Wednesday, June 20, 2012

MONSTER BRAWL (Blu-ray)

Director Jesse Thomas Cook loves old monster movies - and he also loves pro wrestling. So much so, in fact, that he raised a couple hundred thousand bucks and staged the ultimate creature throwdown - MONSTER BRAWL (2011), now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Image Entertainment.

Presented as a pay-per-view videocast, narrated by the Voice of God (the legendary Lance Henricksen, PUMPKINHEAD, ALIENS, MILLENNIUM) with color commentary by Buzz Chambers (Dave Foley, THE KIDS IN THE HALL) and "Saquatch" Sid Tucker (Art Hindle, THE BROOD, THE OCTAGON) and ringside ranting by WWF "Mouth of the South," Jimmy Hart, MONSTER BRAWL pits eight classic - and not so classic - monsters against each other in a series of middleweight and heavyweight elimination death matches. These frightening fighters - Frankenstein (the monster, not the doctor), Werewolf, Cyclops, Witch Bitch, Lady Vampire, Mummy, cannibalistic Zombie Man and muck-encrusted bayou bog beast, Swamp Gut - battle it out in a regulation wrestling ring nestled deep within a cursed cemetery, to prove, once and for all, who's the baddest beast in the netherworld.

It's basically one joke stretched out over 85 minutes, punctuated with some professionally-staged fights between the various fiends, most of whom are played by pro wrestlers. In between bouts, the viewer is treated to brief vignettes that provide some backstory and motivation to the individual participants, and what's a graveyard wrestling match without a zombie outbreak or two?

The actual fights are well-choreographed and executed, but I was disappointed that the monsters stuck to basic WWE-styled moves instead of utilizing attacks unique to their individual natures. For example, the Werewolf never uses his claws or fangs... and that's a missed opportunity.

Credit where it's due, though: the attention to detail is great, with a very cool, fog-shrouded cemetery set, reasonably inventive monster make-ups (by "The Gore Brothers") and costumes, and very professional-looking on-screen graphics. It may have been shot on a shoestring budget in a Canadian warehouse, but thanks to some very slick HD videography, it looks terrific. The two bikini-clad ringside girls are lovely eye candy, too. The script has some genuinely funny gags here and there, and the overall tone is lighthearted and fun. As for the cast, Foley and Hindle are amusing and play off each other well, the towering Robert Maillet (SHERLOCK HOLMES, 300) is a suitably imposing and sympathetic Frankenstein's monster, and wrestler Kevin Nash, who plays the Zombie Man's "trainer," is great, too.

The Blu-ray disc from Image Entertainment is very nice, with a flawless, 2.35:1 1080i HD transfer and a choice of  DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mixes. Extras include a lively commentary by writer/director Jesse Cook and producers Matt Wiele and John Geddes, an entertaining "Making of" documentary, and a handful of outtakes featuring the irritating - and apparently, irritable - Jimmy Hart.

MONSTER BRAWL is not really so much a movie; it's more of a well-produced video novelty. Whether or not you'll enjoy it pretty much depends on how amusing you find that one joke to be. I've read that it's been well-received at horror conventions, where the audiences loudly rooted for their favorite fiends. Recreating that at home with your friends might be the best way to enjoy this BRAWL.

BUY: Monster Brawl [Blu-ray]