Monster Brawl interview with Jesse Thomas Cook
Set in the tradition of a Pay-Per-View main event, comes a grotesque and hilarious fight to the death featuring a cast of eight classic combatants in all. Along with their colorful managers, these Monsters compete in visceral bloody combat in the ring to determine the most powerful monster of all time. Monster Brawl stars comedian Dave Foley (Kids in the Hall, Bugs Life, Despicable Me), wrestling icons Jimmy Hart - The Mouth of the South, Kevin Nash, revered MMA referee Herb Dean, Robert Maillet (300, Sherlock Holmes, The Immortals), Art Hindle (Porky's, Black Christmas) and the voice of horror legend and Call of Duty narrator Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Terminator).
We caught up with writer/director, Jesse Thomas Cook, to talk Monster Brawl.
Horror News Network: Monster Brawl is the ultimate monster/wrestling fan's wet dream. How did you come up with the concept to combine these two genres?
Jesse Thomas Cook: We are always tossing ideas around for feature horror films. One day I was thinking about an idea that was zombies vs. vampires. From there it grew to involve a bunch of monsters, and then I started thinking more and more about a tournament style pay-per-view format featuring classic monsters. Combining the cult of classic wrestling for the fighting style gave it a hybrid appeal for fans of monsters, horror and wrestling.
Horror News Network: How did casting come about? You seem to have a big mix with actors, wrestlers and even an MMA referee.
Jesse Thomas Cook: Art Hindle, who played one of the commentators, was on board from the start. He has been a friend for a few years and had lived in the next town over during the 1970's and so had an affinity for the area we were shooting in, which was Collingwood, Ontario. Dave Foley had also lived in the area back in the day and had known Art, so he also had a local connection, which was key in casting him. Together, the two of them were perfect for the testy back and forth ringside commentating and based their characters partly on some famous hockey announcers from Canada. On the wrestling side of things, we targeted Jimmy Hart because we thought fans of the films would instantly recognize his weasel-manager act from his wrestling hey-day. Robert Maillet was also someone we went after early on, by sending him concept art that designer Jason Brown had illustrated, using actual wrestling photos from when Maillet was in the WWE, combined with the Frankenstein look. The rest of the cast was assembled during pre-production and consisted of amateur wrestlers, local actors, and of course signing on MMA ref Herb Dean and former WWE champ Kevin Nash. The final bit of casting was when we landed Lance Henriksen as the omnipresent announcer voice, which was a coup for the film, and luckily he was in Toronto at the time at the Fan Expo, and our friends at Anchor Bay Canada helped us facilitate the voice work. Lance is always keen to assist indie filmmakers and his voice added some gravitas to the film.
Horror News Network: What impressed you the most with the cast?
Jesse Thomas Cook: I think their ability to perform with not a whole of planning, and under pretty extreme scheduling and sometimes taxing monster makeup, and just their dedication to immerse themselves into the project and understand our budget and what we were all trying to pull off with this project. We had 38 characters appear in the film during an intense 20 day shoot, so there was not a lot of time to rehearse and there were always new actors coming in the next day.
Horror News Network: Can you talk a bit about the choreography of the matches? How much input did veteran wrestlers like Kevin Nash and Robert Maillet have?
Jesse Thomas Cook: I deferred a lot of the wrestling and fight choreography to the wrestlers in the film and to our Stunt Coordinator Leif Havdale out of Vancouver. It was important for me to get the monsters and the genre side of things right in the film, but for the wrestling angle I relied a lot on the performers, most of whom were professional or amateur wrestlers. Leif would usually spend the first hour of a day on set going through the entire fight with the performers, the DP Brendan Uegama, and myself. And once we had the fight hashed out they would get into their makeup and wardrobe. Leif and I had spent a few prep days going through what we could and could not pull off considering he was the only stunt guy on the whole show, and the fact that we had 1 day to film each fight, which was why on those days we used two RED cameras to maximize coverage.
Horror News Network: Was there any doubt as to which monster should win the matches?
Jesse Thomas Cook: Yes, the fights, match-ups and outcomes were always changing during the script-writing. A lot of it depended on scheduling with the actors, and originally there was going to be 7 fights in the film. We had to reduce this down to 5 fights, and instead of a winner-take-all structure we changed it to include two middle-weight fights from each conference. At one point or another I believe we had looked at every possible monster match-up once the monsters were decided on. So it changed all the time. In one version the Mummy won his first fight and lost in the next one. Another version had Swamp Gut going the distance, and he also had a manager in that one. There was a time when we had a tag-team fight in the script, and also a sort of royal-rumble style intermission where a bunch of zombies fought a legion of trolls. In the end, it all came down to budget and logistics.
Horror News Network: Can you talk a bit about the special effects in the movie?
Jesse Thomas Cook: All of the SPX were done by the The Brothers Gore, an effects company owned by a gorehound duo named Jeff and Jay Gore. We've worked with them on all our projects and they were really keen to recreate some classic monsters while also coming up with some new designs. They won best makeup at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival for their work in Monster Brawl, and the sheer amount of monsters and makeup and gore gags they pulled off on a tiny budget was mind-blowing.
Horror News Network: Any chance we would ever see a Monster Brawl 2?
Jesse Thomas Cook: It would be a lot of fun to tackle a Monster Brawl 2 sequel. Leave it in the same world and start it where we last left off, but with a bigger budget and more monsters and perhaps a different wrestling angle, where good and evil factions are formed, and rivalries spring up, culminating in an over-the-top royal rumble style showdown. That would be a dream come true. I think if it were to happen it would be a few years away. We're not in a hurry to rush it, and there has been talk of a remake of the first one so we will see how that pans out.
Horror News Network: Where can our readers find out more about Monster Brawl?
Jesse Thomas Cook: They can join the facebook group or check out our website www.monsterbrawlmovie.com. We try to keep both up to date. They can also check out all the news and review sites, which are all up on the imdb page for Monster Brawl. The film is released across America as of June 12, 2012, and has also been released in Germany and Canada. Later in the year it comes out in the U.K., Japan and Sweden.
Horror News Network: In closing, what would you like to say about Monster Brawl?
Jesse Thomas Cook: I encourage people to get together in large drunken groups and watch the film at midnight. We tried to make it more appealing in a group setting where the home audience substitutes for the lack of a real crowd in the graveyard in the film. Watch it like a pay-per-view event and have fun with it. We set out to make an entertaining monster comedy that would pay homage to classic monsters and classic wrestling and that would appeal to everyone.
Horror News Network: Thanks for your time, Jesse. Have a comment? Post it here.
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Published on: 2012-06-14 (283 reads)[ Go Back ]