Image Entertainment // 2011 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // June 8th, 2012
It's the fight of the living dead!
As a young nerd with a walking paper route who obsessed over horror movies and pro wrestling, I spent a lot of time imagining monsters fighting inside the squared circle. What kinds of moves would they do? What would they call their finishers? Would they team up under a manager or fight one another for some kind of title belt? Apparently, I wasn't the only person who thought that this stuff was super cool, because all these years later, Monster Brawl arrives from the Great White North. Apparently, director Jesse Thomas Cook (Scarce) spent a night chasing Icewine with cough syrup and, the next morning, decided it would be a good idea make the fantasy a reality.
It's about as simple as it gets. With all the trappings of a wrestling pay-per-view, we are introduced to our eight monsters: a mummy, a zombie, Frankenstein's Monster, Cyclops, a werewolf, Lady Vampire, Witch Bitch, and Swamp Gut, who will battle against each other for the Monster Brawl belt. With commentary from Buzz Chambers (Dave Foley, The Kids in the Hall) and Sasquatch Sid Tucker (Art Hindle, Black Christmas), officiating from noted MMA referee Herb Dean (playing himself), and a host of guest appearances, anything can happen in this hideous tournament to the death.
There's plenty of fun to be had in Monster Brawl, but it only works if viewers don't think too hard about it. That really isn't a bad thing, but it takes the audience to the very edge of belief suspension, so just look at it like a wrestling gimmick, where ridiculous characters and scenarios are perfectly normal. Cook stays true to the bit, not even really winking at the camera much, and confines almost all of the action to the ring. The only other kind of scene is brief bits to introduce the individual monsters in their natural environment and tell us how they came into the Monster Brawl Tournament. These are cheesy and silly, but pretty creative, jokey, and fun. All of it is narrated by Lance Henriksen (Jagged Edge) with the great wrestling manager "Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart performing the ring introduction. That kind of combo makes it easy to have fun with the movie.
The wrestling isn't at the level of WWE, but the combatants, all wrestlers of varying success in real life, do the best they can under some pretty thick makeup. To that, Jason David Brown, who plays both Cyclops and Swamp Gut, deserves a ton of credit because the Swamp Gut costume is massive (it looks pretty great, too) and it must have been murder to run the ropes underneath it. The one bigger name wrestler who actually works the ring is Robert Maillet (Immortals), who wrestled in WWE as Kurrgan and plays Frankenstein here and does a decent job at it. Then, we have Kevin Nash. Thankfully, he doesn't wrestle, but instead plays to his strength: being hilarious. As a disgraced military general and the manager of the zombie, he brings a certain joy to the whole picture and appeared to have a great time being there.
Monster Brawl is fun, but it really isn't that good. It's weirdly paced and the acting is fairly poor, even if they are having fun. Since there isn't another movie like it, there's a certain novelty value to the experience, just don't expect too much.
Monster Brawl fares pretty well on Blu-ray from Image Entertainment. The nicely detailed 2.35:1/1080p high-definition image enhances the film's cheapness a little bit, but that really just adds to the cheesiness, which helps in this case. It represents the look of the pay-per-view presentation perfectly well, which is all it's trying to do. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is unremarkable in every way. The sound is pushed to the front, with almost no work for the surround channels. Again, it sounds like a cheap PPV would, so I can't really fault it all that much.
Special features begin with an audio commentary with Cook, joined by producers Matt Wiele and John Geddes. It's a standard issue production talk, but the guys are amiable and having worked with such an eclectic cast is bound to have a few funny stories. A 30-minute making-of featurette is pretty fun. Some of the stories are repeated from the commentary, but I enjoyed seeing the wrestlers behind the scenes. A few minutes of outtakes with Jimmy Hart are good for a few laughs and a trailer closes out the disc.
Monster Brawl is what it claims to be, nothing more, and anybody going in expecting anything else is a fool. I didn't love it, but I respect that Cook doesn't try to do too much and lets his movie live the gimmick, in wrestling terms. If monsters punching each other in a wrestling ring, Monster Brawl is pretty much your only avenue and it delivers.
Review content copyright © 2012 Daryl Loomis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site