Monster Brawl (2011)
Directed by Jesse T. Cook
Monster Brawl is 85 minutes of pure fan service. It’s structured more like a pay per view wrestling event than a film, but this won’t matter much to the 13-year-old boys who will flock to see it (and well, you know those of us that never quite outgrew our 13-year-old late night proclivities. Hey I’m talking about watching monster movies, pull your head out of the gutter!). Let’s face it, most of us love “versus” flicks, and Monster Brawl is just one long drawn out sequence of monsters bashing each other over the head. Who needs a plot? Fight!
In addition to the requisite classic monsters like Frankenstein, The Wolfman, and The Mummy, Monster Brawl invents a few of its own like Witch Bitch, Lady Vampire, Swamp Gut, Zombie Man, and a pathetically anemic Cyclops with a lisp. In addition, old time WWF fans will recognize Jimmy “The Mouth of the South” Hart as the pre-fight announcer, and mixed martial arts fans will cheer to see beloved UFC referee Herb Dean. If you like monsters and the old and new fight game, Monster Brawl’s got you covered. The real stars of the show, though, are the commentators, Sasquatch Sid Tucker (The Brood’s Art Hindle) and the riotously funny Dave Foley doing his best Howard Cosell impression in the role of ringside drunk Buzz Chambers. Just in case these luminaries aren’t enough, the brief bits of narration are handled by Lance Henriksen. For a low budget Canadian horror flick, these guys knocked it out of the park talent-wise.
The monster designs don’t stray too far from the old standards but are all competently executed by special FX team The Gore Brothers. Special mention has to go to 300’s Robert Maillet, who cuts an impressive Frankenstein at 6'11" of muscle and tendon. Given the wealth of classic monsters to draw from, it’s a little disappointing that so many of the combatants are unknowns, but the film remedies this somewhat by providing brief backstory segments for each of the fighters, and even if the monsters themselves are uninspired (I’m looking at you, Witch Bitch!), their origin stories and twisted entourage generally make up for it.
The fights themselves are unfortunately fairly lackluster, which is a bit of a problem for a film that spends most of its time in the ring. Rather than have the monsters use their own unique talents, most of the combat is of the typical WWF variety. The monsters leave their fangs and claws and special creature abilities at the door, preferring to body slam, box, and figure four leg-lock their opponents. The Wolfman wears wrestling boots, nuff’ said.
While the fights may be a tad underwhelming, the fight card presentations most definitely are not. One of the most impressive aspects of Monster Brawl is the graphic design that went into the title sequence and all of the pre-fight tale of the tape segments. Executed by Phantom City Creative, a company headed up by one of Rue Morgue’s graphic designers Justin Erickson and his partner Paige Reynolds, these two really nailed an original monster themed take on boxing posters and other fight related visuals. Well done title sequences are a rarity these days, and so it's exciting to see a film lavish attention on such an under-represented art form. Keep your eyes peeled for the little details like Cyclops’ multi-thousand fight wins, Lady Vampire’s age (666), and other blink and you’ll miss 'em jokes hidden in the fight posters.
Ultimately Monster Brawl isn’t so much a movie as the kind of sporting event you wish really existed. It’s got all the spectacle of wrestling, all the athleticism of boxing, and all the fantasy and special FX of horror movies. It’s a love letter to a Friday night spent watching The Monster Squad, followed by a Saturday morning watching Hulkamania. Its black heart is planted squarely in the right place, and I for one can’t wait to see what Jesse T. Cook and his crew come up with next.
3 1/2 out of 5