Nerdstafari Reviews: Monster Brawl

Horror movies’ greatest monsters meet…In the ring! Catch the greatest Pay-Per-View event in history. It’s the Fight of the Living Dead!

 

By Max & Ben

 

Ben:  I went into this movie with only one thing on my mind and that was the cover. When you’ve got a cover with an angry Frankenstein and a title like “Monster Brawl” with monsters wrestling each other, you can’t help but get excited, right?

Max: I don’t know what I expected coming into this film. I had heard that it was bad and that probably made an impression, but unlike a lot of people I flock to bad movies. I think the downfall was really its budget. I’d love to see the creative team behind Monster Brawl get the budget of a summer blockbuster to make Monster Brawl 2, with the stipulation, of course, that they stick to practical effects.

Ben: I have to agree with your last idea. The fact that the special effects were all practical, on a budget like this film had, is a rarity these days. It does deserve special praise for that.  I also think another benefit of the film was that it was pure camp and knew it. Unlike some films that are aware they are B-movies at best and then try to be a B-movie, this movie knew what it was but never overtly acknowledged it. They didn’t try to be campy just for the sake of it and I can appreciate that.

Max: I wouldn’t say it’s campy in the traditional sense. It has more of a premeditated camp to bring that wrestling show vibe, which has a very specific feel as opposed to a lot of the campy movies that have graced our TV screen. That’s one of the qualities that add to the uniqueness of the story. That alone gives the cast and crew an A for effort.

Ben: It is unique, and when you take horror movie monsters from multiple decades and throw them into a wrestling ring, you can’t expect an Academy Award.  I just felt that the story was simplistic. It is fun and something you don’t see every day, but aside from saying, “Here’s some monsters, watch them fight,” there was not much to a plot aside from some kid contacted these beasts to be part of his pay per view event.

Max: There isn’t much to the story. It’s simple and unique, which more times than not will backfire more than it will succeed. Personally I loved the story. I’ve never seen it done before, movie monsters wrestling. The concept alone makes me super happy.

Ben: Oh, the concept is great, and it doesn’t muddy itself with an obnoxious plot. My issue was that aside from a unique concept there wasn’t much more to it. You can have the greatest idea in the world, but if you don’t have the details, you are going to fall at least a bit flat.

Max: You’re right; a concept alone will never make a great film. As far as writing goes the basic story was really the only good thing. The dialogue choices were poor and the screenplay needed to be cleaned up immensely. It wasn’t all bad, it homage to video games, wrestling, and the horror genre plus a few stand out lines like the one from the announcer “Sasquatch” Sid Tucker, “It’s Frankenstein’s monster if you want to be a dick about it.”

Ben: Yes, but for every good line of dialogue, you had drivel spewing from the Witch Bitch and her woe-is-me mentality in Salem. Not to mention the odd choice to have the Cyclops be some sort of ancient Greek hero.

Max: I did like the monster choices all very classic. I agree, though, that the choice of backstory and portrayal of some monsters like Witch Bitch, Cyclops, and Lady Vampire were poor…

Ben: Don’t forget Swamp Gut’s intro! The whole thing was great. With the documentary style filming and narration from a wildlife “expert,” it was easily the best of them.  Not to mention, the monster was a sort of homage to the classic DC Swamp Thing comics.

Max: They did have a knack for throwbacks, using the classic Universal Wolfman as opposed to the more modern werewolf look of today. Choices like that make film aficionados like us excited. Though, one of the hardest things to wrap my head around was the comedy attempts. With the exception of Dave Foley, many of the comedic scenes fell short. Granted that may be less writing and more acting and aside from Foley the acting is where the movie hit rock bottom. The only standout acting I could say I enjoyed was Foley, and of course the loveable Jimmy Hart. Everyone else fell below par. It doesn’t surprise me really. Dave Foley does what Dave Foley does and Jimmy Hart played himself.

Ben: I agree Foley was the standout, but you didn’t give as much credit to Jimmy Hart as he deserves. He’s been doing the same spiel for so many decades, I think he no longer plays a persona, he has become the persona. That’s a lot of dedication. Also I think we should acknowledge the more silent actors in the film. Frankenstein would be the best example. The emotion on his face, the groans, and the motions of his body conveyed very much what I would expect a piecemeal corpse to look and behave like.

Max: I’d have to disagree with you on the silent actors. Maybe I shouldn’t complain too heavily on the acting; they were unknown wrestlers and I’ve never watched a movie that starred wrestlers that I felt was well acted. Knowing they are wrestlers is why I feel the movie failed. The main focus of the movie is the fights and seeing as they are professional wrestlers I was disappointed. The matches were dispassionate, lackluster, and lacked that excitement that you get watching wrestling. There were two exceptions, Frankenstein and Swamp Gut, but two out of five isn’t a positive ratio.

Ben: While I feel that the prosthetics and makeup the actors had to wear may have hampered their ability to fight, I will agree that there wasn’t enough power and complexity to the matches. I also agree with your choice of Swamp Gut being one of the better. In my opinion his was the best. You can tell the wrestler in the suit is a high flyer and seeing that tubby suit bounce around the ring was amazing. Also you have to give a special nod to Lance Henriksen’s Mortal Kombat-esque catch phrases.

Max: That’s the thing though, isn’t it? Those creature effects alone make it a better movie. The movie is obviously low budget, but a large portion must have gone into the creature effects. I can’t praise the visuals of this film enough. I didn’t agree with every choice made, take the look of the Cyclops’ eye for example, but I won’t say it didn’t look good.

Ben: I was wondering if you were going to bring up the Cyclops. I understand your trepidation. It isn’t exactly the classic idea of what a Cyclops would look like, but I give the highest praises to the effects designer for integrating the actor’s need to see without sacrificing the monster’s look. The lattice-like design to the prosthetic I felt was a brilliant idea.

Max: The special effects department did their job well, creating a design around the needs of the actors. I’ve always been a huge fan of practical effects; really we’re both a little nuts about them. The detail of the design adds a layer of enjoyment of the film, the Swamp Gut costume being a prime example.

Ben: Yes! That was easily the best design in the film. The little touches they added to what could otherwise be a very bland and generic design was brilliant. Take for example the beer can in his upper torso. A reference to the monster’s intro detailing a loss of habitat to pollution; having that can being integrated into the costume shows a great attention to the finer details. Also, once again bringing something from the creature’s introduction, there is a human hand sticking out from what I could imagine would be where Swamp Gut’s ribs are. It was impressive to see what the designers did, taking a simple concept and turning it into the standout effect in the film.

Max: Overall I’d say the movie is average. It’s a fun, enjoyable, and I had a good time watching it. I’d watch it again, even pay to see a sequel, but it doesn’t stand out enough against the slew of movies that come out on a regular basis. The story concept and creature effects are the best thing about Monster Brawl. Those alone are worth the hour and a half I spent on the film. I’d add it to my DVD collection, but I think it could have been better.

Ben: What can be said about Monster Brawl? It’s a popcorn flick that taps into the hearts of horror buffs, wrestling fans, and even the gamers among us. The make-up and special effects are top notch, especially considering the tight budget the crew had to work around. Sadly, even with standout performances by Dave Foley and Jimmy Hart, the movie suffers from a lack of acting ability. Even with those knocks against it Monster Brawl presents a unique twist on the monster genre and blends together themes that no one would expect to see in one film. With an ending that leaves plenty of room for a sequel and a concept that is just too whacked out to not enjoy, Monster Brawl easily fits into the category of guilty pleasure B-movies. See it for an example of practical effects done well, if anything.

The Verdict:

Scoring Grid Monster Brawl - 3.8.13

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