Alien Vs Predator? Freddy Vs Jason? Godzilla Vs King Kong? Taking the Versus movie to its ultimate conclusion, Monster Brawl has one stupidly simple and enticing concept: movie monsters taking to the ring in a mockumentary ‘fight of the living dead’.
An undead spoof on pro-wrestling tv, the action takes place in a cursed cemetery complete with combat ring, the monster competitors facing each other off in a series of bouts: Cyclops, Frankenstein, The Mummy, as well as – for copyright reasons – Werewolf, Zombie Man, Lady Vampire, Swamp Guts and – for no good reason at all – Witch Bitch.
In support are the hapless and inebriated commentators Buzz Chambers (Dave Foley) and Sasquatch Sid Tucker (Art Hindle), backed by ‘real-life’ wrestling manager Jimmy Hart and two young women in their scanties.
On the plus side the archetypal cemetery setting is impressively realised and the inventive graphics and promotion for this movie realise its concept far better than any of the action. It’s also thanks to the likeable and nicely pitched performances of Foley, Hindle and Hart – “technically it’s ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’ if you want to be a dick about it” – that parts of this lengthy skit are watchable.
The unavoidable problem is that the monsters are a poorly realised bunch of counterfeit knock-offs (with the possible exception of Frankenstein (Robert Maillet), who at least evokes some pathos with his sad, lumpy charm), unsuccessful as either comic or dramatic characters. The fights themselves – there are about five – will drive you moronic with boredom. The contestants plod around the ring throwing punches and conventional wrestling moves with bewilderingly little in the way of special monster abilities.
There’s none of the eyeball flying, Sam Raimi-style cartoon spectacle you might rightly hope for from a monster wrestling movie, and attempts to amp up the action with more gore, the dead rising from their graves, etc are foiled by the film’s dry, live-sports presentation and lazy pacing.
Beyond the terrible fights its the feature-length form of the film that undermines it too – without a plot this kind of thing desperately needs more variety. There are short introductions to each of the contestants showing their monster-origins, some of which like the Swamp Guts spoof-Attenborough nature documentary are not bad, while others seem to try more vainly for you to care anything about the back-story of Witch Bitch.
So despite the nice packaging and the promises of the concept (not to mention the presence of Lance Henrikson, thankfully safely disembodied as the voice of God narrator), Monster Brawl is an important reminder that historically most Versus movies have been pretty damn awful.