• Little Monsters (Vestron Video/Lionsgate) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vestron Video/Lionsgate
    Released on: September 15th, 2020.
    Director: Richard Greenberg
    Cast: Fred Savage, Howie Mandel, Daniel Stern, Margaret Whitton, Frank Whaley, Rick Duccomun
    Year: 1989
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    Little Monsters – Movie Review:

    Richard Greenberg’s 1989 picture Little Monsters has grown a cult following over the years, and revisiting it more than thirty years after it hit theaters, it’s easy to see why. It’s a goofy romp of a film that still provides substantial entertainment value. It’s tough to say how it would play for kids in 2020, but those of us who saw it in their younger days will no doubt appreciate the nostalgia rush that it offers.

    The plot revolves around Brian Stevenson (Fred Savage, still riding high due to the success of The Wonder Years), a kid who lives with his family, father Glen (Daniel Stern), mother Holly (Margaret Whitton) and little brother Eric (Ben Savage, Fred's younger brother in real life). When the movie begins, the Stevenson family has moved to their new home in the suburbs. Of course, as it is for any kid who moves, it isn’t super easy for Brian to make new friends, until he meets Maurice (Howie Mandel), who is literally the monster who lives under his bed.

    Maurice is a fun guy to hang around with, a prankster who loves a good joke and who has no problem letting Brian get away with all the nonsense that his parents would understandably prohibit. Soon enough, Maurice has brought Brian to the other world that exists under the bed, ruled by Boy (Frank Whaley) and Snik (Rick Duccomun). Of course, Brian loves it, but if he winds up hanging out there too long, he’ll have to become a monster himself. Decisions, decisions! Soon enough, Boy and Snik kidnap Brian, hoping to coerce him into joining them on a permanent basis. Maurice teams up with Brian’s human friends Todd (William Murray Weiss), Ronnie (Devin Ratray) and Kiersten (Amber Barretto), to save their pal.

    Little Monsters is pretty goofy stuff but it’s a fun watch. Tonally, the picture is all over the place, a little too scary maybe for some younger viewers but not quite scary enough for older kids who might want some horror movie thrills out of the picture. Still, it has its own quirky charms working in its favor. Fred Savage is a likeable enough lead, using basically the same qualities that made him famous as Kevin Arnold to make Brian Stevenson work on the same level. Daniel Stern is pretty entertaining, if underused as his dad, and Margaret Whitton and Ben Savage are both more than fine as his mother and younger brother. Frank Whaley and Rick Duccomun are pretty fun to watch as the villains in the movie, hamming it up appropriately, while Wiess, Ratray and Barretto are fine, if unremarkable, as Brian’s ‘human’ friends.

    However, a lot of the film will or will not work for certain viewers is definitely the Howie Mandel factor. If you appreciate his style of comedy and his delivery, odds are pretty good that you’ll at least be entertained by the movie. If he grates on you, you’ll be best skipping it. Personally, I thought he was pretty amusing in the role, very animated and often times quite over the top, sure, but it worked in the contest of the story being told.

    Production values are pretty decent here. The monster world that was created for the film is a little cliché in its design but it does look cool. The practical makeup effects work done to create the creatures that inhabit said world are also pretty cool and sometimes quite creative. The movie has a decent score, nice cinematography and is colorful and quirky to look at.

    Little Monsters – Blu-ray Review:

    Little Monsters arrives on a 50GB region free Blu-ray disc from the MVD Rewind Collection with the feature presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taking up 23GBs of space on the disc. Overall, the transfer is okay, if never reference quality. It doesn’t look like this was taken from a new 4k restoration or anything, in fact it was likely sourced from an older master, but it offers better detail, depth and texture than standard definition would have been able to provide. There is some minor print damage noticeable well, but colors are handled decently enough and we get nice black levels, though the darker scenes suffer from some noticeable crush. There are no issues to report with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or noticeable compression artifacts. That probably makes it all sounds worse than it is, this is perfectly watchable, just never amazing looking.

    The main audio track on the disc is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The stereo mix here sounds just fine. The levels are nicely balanced, there are some nice moments of clear channel separation and the track is free of any hiss or distortion. There’s a good bit of depth here and the dialogue is always clear. Not complaints about the audio on this release.

    New extras are plentiful, starting with an audio commentary with Jarret Gahan, Editor-in-Chief of CultofMonster.com. Given that Gahan wasn’t personally involved with the making of the film, this is more of a historical talk about the making of the film. He offers up plenty of information about the director, the cast and the crew, how the film was received, the cult that’s grown up around the movie and his own personal connections to and thoughts on the film itself. The disc also contains an isolated score selections option that comes with an audio interview with Composer David Newman conducted by Michael Felsher. It’s a lengthy and in-depth talk about Newman’s background, how he came to work on the picture, his process and more.

    As to new featurettes, Call Him Maurice is a nineteen-minute interview with Actor Howie Mandel. He talks quite candidly about how and why he wound up working on this picture, how he got along with his co-stars, what it was like on set and his thoughts on the film overall. This featurette also includes some cool behind the scenes footage showing Mandel at work on the film. Beneath The Bed is an interview with Producer Andrew Licht that lasts for fourteen-minutes. He speaks about how he got involved with the movie, its cast and crew and his thoughts on the film in general. Monsters Big & Small spends fifteen-minutes with Special Makeup Effects Creator Robert Short. He talks about how he got his start in the business, some of the early effects projects he was involved with, landing the gig on this feature and some of the creature design work that he had a hand in for the movie.

    Lionsgate/Vestron has also dug up twenty-minute-minutes of Vintage Interviews with Actors Fred Savage, Ben Savage, Special Makeup Effects Creator Robert Short and Director Richard Alan Greenberg. There’s some great material in here and it covers quite a bit of ground. Making Maurice is a sixteen-minute compilation of vintage footage showing off Howie Mandel’s makeup appliances and how they turned out. There’s also twelve-minutes of assorted Behind-The-Scenes Footage included here, and a nine-minute Vintage EPK & VHS Promo segment that off some of the marketing tactics that were used to sell the film back in the day.

    Rounding out the extras is a theatrical trailer for the feature, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection options.

    As far as the packaging goes, Vestron includes a very cool metallic-looking slipcover and, inside the standard-sized Blu-ray keepcase, an insert card with a code that can be redeemed for a digital copy of the movie.

    Little Monsters – The Final Word:

    Little Monsters offers plenty of nostalgic fun. It’s goofy and tonally all over the place, but it’s entertaining enough in its own hokey way. Vestron’s Blu-ray release could have looked better but still provides a decent enough high definition presentation. Where this disc really shines, however, is with the extra features, which are all quite interesting.

    Click on the images below for full sized Little Monsters Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Newt Cox's Avatar
      Newt Cox -
      This is one of those films I never saw back in the day. Then when The Hub network started up they aired Little Monsters at least once a week. Decent film.

      I got one issue of the NOW Comics Little Monsters adapation comic. Kinda surprised a lower level film like this would get a comic adaptation. But then NOW was kinda the Gold Key/Dell of the late 80s/early to mid 90s.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Nice review, Ian. I like this film a lot, having encountered it as a young 'un. Weirdly, I received a review copy of the UK release this week, though don't remember requesting it or being allocated it! Happy to put pen to paper about it, though.