I saw the poster for this film and became instantly excited. It is a low budget, direct-to-video production that features an assortment of actors that range from D-list celebs to wrestlers to stuntmen, but it had a fun premise. What if a variety of movie monsters were all put into a pay-per-view style fighting match? The idea is sound, and even with a low budget, there could have been fun to be had. Unfortunately that was not the case. This movie felt so poorly done that I actually fell asleep during the last 20 minutes (not something that happens very often, if at all) and had to start it back up again to make sure I caught the whole thing. This fight of the living dead was very underwhelming.
The plot is pretty straightforward. For whatever reason and with no apparent live audience, a wrestling-style fight to the death is set inside an abandoned and cursed graveyard, shown in a pay-per-view style atmosphere. The fighters are eight movie monsters that include Werewolf, the Mummy, Cyclops, Swamp Gut (everyone’s favorite, right?), Frankenstein (not correctly named Frankenstein’s monster), Lady Vampire, Witch Bitch (another classic…), and Zombie Man. Acting as play-by-play announcer is Buzz Chambers (Dave Foley doing a riff on Howard Cosell) along with his color commentator and former champ “Sasquatch” Sid Tucker (Art Hindle). We are given brief intros to each character before their bouts and are then treated to supposedly entertaining one-on-one fighting matches. From there, it is up to the fighting styles of these monsters and the antics of the announcers to keep us entertained.
It was really depressing to not be able to enjoy this film. It could have easily worked on a so bad it’s funny level, but everything about it just feels off. There is a lack of energy that makes it hard to root for anything that is going on. The wrestling matches are not at all that clever or well-staged. The comments from the announcers, which includes occasionally asides from WWE personality Jimmy Hart, are never very funny. Nothing about the various sight gags ever really seem that clever. The film is really just a mess of ideas that are not pulled off very well.
Given the low budget, I can give some credit to the makeup work, as it is the only area where the film seems to have tried, but it still does not make me appreciate the film that much more. I cannot say the same thing about the actual fights, because those were incredibly underwhelming. Given that these should be the highlights of the film, which at 90 minutes is still too long, I was depressed the most about how bored I was during the various bits of combat. The monsters all performed acts that would serve as signature moves, but nothing really seemed “cool” or interesting about them and the lack of an actual audience in the background to cheer on the action made the lack of energy in these fights all the more apparent. I know the budget was low, but the background sets, lack of people, and repeated thumping music cue made it seem more like we were watching the rehearsals of certain scenes and not the final product.
Monster Brawl was a dull experience all around. It misses it marks in being campy entertainment, even on a “so bad, it’s good” level. The assortment of monsters look fine in terms of decent makeup, but that’s really the only thing I can compliment. Everything else is depressing. The “comedy” is bad, the action is very uninteresting, and all the other aspects of this film are equally lacking. The premise is fun, but I have gotten more fun out of episodes of Celebrity Deathmatch than this bland experience.
The video quality of this Blu-ray is clean enough. Given that the film mostly dwells in the darkness, it certainly never looks muddy or unclear. The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is decent enough at making the various details, textures, and colors recognizable and the footage adjustments made to get across the pay-per-view-vibe comes across quite well. The black levels feel decent, with the washed out and muted colors standing well with the dark nature of the picture. It is also worth noting that a few fairly vibrant moments exist when the scenes depicting intros to the monsters allow the film to open up from a visual standpoint. Overall, it gets the job done as far as a decent Blu-ray transfer is concerned.
The quality of this audio track reflects reasons why the film is lacking. Despite having a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, Monster Brawl lacks much in the way of production values to really it show off. If there was a crowd cheering in the background, that probably would have been reflected well enough in the audio track and made the film more of an exciting watch. Given that this should be a film based around over-the-top wrestling antics, nothing really goes on to throw up the excitement level. The score of this film is a repetitive thumping and the various bits of dialogue and sound effects are clear, but nothing that makes the track come off as more than just average.
There are a few extra bits here, which are fine and at least presented in HD. While I did not care for the film at all, there is at least a few things here to show that I do not need to be spiteful to the filmmakers involved. These are guys that got a chance to do something for the cheap and while I did not really enjoy it, it seems like they at least had some fun while making the film.
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jesse Thomas Cook and Producers Matt Wiele and John Geddes – The reason I don’t wish ill of anyone involved, because these guys do not come off as arrogant.
Monster Brawl: Behind the Grave – A standard making-of featurette that is fairly comprehensive.
Tales from the Hart: Jimmy Hart Outtakes
I was not a fan of Monster Brawl. The film came off as a poor attempt at a decent idea. It is a low budget feature that may have aspired to be a decent show reel for future work, but just did not feel like much of an accomplishment. The Blu-ray is average. Nothing came off as poor, as far as the technical specs are concerned, but they were not of amazing quality either. At least the extras made it so I would not have lingering bad thoughts about this film. Monster Brawl could have been some DTV fun, but instead it’s just dull as the dirt some of these monsters sleep in.