or “From Beyond the Mat”
Featuring: Dave “The Kids in the Hall” Foley , Art “The Brood” Hindle , Kevin “Almighty Thor” Nash
Director: Jesse “Septic Man” Cook
Writers: Jesse “Also the director” Cook & Jason Brown
“I’ll be DAMNED before I cheer for a mummy!”
Alright brawlers, let’s get brawlin’. For starters, let me apologize to the people of Canada. I have no issue with your country. I’ve actually visited your land and found it beautiful. I’d like to move away from Nile and out to Canada one day, as a matter of fact. I applaud your health care system and your lenient stance on marijuana usage and your “Degrassi Junior High” and your “The Kids in the Hall”. In recent years, I’ve also discovered your “Two Best Friends Play” on YouTube, of which my Evil Dead Bride and I take great joy from on a daily basis. As such, it’s with a heavy heart, the HEAVIEST of hearts, that the first Canadian born movie to be immortalized in the new Tomb is Monster Brawl. I’m sorry. So very very sorry. I’ll try to make it up to you somehow, some way, somewhere, someday.
What is Monster Brawl? Well, as the disembodied voice of God (whose name I’m only capitalizing because he’s voiced by fucking Lance Henriksen) tells us, it’s “Eight deadly monsters summoned to the ring from all corners of the Earth, fighting to the death to determine the most powerful ghoul of all time”. It’s a concept that’s near and dear to my heart. Or, rather it’s near and dear to the heart of my inner child. When I was a kid, my grandfather got me into watching WWF. It’s a childhood love that’s since turned into an adult curiosity and field of study. Also as a child, I loved playing with action figures. It’s another childhood love, but one that’s since turned into an adult hobby with which to make money. But, back when I actually played with said figures, I’d pit them against each other in wrestling tournaments. Masters of the Universe vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vs. Thundercats vs. Food Fighters. My dad made me a wrestling ring out of a scrap piece of wood, four large nails, and two pieces of string tied between the nails. Cue the obvious jokes about me playing with myself in 3, 2, 1… Joke. Don’t worry ladies, I don’t play with action figures anymore. Like I said, my geek pursuits are more about making money than living out little kid daydreams. That’s what the video games and role play sex are for. And, at least for writer-director Jesse Cook and co-writer Jason Brown, that’s where Monster Brawl comes in.
These gents decided to bring to life (afterlife?) their childhood dreams of pitting movie monsters together in a wrestling deathmatch tournament. Don’t get too excited though, cuz this isn’t where you’ll see cinematically impossible pairings like Michael Myers vs. Leatherface or Freddy Krueger vs. Pinhead. No, this is where you’ll see generic, copyright impervious beasts the likes of “werewolf” and “mummy” and “zombie”, brought together my in-movie promoter Jake Blackburn (Jason Deline) to fight it out and see who the heaviest hitting horror really is! Unfortunately, what your brain thinks you’re in for and what your eyes and ears end up getting are not likely going to leave you satisfied. Imagine being invited to one of those Eyes Wide Shut masquerade orgies, but once it gets into full swing and everybody’s in somebody else’s mouth, they all take off their masks to reveal they’re your family members… Okay, this isn’t nearly as traumatic. It’s more like getting invited into bed by your celebrity fantasy, but while you’re locking lips and running yours hands over their nekkid back, you find a zipper, undo it, and it turns out your dream hump is actually Clint Howard in disguise. Even if you can convince him to put the suit back on, you still know that you’re fucking/being fucked by Clint Howard. And if Clint Howard is your celebrity fantasy, then you have problems of a far deeper and horrifying nature than watching Monster Brawl.
Hmmm, putting it like that, this movie actually doesn’t seem nearly as bad as it did 5 minutes ago. It’s true, there’s ALWAYS something worse out there than whatever it is you’re going through.
