DVD Review: Monster Brawl
Review by Keri O’Shea
Do you remember when WWF had (almost) nothing to do with endangered wildlife and everything to do with pro-wrestling? (Let’s try to put Jake Roberts and Koko B. Ware out of our minds for now, if you please.) Anyway, if you do remember, and better still, if all of this means something to you, then you are likely to feel some affection for Monster Brawl, because evidently the world of wrestling really means something to the film’s director, Jesse T. Cook. Might I add, the affection you feel is likely to exponentially increase according to how much alcohol is in your system; there’s a one-drink tipping point between thinking ‘monster wrestling is silly’ and ‘let’s have a little bet! By the way, my good man, is there any of that gut-stripping cider left?’ Because that’s what we have here, folks: Monster Brawl is a sprawling episode of WWF, pitching creature against creature. I got into the spirit of things, and made myself a shiny British pound into the bargain. However, if you have no passion for the wrestling format then you may find yourself wondering where the plot, characterisation, and similar common features of feature films happened to go. They ain’t here.
For those of you completely unfamiliar with the world of American wrestling, allow me to describe it to you. The match takes place, usually between two wrestlers, under the careful eye of a referee who makes sure that no illegal holds are being performed, and confirms the eventual victory, which is achieved by pinning the opponent flat to the ground for the count of three. Being the referee is a dangerous job, and any proximity to fold-up metal chairs is likely to end badly. Commentating on all of this we usually have two or more announcers, and they’ll also link in to little segues where the wrestlers and their managers talk themselves up. Monster Brawl takes this very-familiar premise, and replaces the common-or-garden seven foot hulks with…
To be honest, with a bit of a strange posse of famous monsters. Some of them aren’t all that famous; some of the big players you’d expect don’t show up. Seeing as how this is a love letter from an 80s monster kid who also lived for Wrestlemania, I’d have thought Dracula would have made an appearance. Instead he sent his representative, it seems – a female vamp, who I’m sure is a lovely girl, but didn’t seem to have a classic monster forbear per se. Frankenstein’s creature is in there (and yes, I’m still calling him that, even though the movie pokes fun at people for continually harping on the distinction) and we even get a bit of the original novel’s text thrown in, but who the hell is Witch Bitch? Maybe Cook was having fun with the idea of the underdog; those poor wrestlers who would be sent up against better-known, better-paid behemoths to be thrown around like rag dolls. Still, I was expecting more of the whole hog. If you’re only going to make one monster wrestling movie, it would make sense to invite the full monster crew. But, hey, what we get is still entertaining.
Although monsters of varying fame are actually doing the fighting, the WWF/WCW/MMA vibe is carried on with the appearance of some very well-known faces. Herb Dean is the referee! Kevin Nash plays a manager! Is that Robert Maillet? And Jimmy ‘Mouth of the South’ Hart is here, still in full sway! I have to say, the presence of Hart was enough to put a grin on my face before the first five minutes of the film were out. Overlay that WWF with a dash of WTF, because you can add to all of this the presence of Lance Henriksen providing some voiceover work (and channelling the spirit of the Mortal Kombat games) and cult film legend Art Hindle. So, for film fans and wrestling fans, there’s a sizeable amount of talent-spotting on offer here. It all takes place in a spoooooky graveyard, too, with some warning that they have stirred up some ancient evil by hosting the fight there. As for the rest, you simply get to watch the fights, listen to the commentators, wait for the ancient evil to arise, and revel in all the slapstick.
So – is this a movie in the usual sense of the word? Nope, this is Famous(ish) Monsters’ Celebrity Deathmatch, but if you can check your brain at the door and allow yourself to be a kid again, then there is a lot of fun to be had here. I certainly had fun with it. Monster Brawl is a self-aware project too, with some genuinely funny moments and a lot of love for the various fandoms at its heart. If you take it seriously, you’re missing the point.
As well as the 89-minute feature (note: when films don’t overstay their welcome, this scores them a a big bonus point) you get a documentary on the making of the movie, some Jimmy Hart outtakes (I love the guy, but I would be slipping him bromide), and the official trailer. But hey, you can take a look at that below…
Monster Brawl is out on Region 2 DVD and available to download on 20th August, from Momentum.