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Things You Forgot Happened In Little Monsters

Children's fear of monsters lurking under the bed is an age-old concept, but '80s kids had even more reason to suspect a boogeyman might sneak out during their slumber. The 1989 family horror-comedy Little Monsters brought that very fear to the silver screen in horrifying and often hilarious ways, and remains a scary staple of many childhood memories. This mischievous movie was directed by Richard Alan Greenberg, and stars Howie Mandel as a crusty blue monster named Maurice, who likes to snack on Doritos and surfaces during sundown to pull all kinds of pranks that get kids into trouble with their parents.

It's all fun and games for Maurice, until an intrepid 11-year-old named Brian Stevenson, played by Fred Savage, traps the monster and decides to join him on his wild ride into the underworld. Fans of the film might remember the cascading staircases and crazy pranks the pair pull, but there are a ton of other details you might have forgotten about this vintage children's movie. Here's a look back at all of the things you probably forgot happened in Little Monsters.

The adults' arguments are way too real

It's easy to overlook what's happening with Brian's parents when you're a kid, but upon review as an adult, this Little Monsters subplot is as dramatic as anything else that happens in the film. Brian's parents, Glen and Holly, played by Daniel Stern and Margaret Whitton respectively, are clearly going through a tough time as they relocate to the Boston suburbs. Their background arguments reveal a lot about their enormously relatable struggles: Holly often accuses Glen of being an absentee dad, while he resents her for not working and pressuring him into buying the fixer-upper home they move into in the beginning of the film. His long new work commute doesn't help either.

There's also a moment when it becomes clear that their romantic connection is tenuous at best. At one point, Glen can be overheard accusing Holly of only wanting him for his money, to which she replies, "Well, that's not all I want from you, but that's all I get." Now there's an innuendo that goes over young heads. All of the monster-sighting can also be interpreted as Brian and his younger brother Eric's coping mechanisms: Glen says in the very beginning of the film, "I'm not a monster, I'm a man." The use of the term "monster" there cannot be an accident. Perhaps the movie is all just two boys' attempts to deal with a home in turmoil?

Brian is basically Kevin McAllister

Brian's reaction to discovering a monster creeping around Eric's room is surprisingly tame. His first encounter — in which the TV is turned on its side in the middle of the night — would be enough to scare most rational children, but all Eric has to do to convince Brian to go all-in on catching the monster the next night is "double dare" him.

Brian proceeds to set up an elaborate rigging system in Eric's room, using parts from his bike, ruined in Maurice's prior prank, to trigger Eric's bed into slamming shut, trapping the monster in the room. Not only is the setup exactly like something audiences would later see in Home Alone, which was released a year after this film, Brian also displays a lot more bravado than you might expect. When his suspicions are confirmed and the monster is pinned in place, he plays it weirdly cool. Instead of screaming or slinking away in fear, definitely more normal responses to such a situation, Brian decides to physically fight the monster in some hand-to-hand (and later, hand-to-clothes) combat. Put simply, Brian has a strangely high threshold for weirdness right from the very start of this trippy story.

The underworld is absolutely bonkers

There's a lot to unpack about the monsters' underworld, which Brian discovers once he decides to join Maurice in traveling through the under-bed portal. Though it's very dreary and dirty, it is also something of a fantasyland for kids. At one point, Maurice uses a fart as the "magic word" to get into a secret club that has music, an endless arcade in which tilting of the pinball machines is totally allowed, and a heaping buffet of all-you-can-eat junk food. For fun, the monsters play a game called "monster ball," and Brian is living for the sight of a puppy in a pinstripe suit pitching to a pumpkin-headed goblin, so that the ball can smash a thousand glass objects. Apparently, this is the preteen dream. And really, come on — doesn't it sound kind of fun to you, even now?

The physics of the place are confusing and contradictory. At one point, Maurice fears that Brian will fall off of one of the giant staircases and get hurt — but then, there are moments when the two of them simply float down from the top of those precipices. It makes little sense, but then again, it probably isn't supposed to. The underworld is a scary, strange, sensational place you might be surprised to discover you still want to explore.

There is one prank that will make you gag

Maurice and Brian get right to the business of pranking children aboveground. Most of their stunts are innocent: They scream to startle a sleeping little boy, dirty up a house rug with another kid's muddy shoes, paint a girl's face and bedroom walls, put cellophane on a toilet seat, smear peanut butter on a telephone receiver, move a showerhead so that it'll spray all over the bathroom floor,  and slather chocolate syrup handprints all over a family's fridge. All of these pranks are relatively harmless and live up to Maurice's mantra: "We live in a world dedicated to wreaking havoc on kids — we're the reason kids get locked in their rooms."

However, there is one first-night prank that's actually just very disgusting. For their last trick, Brian convinces Maurice to join him in going after Ronnie Coleman (Devin Ratray), a schoolboy bully who picks fights with him and Eric. The first thing they do is stuff Ronnie's tuna sandwich with cat food, and while that should be payback enough, Maurice then decides to fill Ronnie's bottle of apple juice with some of his own urine. The real kicker comes the next day, when Brian gleefully watches Ronnie dig into his lunch and then immediately ralph all over the school principal, who Ronnie had gotten Brian into trouble with before. Turns out, revenge is a dish best served in a paper bag.

Maurice is a creeper

Beyond his weird obsession with making children miserable, Maurice occasionally seems gross in an entirely different way, which only adults will recognize. During Brian's second trip to the underworld, Maurice greets him by randomly pulling down Brian's pants in front of what appears to be a female monster. It is not at all clear why he has just pantsed this child, or why the lady monster is staring at him so much. Maurice then taunts Brian, and demands to know if he has a girlfriend. When Brian mentions Kiersten (Amber Barretto), a new classmate he has become friendly with, they go straight to her house. It is there that Maurice proceeds to waggle his tongue over her sleeping head. It's just as unsettling as it sounds.