So, these generic participants are a mix of ancient and more modern (last few hundred years) creatures. They’re divided into two conferences: the Undead and the Creatures. The Undead consist of the Mummy, Lady Vampire, Zombie Man, and Frankenstein(‘s Monster). Even if you’re the type who accepts the term “Frankenstein” as a name for The Monster, here’s the real kicker: this monster’s creator isn’t even named Dr. Frankenstein! It’s Dr. Igor Igora! And no, there’s no mention of Igora (shit name, by the way) finding the creature either. According to the vignette, he created the monster and the monster refers to him as “father”, so don’t try to excuse it. One of the announcers even makes the point “Technically, it’s Frankenstein’s Monster if you wanna be a dick about it.”, leading me to believe that the commentary was mostly improvised, as even the actors are calling out the script. Anyway, the Creatures conference consists of Cyclops, Witch Bitch, Swamp Gut, and Werewolf. It feels odd that half of the monsters have actual names, while the others are simply named what they are. They’re essentially Pokemon, only they don’t shout “Werewolf! Were! Were! Wolf! Werewolf!”all the time. Having a unique name helps people invest in a character, just like in “real” wrestling. Names like “Stone Cold” or “Big Show” or “Macho Man” or “The Rock” help define those characters. They wouldn’t have been nearly as successful if they were just called “Tough Guy”, “Large Man”, “Flamboyant Guy”, and “Ego Man”. If these guys had written The Wrestler, Randy’s ring name wouldn’t have been “The Ram”. He would’ve just been called “Wrestler”!… though “Randy the Wrestler” does sound like a great name for a really lame create-a-character the next time I play a WWE game.
Trying to instill each monster with a modicum of interest, all participants are given a brief introductory mini-movie that sometimes includes an origin story, sometimes touches on their motivations to fight, sometimes introduces their manager, and sometimes just involves them killing someone because, again, the writers cared so little about developing some of these creatures and just tossed them in to pad their roster. The managers were an especially smart move on the writers’ part, though. Whereas in “real” wrestling, some performers failed out of acting class and need a convincing mouthpiece to get them over with the crowd, some of the monsters here are just devoid of coherent speaking entirely. Most notably, this is where Kevin “Big Daddy Cool” Nash comes into the script as Colonel Crookshanks – the militant caretaker and trainer for Zombie Man. Not to spoil anything, but if you thought Kevin Nash was hired for his thespian skills and isn’t going to end up in the ring at some point, you’d be ill-advised to join a poker game anytime soon.
Oh yeah, in case the tournament setup sounded too simple to follow, MB can and will complicate things further. Both conferences are also divided into two weight classes – Middleweights and Heavyweights. Each weight class from each conference will crown a champion, then the two heavyweight champions will fight each other to determine who is the mightiest of monsters… while the Middleweight champions will just have to be happy knowing they weren’t murdered, I guess. Though I’m happy that this means I’m spared any additional matches to sit through, it does shit all over their introductory concept about “Eight deadly monsters…fighting to the death to determine the most powerful ghoul of all time” when HALF of the ghouls in question aren’t actually eligible for the top spot! Liars! Truth spurners! Vile misleaders! It’s perjury I tells ya! And on a more nitpickery level, how the fuck does a werewolf wind up in the Heavyweights division, while a cyclops, know to be the giant superbeasts of the mythological world, ends up slapping around Witch Bitch in the Middleweights!? If you don’t want me to shit on your show, don’t feed me Taco Bell in every segment then lock the door to the Port-a-Johns. That brown’s comin’ down, and it’s gotta go somewhere.
We’re told that the Brawl itself is only viewable on Pay Per View, as it’s too dangerous to hold in front of a live audience due to “insurance purposes”, so the fights take place in a ring set up in an empty graveyard. This cuts out the potential for crowd casualties if/when things get out of hand and helps keep Blackburn’s insurance premiums down. Also, to cut out the movie’s budgetary burden of hiring and insuring extras. As a lifelong wrestling fan, this lack of a crowd KILLS any excitement to these “fights”, because one of the things that really makes or breaks the ballet of choreographed fantasy brutality is the teeming masses cheering or deriding the participants. Even King Kong vs. Godzilla and Freddy vs. Jason benefited greatly from having audiences to hype the blow-by-blow. When you reduce that audience participation to two intoxicated announcers just telling us what we’re looking at with little more than a “Why am I here?” interest while infamous pro-wrestling pitch man Jimmy “the Mouth of the South” Hart spews whatever artificial hype-juice he’s got left in him, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot instead of selling your product. An audience, even one PAID to cheer, is still better than none at all. And NO Jimmy Hart is still way better than ANY Jimmy Hart.
