time job and was buying up VHS tapes left and right.  Though I had a pretty sizable collection (around 250 tapes at that point, which was a lot for the time) I still had yet to find a copy of The Monster Squad and by this time Vestron was no longer distributing the flick (if they were even still in business at all) so I was always on the hunt for video stores that were selling off their tapes.  So when I walked in and saw their clearance shelves I immediately started scanning the racks.  Right there in the middle of the second row was a copy of the movie complete with a faded cover from being in line of the direct sun for years on end, but I had to have it.  The store was asking for $30, which was still a pretty hefty price tag for me, but I plunked down a twenty and a ten and walked out with mt prize.

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MS VHS 3

I watched the ever living hell out of this copy of The Monster Squad, well over 200 times between 1998 and 2007 when the flick was finally released on DVD.  It’s still the gem in my movie collection even though I haven’t owned a VCR in almost a decade, and I can’t imagine ever parting with it.  Since this was released I’ve picked up the DVD, a copy of the laserdisc, and now the Blu-Ray.  I’m sure I’ll buy a copy when it’s released on a  holocube or whatever the hell the next format is.  Some people continuously buy copies of Star Wars over and over, but for me, it’s The Monster Squad.

Alright, now for today’s Monster Squad trading card!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Since there was never any MS merchandise produced, specifically a Topps trading card set, I thought it would be fun to make a mini set of 80s-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time. So come back each day for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is # 1, Sean Crenshaw!

1 Sean Crenshaw F-B

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  • Patrick Renfrow

    I rented this movie so much from our local Dierbergs (the only rental house in our area carrying it at the time) that she ultimately felt it would be cheaper to “lose the tape between the seats of our van” and simply pay the $79.95 replacement cost. So that’s how I got my copy (sans the case), I loved this flick so much that my “morally upstanding” mom straight-up lied to the video store so she wouldn’t have to keep paying to rent the damn thing.

    • LOL, Patrick you have an awesome mother! Seriously, that is too cool.

    • Jesse H

      Great story! Mom’s rule! I know I wouldn’t have half the toys and video game consoles I did if not for my mom. :) My dad was El’ cheapo!

      • Same here, my mom did all the toy purchasing…

  • I looked for the VHS for years at every flea market and thrift store I went to. I finally found it in the early 2000s for $5.00. Thanks for your Monster Squad memories and the trading cards. I’m really enjoying it.

    • Cool, good to know I wasn’t alone in the hunt. Glad you’re digging the cards!

  • jtcarter

    I absolutely love your trading cards. Man I wish those really existed. I do stuff like that all the time on my site, usually baseball, but this month I’ve got horror cards planned for each day.

    • Thanks, and trust me I do to. These need to be in binders next to my Goonies cards. Heading over to check out yours!

  • Back when I worked at a video store in 1989, we rented the heck out of Monster Squad. It was one of our top rentals. It probably didn’t hurt that I always did my best to push it here and there.

    • Yeah, that flick owes a ton to rad ex-video store employees. The area where I wish that I was just a few years older is that I would have loved being a teen in the 80s so that I could have gotten a job at a mom and pop shop renting videos. Seriously. It was mainly blockbuster when I got to working age…

  • Jesse H

    Wha!? Were VHS tapes still that expensive in 1988! That’s crazy, S79.98

    • Yup, there was a division between VHS releases, those to video stores only (that included a license fee per tape purchased) and ones sold directly to the public. The video store only tapes had that fee which bumpped the price way up. Unfortunately a large chunk of movies (like Monster Squad) were only released directly to video stores…

      • Jesse H

        Thanks for the explanation, some good information right there! :)

        I remember owning the Batman VHS around ’89, and I know there was no way myself or parents would of paid $80. lol

        • Yup, that was one of the flicks that had a big dual release, one to the public at normal prices and one to the rental shops. That one was a big deal too because when VHS was eventually released to the public it was usually at least a year if not a year and a half later. Batman was released was earlier than that so it could coincide with the video store rental releases… :)

  • I was introduced to Monster Squad on VHS, so it has a special place in m heart too. None of my friends had seen it. I was so inspired that I created my own club, The Turtles Squad.