If the answer is “yes,” then the feature film Monster Brawl was made for you. If you let it, watching it can be a ball. Just know going in it offers neither plot nor story — it’s a series of bouts in the ring, pure and simple, with eight monstrosities summoned from around the globe to participate in a graveyard smash to determine the “most powerful ghoul of all time.”
In the Undead Conference, we have the Mummy, Lady Vampire, Zombie Man and Frankenstein (Robert Maillet, Immortals‘ Minotaur); on the Creature Conference side, Cyclops, Witch Bitch, Swamp Gut and Werewolf. The not-very-choosy genre great Lance Henriksen (Scream of the Banshee, Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer, The Lost Tribe) narrates, UFC’s Herb Dean and WWE’s Jimmy Hart cameo as themselves, and WCW’s Kevin Nash (River of Darkness) plays a zombie chaperone.
After brief vignettes that show each beast’s backstory, they tussle for a few minutes, with each demonstrating their special skills. For example, Cyclops has a laser eye blast; Swamp Gut, paralyzingly spit. Serving as ringside announcers throughout are Kids in the Hall‘s Dave Foley and Porky’s Art Hindle, with the former really getting into it, spouting lines like, “Ding-dong, the witch is dead!”
It’s like something Full Moon Pictures would have done back in the day — but only if Charles Band had stopped playing around with dolls, puppets and little people — so writer/director/producer/editor Jesse Thomas Cook has. While his film is deficient in traditional, three-act storytelling, he has yielded the maximum productive value out of a minuscule budget. The makeup, gore effects, graphics and overall look are all outstanding. Seriously, it looks like a million bucks, whereas I feared it would look like a shot-on-video turd. He deserves a shot at frying bigger studio fish.
With Monster Brawl playing like a mix between actual sporting match and a kid-dreamed comic book, it works best as a party movie, rather than watching by yourself — it’s the difference between bonding and boredom, potentially. It’s also best viewed in the right frame of mind, with that mind swimming in the active chemicals of cheap, lukewarm beer from plastic cups. —Rod Lott
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