Kids vs. Monsters: A double comedy creature feature

The late 80s/90s was a great time for “light horror comedies” and “spooky family fun films.” Very often, the plots revolved around someone discovering a family member or romantic partner was some sort of vampire, zombie, werewolf, or other creature of the night. Also, the “monster” was usually either laughable or loveable. They just don’t make movies like that anymore. That’s why I’m happy I have films like these two in my collection.

STEPMONSTER (1993)

stepmonster cover

If I had a family, I would sit them all down on movie night to watch Stepmonster. It will terrorize your little ones!

Alan Thicke is building a new house near the woods for his family. His son, who loves comic books, is convinced that a legendary monster lives in the woods. Then his mother goes missing. Within six months Thicke is planning to marry their new neighbor (WTF?). The son soon becomes convinced she is the monster!

stepmonster monster

Thing is, he’s right. And this is one hideous, demonic looking stepmonster! She even keeps a little winged version of herself hidden away in a box. But no one believes the son. So he turns to his babysitter—Ami Dolenz (Pumpkinhead II, Witchboard 2)—to help him prove his dad’s fiancée is a monster. Assisting them is the babysitter’s boyfriend, Corey Feldman! While he doesn’t have a large part here, Feldman’s performance is probably one of his most charming since his childhood roles.

Stepmonster has pretty average “family” humor, but what’s surprising about it is how vicious and frightening the stepmom is. She even has no problem killing children—although it happens off screen. Things even get gross when the gang figures out how to destroy her—she bubbles and oozes as the kill technique takes effect. Ew!

stepmonster bat

The only disappointment in this cheesy b-movie would be the horrible “transformation” scenes, which are essentially the classic Lon Chaney, Jr. Wolfman special effects (possibly intentional to keep with the tone of the film). Stepmom is normal, then she quickly time lapses into the monster through overlaying film. It’s only at the end of the movie that we get to see a cool gradual transformation, which definitely makes for a scarier moment.

Also important to note is that the boy in the movie, Billy Corben, has grown up quite nicely.

stepmonster boy billy corben

BOLTNECK (aka: Big Monster on Campus) (2000)

big monster on campus cover

Even though it was released during the great revival of teen flix (American Pie, Not Another Teen Movie, Bring It On), and even films playing off horror themes (Dead Man on Campus, Idle Hands), Boltneck takes a surprisingly family-friendly approach to modernizing the Frankenstein monster plot. While it has its charm and a great cast, it falls rather flat, both in horror and comedy. It really would have been more fun as a teen sexploitation horror comedy.

Joey Lawrence’s brother Matthew (Pulse, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie) is a science geek high school student obsessed with re-animating life. When a bunch of the popular kids accidentally kills the high school’s resident goth weirdo after he crashes their party, Matthew gets his chance to bring the goth back from the dead and also become part of the popular crowd. Unfortunately, he accidentally uses the brain of a serial killer he scores from his dad’s lab.

big monster on campus ryan locker

That’s kind of it. The goth monster starts to act weird and eventually crazy, but the truth is, he never kills anyone. This is strictly PG stuff. There’s not even any sexual humor. Well—there is if you’re me, because a hot jock character answers the door during a party, whips out his juicy butt, and tells Matthew Lawrence to pinch it. Dang. This movie should have been called Big Moon on Campus.

big monster on campus moon 2

Considering that moment comes early in the film, I was expecting there to be a lot more of that good old adolescent humor throughout, but the film is criminally tame. Which is pretty shocking considering the goth/monster is played by an unrecognizable (until he’s re-animated) Ryan Reynolds!

big monster on campus ryan goth

This was at the launch of his teen popularity during the Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place days, and Ryan tries to bring his sense of goofy humor to his role, but the material doesn’t much allow it.

big monster on campus ryan normal

Also in the notable cast is Justin Walker, the gay guy from Clueless, who does his best to squeeze in his funny charm as well, and Bianca Lawson, who has a pretty good horror resume, including the awesome zombedy Dead & Breakfast, plus numerous TV shows like Buffy, The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, Teen Wolf, and Witches of East End. Matthew Lawrence’s dad and mom are Judge Reinhold of Fast Times fame and Shelley Duvall of The Shining fame. Even Richard Moll of Night Court (not to mention Night Train to Terror!) has a brief cameo as Ryan’s dad.

big monster on campus mask

The final battle to stop Ryan takes place at a Halloween party, and once again, I wanted more. There are some campy moments—the guy from Clueless is in drag, the girls later find him giving mouth-to-mouth to the jock, and Matthew Lawrence eventually stops Ryan’s madness by sticking him in a guillotine prop at the party—but overall, it’s anticlimactic.

big monster on campus drag

Matthew brings Ryan to his father’s lab to make everything all better, everyone gets the girls, no one dies, and they all live happily ever after! WTF?

big monster on campus ryan electric
Ryan’s nipple and treasure trail….

Combine all that with the fun, old school horror movie music (by old school, I mean 1950s), and you simply have a movie that’s cute. Yep. CUTE. Fricking family movie Stepmonster was edgier than this teen flick! However, I’ll always look at Boltneck’s big white bright side.

big moon on campus 3

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES.

I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.

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