June 12, 2012

MONSTER BRAWL (Movie Review)


Monster Brawl (2011)

Director: Jesse Thomas Cook

2.5 / 5 zedheads


Monster Brawl.

Just the title brings to mind an epic monster mash for the modern age. Eight monsters based on classic icons battle it out in a wrestling ring at a cursed cemetery. Sounds pretty fantastic, doesn't it? Even the buzz out of its screening at Toronto After Dark 2012 was positive. Now, imagine my disappointment when I finally picked up the DVD. Despite the hype, this Canadian monster movie / pay-per-view wrestling match never delivers the goods. Despite bringing together eight fighting monsters, Monster Brawl is a lightweight snooze-fest.

Mummy will always find out where you've been
There’s simply no story to Monster Brawl, and that's the cold truth that made me tap out. Aside from short vignettes to introduce each monster, the film has all the depth and complexity of a televised sporting event where monsters beat the bandages, rotted flesh, and fangs out of each other in a wrestling ring. On some level that sounds fun, but there are no stakes. What are they fighting for? Simply a championship belt? There are hints that something more apocalyptic is brewing, but it never comes to the fore.

Won't be getting off early today. He's swamped.
As for the wrestling, it's lackluster at best, and not even the ring-side commentary by actors Dave Foley and Art Hindle can breathe life into this fight of the living dead. When you stop and consider what made classic 80's wrestling good (the outlandish characters, the clear bad guys and good guys, the crowd cheering and going wild, the behind-the-scenes stories), you'll notice that much of this is lacking from Monster Brawl. There is no audience on the sidelines to cheer on the monsters and thereby amp up the flat-lining excitement. There's also no clear good guys or bad guys to root for. The monsters have no connections to each other: no friendships, no feuds. Sure, every monster is outlandish, but with no meaningful back story or motivation for fighting in Monster Brawl, the monsters appear to be simply going through the motions. Although Jimmy Hart and Kevin Nash bring some wrestling cred to Monster Brawl – and Jimmy Hart certainly hasn’t lost the mouth that made him a ring-side classic of the 1980s – this movie goes nowhere slowly.

Hello ladies, meet the 1980s
Some of the makeup is quite effective, and Robert Maillet makes a great-looking Frankenstein’s monster, but the best thing Monster Brawl has going for it is a cameo appearance by a bunch of Steam Whistle beer cans and the voice of Lance Henriksen presiding over the film offering us Henriken's best impression of the Mortal Kombat narrator (Excellent! Decapitation!). Unfortunately, Monster Brawl doesn’t deserve the gravitas that Henriksen's vocal work brings to the proceedings.

Actually, let me amend that last paragraph. Monster Brawl also has zombies going for it. In addition to Zombie Man, the undead wrestler who squares off against Frankenstein's monster, there's a full-scale zombie rising scene that's generally impressive. However, within the context of Monster Brawl, the zombies are lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Monster Brawl is simply one feature-length sleeper hold. It put me down for the count.