Monday, October 24, 2011

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Monster Brawl (2011)

This review is part of my coverage of the 2011 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, taking place October 20-27 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For more information, check out their website. For my full coverage go here.

Toronto After Dark kicked off its week-long genre festival with a punch as Canadian filmmaker Jesse Cook's Monster Brawl took opening night. Set in a haunted graveyard near Lake Michigan, the film plays as a Wrestlemania-esque tv special that pairs up eight of horror culture's monsters for a series of deadly matches. Witch Bitch fights the Cyclops, Lady Vampire fights the Mummy, and the Werewolf, Zombie Man, Swamp Gut, and Frankenstein (...'s monster) fight it off for the Heavyweight Championship. Buzz Chambers (Dave Foley) and Sasquatch Sid Tucker (Art Hindle) commentate from a nearby shanty, and various flashbacks are shown to round out the fighters' circumstances.

With a bare-bones premise and limited resources, Monster Brawl does manage to do a lot with a little. It's essentially a versus video game stretched out to a feature-length film, and it works to an extent due to the attention to parodic detail, the funny script, and the enthusiastic cast. Of course I loved Dave Foley as the miserable commentator Buzz, who gets drunker and drunker as the fights progress, and Kelly Couture as Lady Vampire was a fucking animal in the ring. Jimmy Hart has a silly time as himself, an excitable announcer who gets to hang out with two bikini-clad ladies. The backstories are mostly pretty funny and clever, especially Swamp Gut's environmental documentary-style origin.

The effects are strong, with some imaginative make-up and prosthetics, and the fights are well choreographed, but really the concept just cannot work for a full-length movie. It's a fun idea and certainly one that many adolescent nerds will latch on to, but the long series of fights with very little narrative thread doesn't hold together for a runtime longer than 45 minutes. The film is executed well and it looks like everyone had a fun time working on it- the filmmaker and several castmembers were in attendance and we even got to see a little smack talking action- so I appreciated it as an easy to digest, crowd-pleasing start to the festival.

Also I was happy the monsters I rooted for won their battles!


Pair This Movie With: It'd be pretty silly to team it with a classic example of the monster genre, like the 1931 Frankenstein or something. Or for more funny commentators and fake sports you can't go wrong with BASEketball.

Monster Brawl official site
Monster Brawl trailer


  1. Did the director mention how big the budget was for this?

  2. Rich: I don't believe they did, I assume it was fairly small? It was the kind of movie where everyone did multiple jobs, like one guy would play several of the monsters.

  3. I don't think they gave a number at Fantasia either (where practically the entire cast and crew was on stage), especially since you just don't do that before distribution is set, but I gather it was infinitesimal, with Dave Foley (and the other announcer) being roped in because they were from the same hometown.

  4. The trailer for this film struck me as something that would have worked better as a short instead of a feature length film. Still, I may check this one out when it hits video.

  5. What a brilliant post, thanks so much for sharing this with us.