I don't want to trash 'Monster Brawl.' Really. I wish I could focus this review on the fun aspects of the film, which isn't quite super-low budget but still has an indie vibe to it, one where you can see the sweat and tears the men and women behind it. I wish I could spend a good few paragraphs detailing the obvious inspirations for the film, which are, quite honestly, somewhat hilarious in their randomness. I would love to spend a good few paragraphs discussing the somewhat overly scripted, pun heavy commentary crew for the film, as they bring the film to as much life as it ever gets. Basically, I'd love to banter on about the potential for fun in this silly little flick.
If 'Monster Brawl' weren't one of the worst films I've ever seen in my life, chances are the ideals in the above paragraph would come shining through in spades; however, since I somewhat hope every person involved in the film is forever banned from cinema, both making it and even watching it, the positives in this review have already come and gone.
'Monster Brawl' doesn't feel like a typical movie. In fact, the best way to describe it would be to infer a mixture of 1980's WWF (now WWE) Saturday Night Main Event and a UFC pay-per-view, with movie monster-type creatures as the combatants, with a dash of 'Celebrity Death Match' and a hint of 'Behind the Music' for kicks. There is no plot, no story. What counts as a "synopsis" to this film would involve a simple one liner: varying monsters do battle in a one-on-one wrestling-type tournament to crown the king of the monsters. Why, exactly, any of these monsters give a rat's ass about any title, nor why it's worth risking their existence is not exactly explained.
The lineup of eight competing creatures? Frankenstein. A mummy, more like the bandaged form of Mumm-Ra than the Brendan Fraser film baddies. A cyclops. Lady Vampire, who, get this, is apparently both a lady and a vampire. Swamp Gut (not quite 'Swamp Thing,' not quite 'Man-Thing,' not quite a living pile of shit). Werewolf (no, not 'Wolfman'). Zombie Man, who, much like Lady Vampire, has his identity solely linked to his name. Lastly? Witch Bitch. No, really, that's her name, and her manager is a midget. The lighter baddies will do battle to the death and be done, while the winners of each of the "heavyweight" battles will face each other for the metaphorical crown.
The format of this film is creative and unique, at first, but turns repetitive and becomes one of its biggest weak points. After we learn the "premise," we flash to two vignettes, explaining how our first two combatants came to this crossroads, before they enter the wrestling ring in 'Thunderdome' style "two will enter, one will leave" fashion. Throw in random interjections from wrestling manager icon Jimmy Hart at the end of each fight, and repeat, over and over and over again. And, while this all adds up to some tragedy (for the viewers at home), the real nightmare comes from the fact that 1980's wrestling does not exactly translate twenty to thirty years later. The matches are absolutely terrible, even with some wrestling faces (such as Kevin Nash and Robert Maillet (aka Kurgan)) in the mix, with silly deus ex machina endings and loads of nonsensical filler. In other words, it's just like the WWE today. Zing!
The commentary (from Dave Foley and Art Hindle) is a callback to the classic crew of Vincent K. McMahon and Jesse Ventura, with the occasional hint of Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby the Brain Heenan squabbling, but the track grows stale as the film rolls one. Yes, it's great to see Foley continually imbibing from his flask and getting more and more rowdy as the event rolls on, but the puns and flow is just too inhuman and unnatural. Chemistry doesn't exist. That said, the color crew is infinitely more appreciable than the contribution from Lance Henriksen. Imagine that you're playing a game of Mortal Kombat, and after each round or particularly devastating maneuver, a random god-like voice booms through, informing us of how amazing or deadly a hit was. There's no explanation as to why these noises happen; they just do. If this bothers you, get ready for cinematic hell, as it doesn't stop until the film mercifully runs out of money/runtime.
'Monster Brawl' wastes its recognizable talents, bores us to tears with dialogue that screams of heavy scripting and a lack of chemistry between anyone, be they talkers or fighters. The vignettes are painfully boring, the fights aren't that much better. Someday, I hope writer/director Jesse T. Cook faces a room full of people who saw this film and realizes how dead inside he made them.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Image Entertainment unleashes 'Monster Brawl' on Blu-ray on a Region A locked BD25 disc. There are a number of Image horror trailers pre-menu, though the top menu button skips right past them. There are no packaging or navigation gimmicks to this release.
'Monster Brawl' arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080i/AVC MPEG-4 encode framed at 2.35:1, and the result is fair, a humdrum middle of the road disc. Ignoring the random aliasing and interlacing, the picture has constant, solid colors, no real technical issues (such as artifacting), and black levels, while a bit too bright, never crush. Textures can be pretty darned good for the most part, and while skin tones are a bit sporadic and flesh less than lifelike, I will admit, I loved the way edges leapt. The way the dust flies off the mummy character, my goodness, it makes every shot extremely pleasant and intriguing. Still, the aliasing got to be a bit annoying, and while consistent, the picture isn't ever stand out or all that deep.
If I had to give 'Monster Brawl' scores for each individual element of its lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, the disparity between elements that worked and those that didn't would make for a seriously lopsided report card. Bass elements work great, with constant rumbles throughout the picture keeping the sound interesting, punctuating every appropriate moment, but rears, oh lord are they a failure. Localized effects pop up briefly, but the problem is that directionality is all off. After prolonged inactivity, random noises get thrown to the rear, despite the fact they appear to be coming from right in front of you, seemingly just thrown to the rear to try to engage the audience. It doesn't work. There's also some audio crackle and a pop or two in the sound, the most noticeable being at the end of Jimmy Hart's first tirade. While the commentary comes through crystal clear, and the constant thudding bass makes for some solid entertainment, the shortcomings are more than enough to keep this disc from earning a high score, low budget or not.
Look, I'm not trying to stop anyone from seeing 'Monster Brawl.' Really. I do think that anyone who isn't a vintage wrestling fan should enter with extreme hesitation and non-existent expectations, yes, but really, this is one experience that will invoke either extreme love or hate. Personally, I'm on the hate side, as there are so many balls dropped over the runtime that even historic bumbler Kyle Williams of the San Francisco 49ers would be embarrassed by what's on display. This film makes no bloody sense, nor does it ever try. 'Monster Brawl' makes for an average Blu-ray release, so one can do much worse in terms of presentation quality, but be warned: I don't foresee any replay value in this feature whatsoever. Skip it, rent it, do what you must. Just don't buy this one blind, since these modern eco-cases don't hold up uneven furniture as well as those older, sturdier ones, if you catch my drift.