It’s always nice to start a review off on a positive note, so here’s the highest praise I can possible give to Jesse T. Cook’s Monster Brawl: it’s a film in which classic movie monster square off against each other in mortal combat, flanked by half-naked women and with commentary by Jimmy Hart, Dave Foley and Art Hindle. With that in mind, it’s frankly laudable that the film is as boring as it is.
The film is structured around five “brawls” (for an ungodly moment I thought they were going to subject the audience to six brawls total, but thankfully the film ends before the tournament does) between eight different monsters. In concept these monsters were to be familiar faces from early Universal films and other classic horror, but as the production budget didn’t quite cover copyright fees the combatants are all Sainsbury’s Basic versions of themselves. Therefore, we have Swamp Gut (in no way affiliated with Swamp Thing), Lady Vampire (Dracula Who?), The Mummy (but not that Mummy), and Werewolf (who bears an uncanny resemblance to The Wolf Man, but no so uncanny as to raise legal issues).
What do the monsters do when they get into the ring? Well … they punch each other. Sometimes they employ wrestling moves like the clothesline or the piledriver, but mainly it’s just punching, with very little in the way of monster-specific abilities. In essence, I was watching a bunch of men dressed in silly costumes pretending to fight each other, and I’m fairly sure you can watch that executed with a great deal more finesse over on Sky Sports 2.
It’s not all brawling, though. Each monster gets his or her own introductory segment, and despite being fairly bland or uninteresting, these are at least vastly preferable to anything that happens in the ring. Monster Brawl is a “horror comedy”, and its grounds for these claims mainly come from the profiling segments. For example, we usually get to see the monsters killing some poor hapless victim, and while not scary per se, these scenes might at least remind you of scary scenes from other films. There are also some genuinely funny moments to be gleaned from these sections, for example Cyclops’ training montage or a nature documentary about Swamp Gut.
The costumes and make-up are of the same quality you’d generally find in an episode of The Mighty Boosh, only in this case I don’t believe that they were left intentionally bad for comic effect. A few of the gore effects are semi-convincing, but spoiled somewhat by the camera lingering excitedly in extreme close-up until you start to see the papier-mâché edges.
Perhaps Monster Brawl would have been better if it were released episodically – as a television or web series. As a film, it was dull, repetitive, and painful to watch for all the wrong reasons.
Monster Brawl is available on DVD in the UK from August 20th 2012.