Exclusive Interview: Filmmaker Jesse Thomas Cook Talks Monster Brawl, Ejecta and More
In Jesse Thomas Cook’s Monster Brawl, we see the Canadian filmmaker blend both his love for the horror genre and classic ‘80s professional wrestling in the flick that features eight classic movie monsters fighting in the ultimate death match set in a haunted graveyard.
The independent horror/comedy/wrestling hybrid stars Dave Foley, Art Hingle and Lance Henriksen as the narrator as well as a handful of professional wrestlers including Kevin Nash, “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart and Robert Maillet.
Monster Brawl hit DVD and Blu-ray shelves everywhere this week, and in honor of the flick’s recent release courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment, Dread Central recently had the opportunity to chat with Cook about his ambitious project as well as whether or not fans can expect to see Monster Brawl 2 in the future- or perhaps even a bigger budget remake of the flick, which could very well be in the works soon.
Check out the highlights of our exclusive interview with Cook below, and make sure to check out Monster Brawl now that it is available everywhere!
Dread Central: I'd love to start off by hearing more about how Monster Brawl came about and more on your approach to creating this world where you blend together both horror and wrestling- two of my own personal faves.
Jesse Thomas Cook: Mine too; I knew that both professional wrestling and horror movies- especially the classic movie monsters- have huge followings so that was a huge draw for me. But I guess this all really starts off with us wanting to create a production company that would produce 10 films in our home town of Collingwood up here in Canada. We wanted to start off with a flagship film that would be our calling card and would get us noticed, and I figured that something that blended horror and wrestling would definitely appeal to a lot of people out there.
So we began throwing around ideas to do a comedy/horror movie, and that's when I started thinking of all the different kinds of monsters that everyone loves and how much fun it would be to see them take on each other, kind of similar to Freddy vs. Jason but with an actual wrestling setting. Doing it in an isolated pay-per-view style event helped with the fact that one, we couldn't afford a bunch of extras and two, you wouldn't want a bunch of monsters on the loose anyway- so the graveyard idea really worked for us.
Dread Central: Considering that you guys made this independently and had to come up with a handful of monsters, did it ever strike you while putting this together just how ambitious a movie concept like this really is? Did you guys have to make any concessions because of the budget?
Jesse Thomas Cook: Oh yeah, it was definitely ambitious from the start just because we were creating something that we didn’t think had ever been done before, but then as we started putting all the pieces in place for production, I think we all then realized just how ambitious all of this would end up being for the budget. We only had 20 days to shoot everything, and our schedule included 20 different locations and working with 40 actors, too, so it was definitely a monumental challenge to say the very least.
And yeah, we did have to make some concessions. There was always talk of having a sasquatch and yeti tag team, but those are both expensive creatures so they had to come out. We also had an idea of a group of zombies versus a group of trolls, but that would have been really expensive so it never really worked out. Maybe for the next one (laughs).
Dread Central: Well let's talk about the creatures and how you went about the design of them for the film. Who did you work with for all the effects?
Jesse Thomas Cook: We worked with a special effects team in Canada called The Brothers Gore. When I approached them with this concept and my budget, they were kind of shocked I think because of what we were trying to accomplish, but they somehow made it all work. They had to get really creative with the monster makeup because every single day they had a different monster to make up, which isn't something they were used to. Usually each make-up works for a few days, but we didn't have that kind of luxury with our time. But they really did a fantastic job, and I couldn't be happier.
Coming up with the designs, or our original spin on certain monsters, was something I worked on with a friend named Jason Brown. We approached it by trying to appease the classic monster fans out there but giving fans a few new monster hybrids to root for, too, so that's why there are some female monsters or a monster like Swamp Gut who is a hybrid of all the swamp creatures we've met throughout the years and comes off like a monster version of King Kong Bundy or Yokozuna. The monsters had to work within the classic wrestling gimmicks, too, and I think we pulled it off.
Dread Central: As someone who is also a huge fan of '80s wrestling and grew up watching guys like Kevin Nash and Jimmy Hart, can you talk more about casting them and what they brought to the table on this project. Did you let them go off script at all since they're both guys who have made a living cutting some great promos?
Jesse Thomas Cook: Jimmy Hart was a blast to work with; not only was he fun to watch on camera, but he was just an all-around great guy. We never asked him to, but between takes and stuff, he'd be running around set helping out by moving things or setting up props which was really cool. He was really a team player. He mostly stuck to the script, but we did do some takes where he just cut his own material and there's some really funny stuff there. That's in some of the outtakes.
And I knew from very early on in the process of Monster Brawl that I wanted to have Kevin Nash on this because he's got such a great presence. We needed someone who could stare down Frankenstein and Nash was the guy.
Dread Central: Well, because of the ending I would suspect you guys may have plans for more Monster Brawl in the future? Is that the plan then because I could see the potential for a bunch more matches with all the monsters you guys couldn't do this first time around.
Jesse Thomas Cook: Well, it's sort of interesting; we have developed a story for a sequel and it would be much bigger than the first one, with a bigger budget, too, but there is also talk of a remake right now and we’re exploring that as well. Either way, we have three more projects this year which are our main focus so we’re kind of focusing on them for now. But yes, we’re definitely open to expanding this into a franchise if presented with the right opportunity.
Dread Central: Are you allowed to talk at all about those other three projects yet?
Jesse Thomas Cook: Well, I can talk about the one we just announced that we finished in May called Ejecta. It’s a high concept sci-fi film that was written by Tony Burgess, who did a brilliant job on Pontypool a few years back now. He's going to be working with us on the others, too, but Ejecta looks pretty cool so far. It's definitely a lot darker and more ambitious than Monster Brawl, and that's what we want to keep doing- changing things up so we're not always making the same movie again and again.
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