I’ve never liked wrestling. I mean, sure, for a few minutes there, back in the 80s when MTV, Cyndi Lauper, and the then-named WWF put their goofy little Rock n’ Wrestling vaudeville act together, I paid a bit of attention, but, save for occasionally pausing to watch hot chicks grapple each other in sports bras, I just have no interest whatsoever in this pseudo-sport/soap-opera, and can’t, for the life of me, fathom why anyone would. So imagine my surprise (horror? Disgust?) when I received a review copy of a little film entitled Monster Brawl in the mail.
A film about monsters.
I’ll be honest. As I held this Blu-ray in my hand, I thought of all the things I’d rather do than watch it; things like having a prostate examination performed by Edward Scissorhands, or eating balut (Google it!) from a hobo’s belly button.
Did I mention I hate wrestling?
Monster Brawl takes place in the Necropolis Arena; a Michigan-based fight club where, we soon discover, serves as host to bouts of fisticuffs between all manner of supernatural beasties, including a Cyclops (Jason David Brown), a Wolfman (RJ Skinner), a Swamp Thing knock-off named Swamp Gut (Jason David Brown), and other variations of classic monster movie types. It’s all done in a faux broadcast pay-per-view style, replete with the Monster Brawl logo in the lower right hand corner, occasional news crawls, and in-between-brawl vignettes that offer brief bios about the contenders. The action is overseen by a pair of fast-talking, ultra-enthusiastic announcers – Buzz Chambers (Kids in the Hall’s Dave Foley) and Sasquatch Sid Tucker (genre vet, Art Hindle), as well as “God”, himself (voiced by Lance Henrikson). Additional color commentary is provided by wrestling legend Jimmy Hart and MMA referee Herb Dean (both playing themselves). Wrestling fans will also thrill to the It’s all very competently crafted, visually impressive, and, despite my general disdain for the sport it lovingly lampoons, pretty damned entertaining. It’s nothing more than ninety minutes worth of monsters fighting monsters in a convincingly (and, by all accounts, accurately) recreated version of a Wrestlemania event, but it’s a hoot to behold, and, as I delved into the film’s special features and learned the story behind it, I found myself appreciating the whole thing that much more.
Filmed on RED cameras for a miniscule $200,000 dollars Canadian (about the cost of a case of Molson, two tickets to a Canucks game, and an order of fries and gravy), Monster Brawl looks nearly as good as any horror flick coming out of Hollywood right now, and much of the credit goes to director Jesse T. Cook and his DP, Brendan Uegama, who manage to jazz things up visually without spoiling the “live event” aesthete that the film’s effectiveness hinges on. The performances are, as one would expect, somewhat uneven, and some of the monster make-up is a bit primitive, but no one here seems to be under the illusion that this is anything more or less than low-budget B-movie schlock, and, as such, it performs admirably.
The Blu-ray from Image in a 2.33:1 1080p transfer that looks exceptional thanks to Monster Brawl’s digital origins. The image is crisp and clean, and sports abundant fine detail. The color palette is somewhat desaturated, but there are occasionally vibrant bits, like the dark green skin of Swamp Gut and the red announcer’s bell. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track packs a bass-heavy whallop, but much of it seems mixed front and center, with little use of the surrounds. During the matches, I didn’t have a problem with that as I think this actually adds to the illusion of a sporting event, but it would have been nice to have heard a fuller sounding mix during the more cinematic interludes.
Extras include an entertaining and informative commentary track featuring Cook as well as producers Matt Wiele and John Geddes, who get into the nitty gritty of financing the flick pretty early on. The trio ooze enthusiasm for both the project and the two worlds it brings together; wrestling and horror. It’s a fun track, and, as I mentioned earlier, listening to it really made me appreciate the film that much more.
Other extras include Monster Brawl: Beyond the Grave (HD), a behind-the-scenes documentary hosted by Cook that delves deeper into the process of putting the whole thing together. We also get Tales from the Hart: Jimmy Hart Outtakes (HD), the film’s trailer (HD), and trailers for other Image releases.
I was really quite surprised by how much I enjoyed this film considering my general dislike for all things wrestling. It’s an earnestly crafted love letter to both wrestling and monster movies made all the more appealing by the enthusiasm and dedication of Cook, Wiele, and Geddes. And make no mistake; it takes a ton of dedication to put something of this quality together for what amounts to a mere fraction of the cost of most “low-budget” Hollywood flicks. That being said, Monster Brawl isn’t a great “movie” movie by any stretch, but it’s damned fine bit of B-grade cheese that will surely entertain fans of wrasslin’ and classic monster movies alike.