Perhaps the most jarring moment happens when Maurice decides to destroy Kiersten's science homework by turning his hand into a dog's mouth and chewing it up. It is then that he makes an undeniably dirty joke about the situation: "Man's best friend [is] his right hand." You have to imagine parents had a hard time explaining that quip to their kids back in the day — not to mention Maurice's more perverse moments.

Tormenting a baby is "character building"

For most of the movie, Maurice takes Brian on pranking trips that involve kids around his age. However, Brian becomes highly disturbed when Maurice takes him, along with the pumpkin-headed goblin and a few other crazed creatures, into the room of a baby. There, Maurice insists that they should all "scare the hell out of" the infant, and although Brian initially offers a pithy "boo," he cannot get onboard with seeing the baby shriek in fear at all of these creepy-looking monsters. Maurice tells him it's "character building" for the little one, but Brian is not amused by what he thinks is "cruel." 

Brian runs out of the nursery, allowing light to flood the room and reduce the monsters to piles of dirty clothes. If the sight of all of those monsters tormenting a toddler isn't upsetting enough, it is then that Brian discovers he is slowly becoming one of the monsters himself, as his hand begins to fade in the light. Fearing this transformation, Brian decides to cut ties with Maurice once and for all.

The monsters cleverly thwart Brian's exit plan

Even though the baby incident is the final straw for Brian, the monsters aren't done interfering with his life. Brian manages to stave off the monsters for a while by sawing the legs down on every single bed in the house. Holly does not intervene — she and Glen have told Brian and Eric that Glen is planning to move out temporarily, which Brian rightly interprets as them setting their divorce into motion. Holly chalks Brian's furniture-hacking up to his particular methods of coping.

However, this effort proves to be in vain when a monster manages to sneak into the house anyway by coming through a fold-out bed tucked inside of the family's sofa. How often do you see those outside of hotel rooms anymore? What's worse is, it is not the semi-friendly Maurice who manages to circumvent Brian's blocks, but Snik, one of two actual villains of the underworld. Instead of going after Brian, this monster decides to kidnap Eric as a sort of ransom-slash-replacement to give his boss, who wants Brian to join the underworld permanently.

The supervillain of the movie is enduringly creepy

Like many films of this era, the special and practical effects of Little Monsters have not aged very well — but there is still something organically creepy about the supervillain of this movie. The first true baddie we meet isn't exactly scary: Snik (Rick Ducommun) is a blue, hunchbacked, werewolf-type figure, who basically serves as a henchman to the real boss of the underworld, who we don't meet until the end. Sure, Snik rips the head off of the movie's most humanlike monster — a little boy who has extra hands attached to his face for some reason — and he threatens to throw Brian off of a staircase. But he's also predictable, and relatively goofy. Plus, he looks a little too much like Cookie Monster to be truly spooky.

Snik's boss, Boy (Frank Whaley), is far more disturbing. Unlike the rest of the underworld, Boy's room is tidy, organized, and imposing. He sports cherubic facial features and wears a neatly pressed prep school uniform. However, when Brian and his buddies confront Boy in the hopes of rescuing Eric, the camera pans to the back of Boy's head, revealing his lovely little face to be a façade, stitched onto an alien-like creature. His too-calm demeanor is also exceedingly unsettling, compared to the rest of the renegade monsters in his dark kingdom. All things considered, Boy is just as scary to adults as he is to kids.

The final fight scene predicted 1992's Toys

Just as Brian's traps preceded Kevin McAllister's work in Home Alone, the ultimate fight scene in Little Monsters also foretells the 1992 dramedy Toys. See, Boy's room has shelves upon shelves of traditional-looking toys. It is not until Brian makes his stand that we see just how booby-trapped the room really is. After Boy threatens Eric by strapping him to an oversized dartboard, Brian still refuses to become his pet. It is then that Boy's room erupts with planes that shoot real bullets, tiny tanks boasting actual cannons, saw blades that spring from the floor, and stuffed animals that explode. Anyone who's seen Toys knows this is pretty much that entire film in a nutshell — except without Robin Williams, of course.

Though Brian tries to use the flashlight he and his friends created before this confrontation, all it does is expose Boy's real face, which consists of two raw-looking eyeballs pressed into the middle of an eerie flesh mass. Brian and his friends are then thrown down to his "room," which is basically a tunneled dungeon filled with giant stuffed animals and — surprise — his old pal Maurice.

It's all really just a PSA for paying attention in school

To escape Brian's "room" in Boy's lair, Brian, Kiersten, and Eric's friend Todd (William Murray Weiss) use two pencils and a crank phone to create enough light to shrink Maurice into a pile of clothes, which they stuff under the door so he can open it from the outside. They then sneak into their school's supply closet and gather enough batteries and lightbulbs to create an even more intense light, capable of taking both Snik and Boy down. Essentially, the entire climax of the movie boils down to a "science is cool" propaganda piece, as the kids rig together enough electrical systems to save the day.

There's also a geography lesson thrown in for good measure. After the children escape Boy's room, they race to an aboveground portal before sunrise, so that they won't be trapped below and become little monsters themselves. But they don't make it in time to escape through their own home hatches in Boston. Brian gets the bright idea to travel westward, where the sun hasn't risen just yet. After a city-by-city sign tour across the entire United States, they finally get out through a sleeping person's beach lounger all the way in California. Turns out, knowing a thing or two about time zones and maps also saves the day for these little monsters.