“Trashterpiece Theater” Presents:
MONSTER BRAWL (2011)
Review by Stacey Longo
I have many fond memories of going to wrestling matches with my dad in the heyday of George “The Animal” Steele and Bob Backlund; my first husband was a huge fan of the WWE’s “Attitude” era. And there are worse things a husband can make a wife sit through than an oiled-up Stone Cold Steve Austin trading barbs and hip-tosses with an oiled-up Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (recently named People’s Sexiest Man Alive, by the way, and with good reason). So when I found out MONSTER BRAWL (2011) existed, I immediately popped the popcorn, put on my Austin 3:16 tee, and settled down to enjoy the film.
MONSTER BRAWL is a horror/comedy/farce featuring classic monsters wrestling in the middle of a secret graveyard. (I know it sounds ridiculous. It is.) Buzz Chambers (THE KIDS IN THE HALL’s Dave Foley) and “Sasquatch” Sid Tucker (Art Hindle) are the announcers for this showdown, the wrestling event of the season. This movie is set up much like an early eighties WWE event, complete with “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart playing himself as a ringside barker.
Cemetery ghoul Cyril Haggard (Jason David Brown) warns the announcers that this secret graveyard brawl is evil, and they’re going to pay. “Thank you for all the foreboding,” Chambers quips. It’s the first instance when the audience is clued in to the fact that perhaps this movie is trying to be funny on purpose. Many of the jokes miss, but there are a few chuckles to be had here.
The monsters are fighting to the death. Before each match, we’re treated to a little backstory for each wrestler. They’re clearly trying to find a way to turn a wrestling event into a movie with a storyline, but it doesn’t work well. The backstory bits are laborious at best, and twenty minutes in, I wanted the first match to be over—and it hadn’t started yet. Also, there are continuity issues: after we’ve already been given the opponents’ histories, one announcer states they’re going to look at “the tale of the tape” to learn more about these two competitors—and the movie then jumps to the referee walking in.
The lineup for the evening is Cyclops vs. Witch Bitch, Mummy vs. Lady Vampire, Werewolf vs. Swamp Gut, and Frankenstein vs. Zombie Man, with a final match to determine who is the strongest monster of all. The first match starts with a few wrasslin’ staples: flying elbows, folding chairs . . . but then a knife is pulled, and the referee’s throat is accidentally sliced. The ringside announcers handle this with aplomb, Sasquatch Sid noting the ref’s demise and adding, “No more grieving, Buzz; we’re missing the action in the ring.” With no referee, anything goes, and the victor cheats to win, then decapitates a manager for good measure.
As the matchups continue, Lance Henriksen provides the voice of an omniscient commentator, much like the Mortal Kombat guy who solemnly proclaims when there’s been a fatality. You’ll see some other familiar wrestling faces besides the Mouth of the South—Kevin Nash has a small part as Colonel Crookshanks, the manager in charge of Zombie Man, and Robert Maillet, once known as the WWE’s Kurrgan before moving on to an acting career—best known as the Master on TV’s THE STRAIN—is Frankenstein’s Monster.
The dead rise from the grave after the second-to-last match, fulfilling the cemetery caretaker’s “you’re all doomed” prophecy, and you’ll hope the movie will end there, but it doesn’t. We have the final showdown to go, and I can’t tell you who’s in this match without spoiling the previous ones for you, provided you’ve made it this far and still care.
In MONSTER BRAWL, the announcers are the highlight of this movie, and though I’d expected Dave Foley to shine here, it’s Art Hindle’s Sasquatch Sid who steals each broadcasting booth scene. The Mummy’s Sanskrit subtitles were funny, as was Swamp Gut’s backstory, laid out like a clip from a nature documentary, but many of the jokes fall flat. The director took great pains to plan out the matches much like a wrestling pay-per-view, from the competitors cutting promos to starting with “jobber” matches before moving to mid-card and title fights. But this flick goes on much too long, the scenes with Jimmy Hart are redundant and unnecessary, and the announcers declare the winner with such hesitation that you’ll know they know it ain’t over yet. My advice: if you want to watch a good horror movie starring a former wrestler, give this one a pass and turn on THEY LIVE (1988) instead.
© Copyright 2017 by Stacey Longo Harris