After Dark 2011: ‘Monster Brawl’ blows hot and cold (Review #2)
Directed by Jesse T. Cook
2011, Canada, 90 minutes
Know what would improve wrestling? Classic movie monsters, that’s what. How would you get classic film monsters, such as Cyclops and Frankenstein, in the ring together? By saying “fuck narrative”, that’s how. Director Jesse Cook wanted to see a bunch of monsters square off in a WWE-meets-Mortal-Kombat-style death match, and that’s what he did. Why? Because fighting is cool and so are monsters, that’s why.
Shot on a low budget with lots of heart, Monster Brawl plays like a pay-per-view event, complete with a graveyard arena, ringside commentators Dave Foley (Kids in the Hall) and Art Hindle (Black Christmas), hot ring girls, and WWF icon Jimmy “the mouth of the south” Hart. Ringside action is punctuated with little vignettes introducing the monsters: Cyclops, Witch Bitch, Lady Vampire, the Mummy, Wolfman, Swamp Gut, Zombie Man, and Frankenstein. When the film is at it’s best, fright night at the cinema turns into fight night at the bar. The audience picks favourites (the biggest surprise? Swamp Gut) and starts cheering, catcalling, and booing. Foley and Hindle as Buzz Chambers (doing his best Howard Cosell) and Sasquatch Sid constantly steal the show.
(When they were introducing Frankenstein, I was smugly thinking to myself “Ha! Frankenstein is the doctor—the monster is just Frankenstein’s Monster.” Then Foley pointed out that the only people who insist on this detail are dicks. Well played, Foley.)
Monster Brawl has a lot going on. Too much, in fact. This is a film desperately in need of a good editor; it has some serious pacing problems. For a film that says “Fuck it, let’s just have monsters fighting”, it takes an unreasonably long time for the first fight to start. Sure, some of the pre-show is great, but it’s just not all necessary.
Unfortunately, some of the fights drag too. A movie about fighting should have lots of great fight sequences. Monster Brawl has a few good sequences, but a lot of dull ones. Sure, not every fight can be completely unique, but I’d forgive that if they’d move along at a faster clip.
To really enjoy this film, you’ve got overlook a few flaws, like wandering accent syndrome and terrible pacing. The best way to do that, I suspect, is with a fridge full of beers and a basement full of friends. If you can overlook said flaws, Monster Brawl has some golden moments (Swamp Gut’s opening tirade is hysterical) and a great premise: in a fight with monster x versus monster y, who would win?
– Dave Robson
The 6th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs October 20 though 27, 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For complete festival info visit www.torontoafterdark.com.