After Dark 2011 Opening Night – My Review of Monster Brawl
Last night marked the grand opening of the 6th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival and Geek Hard Was There!……for the second screening.
That’s right. For the first time in After Dark History, the opening night film sold out so fast that they decided to show back to back screenings of it to get as many people in as they can for the Canadian Horror Comedy, Monster Brawl. The Energy coming from the building that houses the Toronto Underground Cinema was powerful as the huddled masses patiently waited for the first film let out and this humble reviewer was just as excited as the rest of them. I am a huge fan of movies and I am a long time fan of wrestling, so a film like Monster Brawl, where 8 of the greatest Monsters of all time battle it out in the squared circle in a fight to the death, is right up my alley. As the first film finished and the crowd made it’s way out of the theatre, I saw a great deal of Ontario’s Indy Wrestling Community pass me by in the hall (Is it bad that I can recognized them in their civvies?). Among them was an old rival and the worst women’s Champion of all time, Anthony Darko. We traded insults but it wasn’t enough to ruin my night.
As I took my seat in the cinema, I looked around to see a nice mix of film fans and wrestling fans. As it should be for a flick like this. Minutes later, Adam Lopez, After Dark Festival Director and Founder, took the stage to welcome everyone to the second screening of the night. He invited Jesse Cook, the filmmaker behind Monster Brawl, to come up on stage and introduce the movie. During this time, Jesse presented Adam with the Championship Belt from the Brawl. It was a short moment of happiness for the newly crowned champ as RJ Skinner, who plays the werewolf stormed the stage to cut a promo. He got in Lopez’s face, stating that the festival sucked, that Cook was a terrible director and that the rest of the cast was a bunch of posers. As he continued to berate the crowd, the classic “Real American” theme performed by Rick Derringer came blasting over the speakers and The Mouth of the South, Jimmy Hart and Robert Maillet, two of the film’s stars, walked to the stage. Maillet made short work of the Wolfman and the film was ready to begin.
Before the Movie, we were treated to a few trailers and promos. We also got to enjoy a short film from 2010, The Legend of Beaver Dam. The film is about a co-ed kids scout troop and their counsellor (played by Sean Cullen) in the woods where they are terrorized by a crazy killer named Stumpy Sam. Not surprising, this film was a comedy. But on top of that, it was also a musical at parts. The short was entertaining and it two great things in it – Sean Cullen swearing and some fast paced carnage. And with that out of the way, it was time for the feature.
Monster Brawl is everything you’d expect. It’s campy wrestling with monsters. But the presentation of this film is what is key here. Right from the opening, the story is told in the form of a wrestling pay-per-view. Dave Foley of Kids in the Hall and Art Hindle, famed Canadian character actor, act as commentators for the event, and the host and ring announcer is Jimmy Hart who appears as himself. The event has ring girls, crowd shots (there’s no crowd, so it’s just a bunch of grave stones), and MMA referee Herb Dean, also playing himself, standing is as the officiator. To top it off, all the promos for the event feature voice over from Lance Henriksen. All of these factors come together to really pull off the right look and feel of what an actual Monster Fighting League pay-per-view would look like. Now you might be thinking, “Well does it explain why the Monsters are even competing?” That’s a great question. One that the makers of Monster Brawl took into account. Now for those that don’t know, Wrestling always likes to cut to video packages before their big PPV fights. These packages usually give a fan a quick recap on why this particular match is happening. Monster Brawl is no exception. But the packages are actually short films that explain the history and motivations of the creatures and undead combatants (it’s important to mention them each separately, because they fight in different conferences on the event). And when we finally see the action, it’s a mixed bag of styles. The commentary is reminiscent of an Impact Wrestling show. The wrestling in the ring is a cross between some of the fist-stomp action of the eighties and level of Mortal Combat – after various combos and attacks, Henriksen’s voice can be heard out of nowhere, naming the move or combination.
At the end of the day, although this film has great storytelling and great presentation (something that’s actually missing from mainstream wrestling on t.v. these days), what sells this film is it’s performances. Foley and Art Hindle steal the show with their fantastic banter. Maillet is a convincing monster powerhouse and RJ Skinner is great underdog. Jimmy Hart is Jimmy Hart – Nuff Said. Kevin Nash, who makes a cameo in the film as Colonel Crookshank, a military officer and manager of the Zombie Man, is especially fun to watch. And surprisingly, even Herb Dean gets a few laughs.
I don’t think I have to tell you that I loved the film, but I will anyways. The movie is being distributed by Anchor Bay, so expect to see it on DVD eventually. It was a great film to start off this event as I wasn’t the only one who really got into it. The crowd booed an cheered like they were at a real wrestling event. Needless to say, this film drew the heat. Hopefully this heat will last for the whole damn fest.
For info on this film, go to the Monster Brawl Website
For a complete schedule for the rest of the After Dark, go to torontoafterdark.com
And if You’re gonna geek out, Geek Hard!