Featuring a memorably archetypical appearances from Kids in the Hall’s Dave Foley and genre notable Art Hindle, plus an array of cameos from real-life fighting legends like Herb Dean, Robert Maillet, Jimmy Hart, and Kevin Nash, Canadian horror comedy Monster Brawl is now available on Blu-ray courtesy of Image Entertainment. The film is a combined spoof of pro wrestling – particularly in a classical, nostalgia-drenched 1980s vein – and cheesy low-budget monster movie classics of the 1940s through approximately the 1960s, which increasingly pitted iconic and recognizable monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula and the Mummy against one other. The concept overextends itself painfully, becoming increasingly encumbered by its predictability as the film trudges on, but it does contain a few funny moments and some genuinely charming and enthusiastic scenery chewing from its cheerfully C-list cast.
Perhaps unintentionally aping the Ed Wood-scripted and burlesque infused bizarro classic Orgy of the Dead, Monster Brawl takes place in a hidden Gothic graveyard late at night, wrapped in gleefully artificial midnight fog. Events are hosted by a pair of twitchy and off-kilter announcers (Foley and Hindle) and each fight is introduced by background vignettes illustrating the generically hokey origins of the contenders. Aside from some basic set-up and occasional vaudevillian interludes featuring the emcees, the movie has no real plot aside from the fight setups themselves, which are intentionally no-holds-barred and involve a lot of face-chewing, dismemberment, digital lightning-throwing and other sundry left-field weirdness.
Though the premise sounds funny and clever on paper and could have probably been the foundation for a pretty solid comedy short, the lack of story or character development eventually starts to grate, mainly because the already highly removed intensity involved in choreographed wrestling is so heavily diminished by Karo-oozing practical appliances and Z-grade digital effects. It’s clear that at least some of the performers have actual wrestling skills, but just as many others obviously don’t, and the sequences featuring them are baldly dominated by tricky and unconvincing editing intended to establish a heightened, artificial sense of physical confrontation. Without any character investment, convincing choreography, or particularly strong visual effects, the fights are merely diversionary and silly, and at feature length, they unfortunately can’t carry their own weight. Foley, Hindle, and the prominently featured real-life wrestling manager Jimmy Hart are all funny and personable, but their screen time is limited and they’re not given much to do other than talk.
The disc is equipped with requisite special features, including a commentary track with director Jesse Thomas Cook and producers John Geddes and Matt Wiele, plus a 23-minute making-of-doc about the genesis of the project and technical process of building the sets and organizing the production. Legendary wrestling manager Jimmy Hart, appropriately, gets his very own behind-the-scenes reel. Monster Brawl itself is probably skippable for anyone who isn’t a die-hard wrestling fanatic, but its affectionately satirical treatment and roster of cameos make it at least a pleasant momentary diversion for those who are.