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MONSTER BRAWL (BLU RAY)
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Reviewed by: Andre Manseau

Directed by: Jesse Thomas Cook

Starring:
Dave Foley
Art Hindle
Robert Maillet
Lance Henriksen
Jimmy Hart

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
Legendary monsters battle it out for the right to become champion of the monsters in Monster Brawl.
Is it good movie?
In case you didn't know, I'm a huge pro wrestling fan (I have received pro training and even wrestled in front of paying audiences during my heyday). Obviously, most of you know that I'm a huge horror fan. When I caught wind of Monster Brawl, I got excited right away. Monsters fighting things out to determine who the winner is? Yes please.

As it is, this isn't really a movie with a storyline or much plot. We know that the monsters have been lured to the Brawl for various reasons (usually they're manipulated or convinced to do so), and they fight in a cemetary with a wrestling ring in the middle of it.

Rounding out our cast of monsters are the Cyclops, the Witch Bitch, Swamp Gut (think a fat Swamp Thing), the Werewolf, The Mummy, Zombie Man, Vampire Girl and Frankenstein's monster. Each one has the attributes you'd expect and they're forced to face each other in a tournament (except a few of them are lightweights and aren't seen again after winning their matches).

The movie is presented in a literal fashion- it's just like you ordered a PPV broadcast of your favorite MMA/Wrestling show and you're tuning in. You get announcers (very well played by Art Clokey and Dave Foley) who call the action with plenty of vigor and hyperbole, cutaway tales of the tape, promo videos ("I'm going to beat you up") and little backstory videos of how each contestant came to the brawl. On top of that, the battle is narrated Shao Kahn-style by Lance Henriksen (who literally says stuff like "Excellent" after a big move and announces the winner "Wolfman by head crushing fatality") and the combatants are announced by wrestling legend Jimmy Hart (and a fun appearance from "Big Sexy" Kevin Nash)!

The backstory pieces are pretty well done, and serve as the only distractions from the one setpiece of the graveyard. Some characters are better than others (I thought Cyclops and Witch Bitch were pretty weak to say the least), but it can be fun to place your bets before the "fight" ensues.

The big problem here is that the matches themselves tend to really suck. I know that this is purely a personal preference- some people might love that when these monsters get in the ring that they're getting hit by plastic folding chairs, or that they tie up in a wrestling grapple and do irish whips and clotheslines. Unfortunately, that didn't do it for me.

I thought the fights were generally very weak. Within 10 minutes of watching this flick, I turned to my buddy and said "if this movie is going to be this silly, it better have awesome fights" and I was disappointed. If we've got legendary monsters fighting to the death, we should not see them falling to such weak finishes (although there are a couple of cool moments, including a crushed head) that come off really hokey and lame. I want to see limbs torn off and the monsters just ripping each other apart. Yes, there is some good gore here, but it's too sparingly used. And to be fair, it was hard for me to get into a match where a snapmare takeover is followed up with someone's head getting knocked off. It's just stupid.

The fact that the monsters have entrances where they're seemingly playing to an invisible crowd is weird- having no crowd at all hurts the energy. It's not like it would have been too stupid to have the monsters who fight in a wrestling ring have a crowd watching, the flick is clearly absurd and tongue-in-cheek enough. Without a crowd, it's just sort of goofy.

The makeup effects can be really hit and miss as well. Frankenstein(Rob Maillet)'s makeup looked decent, and the Vampire and Mummy looked good too. On the miss side, just about everyone else looks distractingly bad. The Werewolf could look good in the right light, but not often. Swamp Gut had a cool design but looks really stupid out of water, Witch Bitch looks like someone with plain Halloween makeup, and the Cyclops' unblinking phony eye is brutal. These uneven effects can be unfortunately distracting for a movie that showcases monsters like these.

It's not all bad though. The movie has really slick presentation and feels pretty fun throughout, effectively capturing the glitz and glamour of wrestling/MMA (and even includes a cameo from MMA ref Herb Dean) with great graphic and slick cutaways. As I mentioned before, the commentators are great as well, with perfectly written dialogue and a natural relationship with one another, I was impressed (although the old guy is talked about as being a "former champion" of Monster Brawl, which makes no sense). The flick even tries to throw you off a bit, with an unexpected zombie attack and a "shock" ending, but remains pretty straightforward otherwise.

As much as I loved the idea, I was simply watching because I wanted to know if the movie was going to get better, and where the zaniness was going to take me. Having seen it all once, I don't think I'd watch it again, unfortunately. The best way to classify this flick is that it would be best suited to some 13 year old boys as a bottom shelf "I guess we'll get this" pick that ends up being one of their instant favorites. It just doesn't pack enough nastiness and comes off a bit too goofy to be awesome.
Video / Audio
Video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and really looks fantastic. Top notch, beautiful picture here. Nothing to complain about.

Audio is wonderful too, in a stellar DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track that really impresses and is mixed very well.
The Extras
The Behind the Scenes featurette runs about 10-15 minutes long and is essentially the director putting over his whole cast and crew. It's cool to see how the movie came together despite having an extremely low (micro) budget, and how all of the exteriors (and interiors) were essentially all shot in the same area. Watching the crew build the set is pretty cool, and this whole featurette is really more of an inspiration to anyone who sets out to make their own film. It's really cool to see everyone banding together because they love the idea and using their creative energies (one guy played 3 characters, including 2 monsters!) as much as possible to get something going. Cast, crew, effects and location are all talked about here.

Outtakes with Jimmy Hart aren't really outtakes, and I'm not sure what to make of them. I actually wonder if it was meant to mock Hart a bit because it's about 5 or 6 minutes of him cutting promos about the flick and telling stories. Hart is a natural showman and loves to talk, and this is certainly showcased here. The guy's got boundless energy and is certainly deserving of his legendary status in the world of pro wrestling.

There's also a commentary with Writer/Director Jesse Thomas Cook and Producers Matt Wiele and John Geddes that entertains and packs a ton of knowledge. If you loved a movie based on how hard people worked and how much fun they had, this'd be a favorite.

Finally, a trailer.
Last Call
I applaud the efforts of the filmmakers who put this together, as it was clearly a work of passion and pain. Unfortunately though, the end product is just not what I'd hoped for. If you're up for a really foolish romp watching monsters wrestle each other, just know that it doesn't let up. If you're looking for nasty gore and monsters ravaging each other, look elsewhere, unfortunately. Great idea, just not what I was hoping for.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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