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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

MONSTER BRAWL -- DVD review by porfle

Remember back in the 80s or 90s when "Fangoria" started trying to incorporate wrestling into their magazine?  Mainly because editor Bob Martin was such a big wrestling fan and thought it would qualify if he dubbed the really fake-bloody matches "horror wrestling"?  And remember what B.S. that was, and how mad I got about it, and how I wrote all those nasty letters complaining about it?  Wait, you wouldn't remember that.  Heh, heh.

Anyway, that wouldn't have been such a bad thing if what Fango called "horror wrestling" had been as much fun as MONSTER BRAWL (2011), writer-director Jesse T. Cook's geeky homage to both monsters and all that WWE stuff that I generally have zero interest in myself. 

Mind you, this movie had to grow on me, and it wasn't until near the halfway point that I started sorta getting into it.  Basically, it's like a slicker version of Ed Wood's ORGY OF THE DEAD only with wrestling monsters instead of strippers.  Barring some flashbacks, it all takes place in a graveyard in Michigan where the pay-per-view battle of the monsters is going out live to viewers in Canada and beyond.  Criswell would've fit right in here, and, needless to say, so would Tor Johnson.  With a drunken Ed Wood in drag cheering them on from the sidelines.

Instead, we get venerable Canadian actors Dave Foley ("Kids in the Hall") and horror stalwart Art Hindle (THE BROOD, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) as tipsy Howard Cosell-type commentator Buzz Chambers and his crotchety sidekick "Sasquatch" Sid Tucker.  Foley and Hindle seem to be having fun with their roles, especially after an unfortunate incident with a zombie results in Sid growing increasingly foul-tempered as the night goes on.  Color commentator Jimmy Hart adds his own irrepressible dash of personality from the sidelines with a gorgeous ring girl on each arm.

The monsters themselves are a cross-section of archetypes including Frankenstein ("Technically it's 'Frankenstein's Monster', if you want to be a dick about it"), the Werewolf, the Mummy, Lady Vampire, Zombie Man, Witch Bitch, Cyclops, and a repulsive overweight creature known as Swamp Gut.  Most are played by actual wrestlers so the ring action is as "real" here as it is in the actual WWE events, a fact made clear the first time we see gorgeous Kelly Couture as Lady Vampire get body-slammed into the mat.  The usual stats graphics and trash talk segments are all here, albeit with a Gothic touch, and there's also the expected quota of dirty moves and illegal use of foreign objects such as meat cleavers and wooden stakes. 

Flashbacks to how the monsters got involved in the event take the place of commercial breaks, including a pretty cool creation scene for the Monster.  Lady Vampire's segment was filmed on an overgrown estate which is one of the ideal "found" locations that add much to MONSTER BRAWL's look, as does the extremely well-done graveyard set that was constructed in an abandoned warehouse.  Monster makeups and gore effects are very nicely rendered by the Brothers Gore and look more expensive than they are.  Other major factors in the film's look are good direction and editing along with some above average cinematography.

Humorwise, it's your basic WWE stuff with even more of a satirical twist.  Witch Bitch (Holly Letkeman) had me chuckling with her eyerolling performance and so did the vile Swamp Gut (Jason David Brown, who also plays Cyclops and graveyard caretender Cyril Haggard), a veritable fountain of offensive gases and corrosive substances.  A news report about the Mummy's escape from a museum warehouse, during which he kills a forklift driver, includes graphics such as "Mummy Kills Dummy" and "MILF Alert: Mummies I'd Like to Find."  Proving that even if he can't be in every movie ever made he can at least be heard in them, Lance Henriksen provides the voice of "God" as narrator and occasional fight commentator with concise, throaty quips such as "spectacular" and "phenomenal." 

Wrestling fans will find many of their favorite moves here along with some new ones like a meat cleaver to the ref's throat and the old head stomp, with magic and other supernatural forces coming into play.  Those who felt cheated by FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN's non-ending should welcome the sight of the Monster and Werewolf going at it again--this time to the finish--while a full-blown zombie uprising in protest to their graveyard's invasion by pay-TV provides a lively diversion.  I'd also just like to mention again that Lady Vampire (Kelly Couture) is gorgeous, and that if you like strong women wearing black opera gloves, then that's two big fetishes covered right there.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras include commentary with director Cook and producers Matt Wiele and John Geddes, a "making-of" featurette, some Jimmy Hart outtakes, and a trailer.

Some viewers have opined that MONSTER BRAWL is boring and wonder if it even qualifies as a real movie.  To the first point I would say that, yes, it is slow-paced and will seem pretty boring if you don't really get into the kind of mood the movie's going for.  To the second, I would say...ehh.  If ORGY OF THE DEAD was a real movie, then so is this.  Will you like it?  It's purely a matter of taste.  I had fun with it.

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