We here at Swampflix love wrestling movies. We love horror & gore. We also love low-budget/high-concept camp. It should come to no surprise then that the low budget camp fest Monster Brawl, within which famous monsters fight to the death in a graveyard wrestling tournament, is a huge hit with us. It’s the perfect example of a high-concept thoroughly explored and a modest-at-best budget pushed to its limits. The movie so firmly in our wheelhouse that I’d suspect it was secretly made with us in mind if it weren’t released four years before our modest blog was born.
If you’re asking yourself why famous monsters would meet to wrestle in a literal death match in an American graveyard the answer is simple: to determine the most powerful ghoul of all time, of course. Monster Brawl is filmed like a televised wrestling promotion: the company’s logo appears in the bottom of the screen, each competitor boasts about their monstrous abilities in individual promos, and an announcing team calls the matches live as they happen. For a small-time promotion that started in someone’s mom’s basement (seriously) Monster Brawl secured a surprisingly deep, talented roster. The Undead Conference features The Mummy, Zombie Man, Lady Vampire, and Frankenstein (“Technically it’s Frankenstein’s monster if you want to be a dick about it”). Wrestling for The Creatures Conference we have Werewolf, Cyclops, Witch Bitch, and Swamp Gut (a local boy as it were; Swamp Gut is an obese, Louisiana-tinged knockoff of The Creature from the Black Lagoon). The monster make-up and the in-the-ring gore looks great, seemingly eating up most of the film’s budget considering the range & scope of the limited locations & actors. A lot of time & energy went into the monsters, which was the right decision, and it pays off in gags like hieroglyphics playing under The Mummy’s incomprehensible promo and the Cyclops’ face-searing laser beams (or “mythical laser blasts” if you will).
Narrating the action, Monster’s Brawl’s ringside announcers feature Kids in the Hall vet Dave Foley as a barely-functioning alcoholic and character actor Art Hindle as former Monster Brawl champion Sasquatch Sid Tucker. Foley & Hindle seem to have a lot of fun with the absurdity of their lines, which include gems like “We underestimated this monster. He must have been trained in vampire slaying techniques” and “For the first time in professional sports, folks, we’re witnessing the dead rising from their graves to attack Frankenstein.” Monster’s Brawl gets a lot right about the more ridiculous aspects of pro wrestling: the former-wrestlers-turned-announcers, the inconsequential refs, the outside-the-ring action, etc. Because the film’s “death matches” are quite literal the action can include violence that the more family-friendly WWE cannot: chair shots to the head, inter-gender matches, murder. The spirit of wrestling is captured well and even includes small roles for former NWO member Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan’s former blowhard manager “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart. In addition to Hart’s ecstatic shouting & the announcing team’s endless drunken blathering the film features a third level of narration: the disembodied voice of the legendary horror staple Lance Henrikson, who is billed here simply as “God”. Henrikson only occasionally interjects on the action, punctuating particularly gruesome wrestling moves with words like “Majestic.”, “Appalling.”, “Tremendous.”, and “Discombobulating.” in what has to be a parody of the narration in Mortal Kombat gameplay.
Just as Monster Brawl gets wrestling right, it also nails the tone of horror flicks. Instead of cheesy entrance music that usually accompanies performers, the famous monsters get the eerie horror soundtracks they deserve. The action of the film also devolves into complete chaos in its final act, which is pretty standard for a creature feature. We were fairly cruel to Monster Brawl director Jesse Thomas Cook’s most recent film, the “hideous poo beast” monster movie Septic Man, but Monster Brawl gets so much right about both its pro-wrestling-meets-classic-horror premise, that it’s impossible not to love it (given that wrestling or gore-soaked horror are your thing). Scripted & shot like a broadcast of a wrestling promotion every disturbed ten year old wishes existed, Monster Brawl is camp cinema at its finest.