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Monster Brawl (2011)

by on 2014/10/29

Monster Brawl (2011)

“It’s the ultimate fight of the living dead.”

* *

As a grade school student, I once received a book at a fall fair. It was called The Dynamite Monster Hall of Fame. Though I’d likely already heard of mummies, vampires, werewolves, and so on, it’s my most certain early memory of being aware of the Universal monsters.

Yes, every kid wonders who would win in a fight: Sean Connery or Roger Moore? Well, that was probably just me, but I imagine everyone else was pitting invisible men against phantoms of the opera.

Not every kid grows up, however, to commit those fights to the big screen. Which is exactly what writer, producer, editor, and director Jesse Thomas Cook has done with Monster Brawl, a feature which unfortunately works better as a “What if?” pitch than as sustained entertainment.

The premise is eight fantasy creatures converge on a wrestling ring in a Michigan necropolis (actually shot in Collingwood, Ontario). They pair off in successive rounds, talking trash and killing each other, all the while egged on by the patter of announcers, commentators, and their own managers.

This concept was my initial reason to watch, but the commentators were my reasons to endure. Kid in the Hall Dave Foley (The Wrong Guy) is paired with Art Hindle (Black Christmas) to deliver some ringside analysis and quips. Just as with Porky’s — a piece I otherwise disliked — Hindle was the main reason I stayed invested. Gru and I were totally consumed by what she called “his crazy intensity”. Whenever he wasn’t around, the proceedings felt lifeless.

Not for lack of trying to load up on interesting players. The cast also features Herb Dean, Jimmy Hart, Robert Maillet, Kevin Nash, and the voice of Lance Henriksen (Terminator, Aliens). But none of them — not even all of them combined — compared to the two commentators.

The structure overall is intertextual, somewhat like Denys Arcand’s Stardom. It comprises staged documentary footage, interviews, news reports, and so on. For a time, it all seems a distracting conceit, which I mean as a true compliment, but it develops a rhythm more jarring than gelling, and never surpassed novelty.

I felt similarly about the uneven balance between the makeup and the gore: the former is so unconvincing as to be useful only as a comedy prop; the latter is more realistic, explicit, and subverts all that’s goofy with grossness.

I’m pretty sure I went into Monster Brawl with exactly the right mindset. I expected a mashup of Van Helsing and Quick and the Dead. Or a sportier Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter.  Despite the efforts of its cast, it never transcended fragmentation. I suspect it might have benefited by being less competent, escaping its uncanny valley, and being as much fun in whole as it is in parts.

* *

Rated 14A

90 minutes


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