Back in 1987, the World Wrestling Federation hosted its first Survivor Series card on Thanksgiving Thursday. For the first four years, the event fell on the holiday, meaning American wrestling fans could enjoy turkey and bodyslams together. So what better time of year for me to review MONSTER BRAWL, a fun flick that combines monsters and bodyslams? Though a bit uneven, it will be the perfect flick to remind fans of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant as they pass the cranberry sauce.
MONSTER BRAWL has a cool premise: eight of the world’s greatest monsters will fight one-on-one in elimination matches until one is crowned the Monster Brawl federation champion. Elimination in the permanent sense, as each match ends in death of a monster. Divided into classes, the likes of the Cyclops, Witch Bitch, Werewolf and Frankenstein slam, hammer and brawl in a mostly deserted graveyard in Michigan, aiming for the gold. Announcers Buzz Chambers and Sasquatch Sid Tucker commentate on the donnybrook, Jimmy Hart does the ring announcing and there’s a voiceover that provides background during the promo segments and in-match when wrestlers hit power moves.
It’s those promo segments that make the affair drag a little. They run longer than they should, and they plod along. And do I really, at this point in my life as a horror fan, need an explanation on how the Werewolf came to be? Backstage segments have become the talky norm in actual pro wrestling these days, and MONSTER BRAWL would’ve done itself a favor not to emulate them.
Other than that, the flick plays fairly well. The matches themselves vary in excitement, just as on a real wrestling card. Dave Foley and Art Hindle provide the best parts; as Chambers and Sasquatch Sid, respectively, they’re hilarious, a drunk and a rough-around-the-edges former brawler who are out of their minds (and, in a great gag, one of them is apparently deathly afraid of mummies). Their dialogue during the matches could have been a little bit sharper, though, as they end up basically describing moves without adding any real color commentary to things (and sometimes they’re describing ring events inaccurately). But the two actors are great together, and I never knew the usually staid Hindle could be so funny.
Some of the makeup effects are wildly uneven—check out the “skin” covering the Cyclops actor’s real eyes, or the shabby Witch Bitch facial design. But this actually adds to the event; I’ve been to some local cheapie wrestling cards, and the homemade outfits there are no better than the Gore Brothers’ effects here. In fact, they even add to the humor of the card, at times. Swamp Gut’s costume is so obviously a costume, that the flick plays it off as a gag, incorporating his massive midsection as a weakness.
The look of everything else is beautiful. The graveyard ring setup looks like it came out of an old Hammer film, with rolling fog and beat up tombstones. The between-match stats screens and interview segments also shine, with floating graphics that are more appealing than some of the digital effects in much bigger budget movies. In fact, this is the most visually appealing film made for $200,000 Canadian that I’ve ever seen. Writer-director Jesse T. Cook and DP Brendan Uegama sustain a beautiful style on an ultra-tight budget.
And speaking of tight budgets, I can’t believe the talent Cook was able to get. Foley and Hindle highlight a package rounded out by Mouth of the South Jimmy Hart (one-time manager to my all-time favorite wrestler Bret Hart), former WWF champion Kevin Nash as Zombie Man’s manager Colonel Crookshanks, and MMA referee Herb Dean as himself. Okay, so it’s not Channing Tatum, but their budget did allow for them to hire…
none other than THE HORROR SHOW’s Lance Henriksen as the voiceover guy! That’s a few horror legends, a few wrestlers, makeup effects, and all the other stuff that goes into making a picture for $200K, and this certainly looks like it was made for several millions. Kudos to Stone for impressing me, and I don’t impress easy.
Is MONSTER BRAWL a great flick? By no means. But then I don’t really think it ever set out to be. Cook and company intended to make a fun film that combines the dual exploitations of pro wrestling and monster fests, and they succeeded. He even set up the ending as a cliffhanger which would lead right into the next pay-per-view. I don’t know if that will ever get made, but the 14-year-old who watched the first Survivor Series back in 1987 sure hopes it does.