Two monsters step into the ring, one monster leaves. That’s really all there is to Monster Brawl, a Canadian horror-comedy that combines the geeky obsessiveness of Fangoria fan debates with the “One night only!” hype of pay-per-view wrestling. The movie is little more than a series of bouts: A witch fights a cyclops; a mummy fights a vampire; a swamp monster fights a werewolf; a Frankenstein monster fights a zombie. Meanwhile, Dave Foley and Art Hindle deliver the play-by-play, wrestling legend Jimmy Hart touts the matches from ringside, and Lance Henriksen narrates. Monster Brawl writer-director Jesse Thomas Cook doesn’t have any grand ambition for this film. He just wants to watch freaky creatures try to beat each other up.
And on that level—the “How would it look if two ghouls starting walloping each other in a wrestling ring?” level—Monster Brawl works just fine. The movie’s make-up and gore effects are very good, and with mostly real wrestlers under those costumes, the brawls are suitably physical and acrobatic. The problem with Monster Brawl really is that in the digital era, it’s too easy to make low-budget films look slick, which can lead to splatter-pictures that lack the scrappy ingenuity of classic midnight-movie fodder.
From the presence of name stars like Foley, Hindle, and Henriksen to the glossy backstories that Cook provides for each of the combatants, Monster Brawl comes across as too “legit” for a premise so cheesy. But it’s not good enough to live up to its polish, either. The acting is stiff throughout—with most of the actors obviously either reading off cue cards or struggling to give the lines any life—and the jokes aren’t funny. Want to see a farting green demon flail away at a lycanthrope for five minutes? Monster Brawl delivers. Want any more than that? Better revisit these creatures in their own movies.
Key features: A dry 25-minute featurette, a set of Hart outtakes, and a commentary track by Cook and his producers.