Maybe the thought was that the viewers themselves would be the audience? Maybe the creators envisioned movie theaters filled with cheering nerds holding up signs like “Swamp Gut 3:16” or “Who wants to see MY cyclops?!” while jumping up and down like over-caffeinated howler monkeys covered in spilled nachos and Junior Mints. How could you not want a Junior Mint?! They’re VERY refreshing! Back on track, the idea of Monster Brawl being shown in theaters outside of indy festivals is almost as farfetched as running into any of the movie’s titular brawlers in real life at the Rubber Love Toys Depository… you know, the place down at the corner of Russell Ave. and Waters Dr. across the street from the Arby’s where that junkie overdosed on the toilet. As such, even if the theater crowd thing WAS the intention of its makers (I really need to stop making up excuses for these movies), it still doesn’t fix the glaring problem of there being NO CROWD… or that I STILL have to listen to Jimmy Hart! Argh!
If you can’t afford to pay off a big group of extras with free lunch meat and off-brand cigarettes, you should at least try and cover the lack of crowd noise up with some exciting music to accompany your thematic rumbles. Yet again though, a potentially good concept farts all over itself. We get music, but instead of anything exciting to ramp up the already dwindling interest, the matches are further bogged down by droning horror movie generica that’s more suited for curing insomnia than stopping me from checking the time code every 10 minutes wondering why the fuck this movie’s STILL not over. My first viewing actually did end in a solid KO for me, as I drifted off about 25 minutes in and didn’t wake up until well later when I was greeted with the NetFlix “Other Shit You Should’ve Watched Instead of Monster Brawl” screen. I had to take half a bottle caffeine pills and a very minute dip of cocaine to make sure I didn’t fall asleep for the second viewing. I went to the imdb.com message boards for this snore orgy (a.k.a. “snorgy”) to see what others had to say about their own viewing experiences, and one of the first posts I noticed was another guy who took a spike piledriver from the Sandman during his viewing too! Professional wrestler CM Punk has a signature move he calls the “Go to Sleep”, where he drives his knee into his opponent’s face to knock them unconscious. An appropriate name for such a maneuver. But, you know what I think would be an even better name for it now? Yep, “The Monster Brawl”.
You can’t have a movie review without talking about the story, so let’s address that now – there is none. That was easy. Next? You can’t have a movie review about a feature that centers around a combat tournament without commenting on the action, so let’s do that too. For starters, each match features Mortal Kombat style narration comments by God (if you’ve rented Lance Henriksen’s voice for the hour, you’re gonna get your money’s worth, right?), which is wholly unnecessary in the presences of the running drunken commentary already being provided by Buzz Chambers (Dave Foley) and “Sasquatch” Sid Tucker (Art Hindle). Obviously these are meant as a nudge to gamer geeks, but when you’re already clusterfucking several genres to begin with, adding more ingredients to the stew doesn’t cover up the fact that your meat is just rancid, slimy, gray chunks. Speaking of video games, there’s also a callback to Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! stand out King Hippo. Tidbits like this used to make me feel so smart, being able to pick out the inside jokes. Now they just annoy the shit out of me. I don’t know why, they just do. Call me a bitter old Death God curmudgeon if you like. I’ve called myself way worse.
The combat itself is incredibly basic, which makes sense since you wouldn’t expect a mummy to do Moonsaults or a swamp monster to pull out a Tiger Driver. The most technical maneuver you’ll see is a figure-four leglock. Weapons and supernatural powers (and managers) come into play more often than not, including a rather nauseating scene of Cyclops beating Witch Bitch in the face repeatedly with a hammer… Not that I’m a weak-kneed pussy, but witch bitch or not, watching a woman’s face bashed numerous times by a big dude with a hammer while he’s pinning her down? No. You know what might’ve been a better idea? Why not just have Witch Bitch and Lady Vampire fight for a Monster Brawl Women’s Championship separate from the man-beasts? It’d make a lot more sense, especially from a wrestling nerd standpoint. Cyclops melting the bitch’s face with his monocular doomsday ray is fine, but jesus on a pogo stick, that face hammering scene unsettles me in a non-enjoyable fashion. So, strike 8 Monster Brawl… you really should’ve walked away from the plate, like, 5 strikes ago. This is just kinda sad to look at now. You’re just depressing us.
