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Monster Brawl
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by Jay Seaver

"Monster mash-up"
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2011 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Monster Brawl" is not a bad idea - the fanbases for professional wrestling and monster movies likely have a fair amount of overlap, and the filmmakers clearly have tremendous affection for both. I'm not sure if this particular way of combining the two is movie material, but the affection is contagious.

The particular way of combining them in question is presenting Monster Brawl in the format of a wrestling pay-per-view special, with matches between Cyclops (Jason David Brown) and Witch Bitch (Holly Letkeman), the Mummy (R.J. Skinner) and Lady Vampire (Kelly Couture), the Werewolf (Skinner) and Swamp Gut (Brown), and Zombie Man (Rico Montana) and Frankenstein (Robert Maillet), with the winners of the last two matches squaring off for the heavyweight championship. The action is called by Buzz Chambers (Dave Foley) and "Sasquatch" Sid Tucker (Art Hindle), with Jimmy "The Mouth of the South" Hart (himself) as the ring announcer and MMA official Herb Dean (also playing himself) trying to keep these duels to the death clean.

It's not at all hard to imagine Monster Brawl as a comedy sketch, and in some ways that's what the movie is, the same sketch repeated five times in a row. That's especially obvious when we get to the final match, where we've already seen the combatants' respective gags and the jokes related to the guys in the booth are also getting a bit drawn-out and stale. Before that, at least, writer/director/producer Jesse T. Cook has at least had a bevy of different monster-movie tropes to draw upon and play with by sticking them in the wrestling show format.

And there are, believe it or not, some pretty good bits in there. It's been so long since I watched WWE with any regularity that I still think of it as the WWF, but it's pretty clear that Cook and company know their stuff - the mic work feels exactly right, whether it's characters going off on stream-of-consciousness rants, spoofing that with inarticulate monsters, or some combination of the two. Nearly every regular turn that the audience expects to see on a wrestling card - going at it outside the ring, managers distracting the ref, guys getting hit with folding chairs, etc. - is represented and pumped up a bit for greater absurdity. All that's missing is a "wait - that's ____'s music!" and an ally sprinting to the right from the backstage area. Cook and company nail the tacit understanding that wrestling promotions have with their audiences - everybody knows that the stories are manufactured and the wrestlers are performers more than competitors, but they put just enough effort into the story to give the audience a sense of continuity and context.

The filmmakers also do some pretty good work with the production, especially considering that they've got a fairly limited budget. They pour it into the "hilltop necropolis" set where the movie spends most of its time, making it a spiffy, just-slick-enough location for the bulk of the action. The prosthetics work is spiffy as well, mostly giving us monsters wrestling rather than wrestlers in costumes. That's what they actually are, for the most part, though generally guys from a local Ontario circuit, but they know their stuff and make the grappling look not realistic, but right.

Their acting's not great, but it doesn't have to be. The two most experienced actors in the group, Foley and Hindle, do well enough, although they're given pretty simple characters - Foley plays Chambers like Howard Cossell depressed at what his career has come to, while Hindle goes the clueless ex-jock route, with more than a bit of "Fred Willard from Best in Show" there. Kevin Nash is pretty good as the underhanded manager of Zombie Man, while Herb Dean manages to steal scenes with his deadpan readings of what he's looking for during the fights.

Of course, maybe the right venue for this isn't a festival or even a movie theater, but it could be a stitch if SyFy were to drop it in [I]Smackdown![/I]'s timeslot one week without warning. Wherever it winds up playing, it's sure to be much more fun with an audience into the material, especially if they're taking sides early and cheering during the matches.

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originally posted: 07/28/11 03:50:42
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2011 series, click here.

User Comments

11/24/14 joe loved this...kind of like Mortal Kombat 4 stars
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Directed by
  Jesse T. Cook

Written by
  Jesse T. Cook

  Dave Foley
  Robert Maillet
  Art Hindle
  Kevin Nash

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