Monster Brawl was released to Blu-ray and DVD this week and I had a chance to talk with writer and director Jesse Thomas Cook. For those that aren't familiar with the movie, Monster Brawl is an interesting mix of WWE-style wrestling with classic monsters and humor that reminds me of some of the classic "versus" monster films from the 60s and 70s.
Continue reading to learn about how the project came to be, monsters that didn't make the cut, and plans for a sequel or reboot:
Monster Brawl is so different from most horror films. What was your inspiration behind this concept and why did you decide to go with this type of film over a traditional story-drive movie?
Jesse Thomas Cook: We first set out to create a company that would produce 10 films in our home town of Collingwood, Ontario. We wanted to start off with a flagship film that would really be our calling card. We were throwing around ideas and wanted something that was comedy/horror. I started thinking of different kinds of monsters and it just dawned on me while driving. Why not have film where there is nothing but monsters fighting each other?
It kind of bloomed from there into a tournament movie that was like a pay-per-view event. It combines the cult following of professional wrestling with the horror genre to create something that we didn't think had been done before. It was very ambitious for the budget and it was a massive juggling act to get all of the pieces together. There were limited resources and a limited crew, so it a monumental challenge to say the least.
Was it a difficult process to secure funding for this project?
Jesse Thomas Cook: We tried the route of getting investors to finance one film and we made a cannibal film, but it didn't really do anything for us. We went back to the drawing board and thought we could get people to invest in a company that produced a slate of films, where the profits of one could roll into the next. We want to try two films per year for five years.
Who came up with the various monster designs? Some take a classical approach, while others are a unique take on fan favorite creatures.
Jesse Thomas Cook: I worked on the story with a designer friend of mine named Jason Brown. We came up with the monster ideas and decided on which ones we couldn't pull off. We worked together for a month or so and he designed all of the concepts and we'd send them to our effects team. The Gore Brothers have worked with us on all of our films, and they made it happen next to nothing.
We wanted to approach it where we'd appease the classic monster fans, but we did want female monsters and approached some of the characters from a wrestling angle. That's why you have a creature like Swamp Gut, who's a hybrid of all the swamp creatures, but also is the quintessential obese wrestler.
What monsters didn't make the cut?
Jesse Thomas Cook: There was always talk of having a sasquatch and yeti tag team. We also had an idea of a group of zombies versus a group of trolls, but really it came down to budget and a lot of them couldn't make it in. We wanted to have a single zombie, because it's a very popular monster. If there is a sequel or a remake, maybe we can fit them in.
Is a sequel to Monster Brawl something that you're actively working on?
Jesse Thomas Cook: We developed a story for a sequel and it would be much bigger than the first one, with a bigger budget. There is also talk of a remake and we're exploring that. We have three more projects this year, so we're kind of focusing on them, but we're definitely open to expanding this into a franchise if anything comes up.
Is this something you've considered taking to the small screen? I feel like this is something that could work in an episodic format.
Jesse Thomas Cook: Yeah, I think it could work that way. Much like a wrestling show, where you'd have different characters coming in and out. Because they fight to the death, you could kill some off and bring some back to life. I think it could work in that setting, but we haven't really explored that option yet.
You brought a lot of talent together for this independent production. Was it difficult to get any of these actors to sign on?
Jesse Thomas Cook: For the monsters themselves, we hired amateur wrestlers from Canada, with the exception of Frankenstein. He was played by Robert Maillet, who was in the WWE back in the 90s. For the commentators, Art Hindle has always been a good friend of ours. He lived in the next town over for a while and Dave Foley grew up there. They knew each other, so it was kind of a homecoming for them. Having them in the movie was great, because we really wanted the sharp tongue dialogue to come across.
Getting Kevin Nash and Jimmy Hart was just a matter of talking to their agents. It helped for our credibility that we already had other actors on board. Jimmy was such a trooper and helped build sets when he wasn't on screen. Kevin Nash is just a monster of a man and we wanted a huge guy like that.
With Lance Henriksen, it was a boon for us to get him. He was at Toronto at the time for a FanExpo convention and we called up his voice agent. He's always helped young filmmakers and it was a dream come true to work with him. He had this Mortal Kombat-like voice of god, which gave the movie a video game style to it as well.
We have many independent filmmakers who read Daily Dead. What advice would you give to those who are trying to move forward on their own project?
Jesse Thomas Cook: Surrounding yourself with people you trust is big, whether it is friends or people you meet along the way. You need a core team who believes in the project and believes in you. Also, learn the business side of things. We spent years trying to turn short films into feature films and drove out to Hollywood a few times to pitch scripts, but that never seems to work.
I think it comes down to having the will and drive to make it happen. For us, it was a collection of small town investors. We went back to the drawing board and realized that you have to make it happen for yourself. Know when to stop too, because if the script isn't going anywhere, maybe it isn't the right one. Just never give up and eventually it will pay off. You just need to find that right project that you believe in and surround yourself with the right people.