The glaring “powerbomb onto a bag of broken glass” with Monster Brawl isn’t that it’s not a movie (which it isn’t), but that it’s a big budget idea done on less money that it would take to hire Verne Troyer to host your next back alley cockfight. Cook & Brown scrounged up enough money to cast Dave Foley (who, having done Postal, obviously has no illusions of dignity left to get in the way of even the most modest of paychecks at this point), and after that it was just a matter of buying Hindle a bottle of Wild Turkey (or “Moderately Excitable Turkey” as the budgetary case may have been), convincing one of their sisters to blow Jimmy Hart, telling Kevin Nash he could be on camera without having to dye his hair (that one’s for my fellow wrestle-nerds), and, let’s say they blackmailed UFC official Herb Dean into reffing the matches… which are to the death… so… what needs to be officiated exactly? With the so-called “stars” in alignment, our intrepid troubadours bought an old wrestling ring from an abandoned storage locker auction (likely left by some crippled ex-wrestler wanna be who probably broke his neck during the backyard wrestling craze of the ’90s), and hired their buddies who dropped out of the Tom Savini Special FX School to monster up a group of local independent wrestlers he found falling all over each other during a show at a local bingo hall.
Actually, the makeup jobs and costume designs are pretty good, so I’m gonna say the buddies are graduates, not drop outs. Also, two of the monsters are actually played by experienced professional wrestlers – Lady Vampire is played by freelance Canadian grappler Kelly Couture (who knows how to throw a bitchin’ dropkick) and Frankenstein(‘s Monster) is played by former WWF colossus turned b-movie bigfoot Rob Maillet, who wrestling fans will know better by his ’90s era character Kurrgan. That’s right Highlanderers, the WWF had a Kurrgan of their own. On a more modern note, fans of Pacific Rim will recognize Maillet as Kaidanovsky, the towering bleach-blond co-pilot for Russian Jaeger, Cherno Alpha! Aside from these two things, I’m relatively sure the rest of my prior paragraph is apt.
In closing, though I will gladly shit all over the product of their dreams with my trademark Anubis aplomb, I will not shit all over Jesse Cook and Jason Brown for making said dreams come as close to true as they’ll probably ever get. Brown especially, who even steps into the ring to fill the shoes of two of the gruesome competitors – Cyclops and Swamp Gut. On my old site I tried several times to set up a monster brawling league of my own (Who Would Win a Fight? – WWWF?) that was little more than my poor attempts at illustrating fantasy face-off scenarios and posting polls for readers to determine the outcomes. I couldn’t even do that without giving up almost immediately following the first month or so, so going through with making a very niche movie about this kinda thing and actually getting it produced and shown at a handful of film festivals is an accomplishment I myself will never live up to. In that respect, I say congratulations Sirs. Be proud. Just don’t do it again, because fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, beg for mercy… while I bite off your fingers one-at-a-time… and your legs are lodged in bear traps… the big steel shark mouth looking ones at that… Good night, everybody!
Moral of the Story: Some playthings are better left in the toy-box.
Okay. I gotta admit, that’s pretty damn clever. Bravo.
“The three of us are only here because we’re getting paid to be. What the hell’s your excuse?”
Not sure which is more pathetic here – the guy dressed in the weird ’70s suit that should’ve been burned 30 years ago, or the 70 year-old man wearing Converse All Stars.
“Everybody stay where you are! I dropped my contact lens!”
“I thought that the most demeaning point of my life was taking that job as the helper elf to a mall Santa, but here I am!”
The girls are being paid for their appearance with cocaine. Jimmy’s being paid for his appearance with the girls. Life is cruel.
I call bullshit! If this were really shot in a Southern bayou, there’s no way that sign would be spelled right!
I know dogs can’t help but roll around in big piles of rancid filth, but come on. You don’t know where Swamp Thing’s been!
“Son, I used to make millions of dollars a year to pretend fight people on a globally broadcast televised wrestling program. Now I’m doing shit like this. Trust me, LET SOMEONE WITH A DIPLOMA INVEST YOUR MONEY FOR YOU!”
“By the time anyone discovers we’ve got the real Miley Cyrus locked up here, it will be too late and World War III will be unavoidable!”
“But… this… so sudden! Me… no prepared! But… YES! YES! Me… marry you! Me… love you!”
Looks like Kevin Nash was making pancakes and tore his quad AGAIN!… sorry, that was a joke for my fellow wrestling nerds.
Gerard Butler partakes in “No Shave November” to help raise awareness for cancer. After one week he’s kidnapped by a Mexican traveling circus and forced to perform as The Dog-Faced Boy.
Somehow, I don’t think he’s got any outfits that would go with that belt. It looks like something he bought at GWAR’s yard sale.
Anubis will return next time in
“It’s Okay, I Have a Black Friend”
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