Interview: Jesse Thomas Cook – Director (Monster Brawl)

It’s no big secret that I see a lot of movies. I see good ones, bad ones and all the ones in between. But the most fun that I’ve had watching a movie this year (Besides “The Avengers”) was when I saw one called “Monster Brawl” a while back. The premise is simple: Some of the greatest monsters of all time are brought together to duke it out for supremacy…in a wrestling ring! Sounds silly? Well yeah, I guess it does but it worked like a charm! I watched it three times in a row because I enjoyed it so much. Director Jesse Thomas Cook took a few minutes to talk to me about the idea behind the film and how it all came together.

HN: Before I even ask any questions I just want to let you know how much of a fan I am of your movie. I watched it on VOD a while back and rewatched it three consecutive times. I had so much fun watching & listening to all of the hi jinks taking place on screen…I couldn’t get enough of it!

JTC: Well thank you very much. I really appreciate it!

HN: Where did the idea for the film come from?

JTC: Well I was pow wowing with my two producers one day talking about two movies we were planning to make about a year or so ago and we started tossing about some throwback ideas back & forth. Something in the vein of Vampires Vs. Zombies, something along those lines and from there the idea just started to grow and grow. Before we knew it, we had the basic plot for “Monster Brawl” all figured out.

HN: Well when you believed you had a good idea and proposed it to your producers were they for it? Did they think it was a viable commodity?

JTC: It wasn’t an issue at all! The three of us usually pick & choose what movies we want to make. The plan was to make 10 movies, two each year, and “Monster Brawl” was the first one. When i came up with the idea they were all for it. All of us wear various hats on these different productions we do. And it’s a great place to work because the three of us all grew up just loving movies like this!

HN: I must be honest with you, I didn’t find it to be a particularly scary film. It’s a lot of fun for sure but not scary. I really enjoyed watching these monsters just slugging it out. But whose idea was it to set it in a wrestling ring?

JTC: We wanted to make a horror/comedy, something not really scary but as you said, lots of fun. A hybrid of horror and wrestling, two genres that have rabid followings.

HN: Besides Kevin Nash, did you approach other big name wrestlers to appear in the film? Did anyone you ask turn you down?

JTC: We grew up on the classic wrestling of the 80’s. That’s why we wanted Kevin Nash to be a part of this. Robert Maillet was also a pretty big wrestler back in the day. And there were a lot of professional wrestlers here in our area (Canada) that were available to us so we never got turned down by anyone we asked. When they found out it was gonna be a “Wrestler Vs. Classic Monster” type movie everyone we asked was on board.

HN: When you guys asked Art Hindle to be a part of this did he think about it for awhile or was he all in as well? It doesn’t seem to be the kind of role that he’s known for.

JTC: Art has been a friend of ours for years actually. We set aside a role for him & he’s a classic character actor with some pretty big roles on his resume like David Cronenberg’s “The Brood”. There’s just a quality about him that instantly added some credibility to the film despite the subject matter. A true class act all the way.

HN: He plays “Sasquatch” Sid Tucker, a former champion of the Monster Brawl. He shares commentating duties with Dave Foley who plays Buzz Chambers. The rapport they had together was really outstanding. I was wondering if any of it was ad libbed or were all of their lines straight from the script?

JTC: Yeah, there was a bit of ad libbing going on, but they basically stuck to the overall script. We filmed their scenes before any of the actual fighting took place.

HN: How did you manage to snag Lance Henriksen to lend his voice as the announcer for the fights? I thought it was pretty awesome to hear his voice at the beginning & end of the fights, especially when he kind of turned the end of each fight into a sort of “Mortal Kombat” fatality bit of dialog.

JTC: Lance was up here in Toronto at a horror convention as we were filming so we got in touch with both him & his voice agent. He’s really very supportive of small filmmakers and he helped us out for basically next to nothing. Obviously he is such a great veteran to work with and it was a thrill to us that he accepted our offer.

HN: Definitely! He adds a touch of class and a nice dollop of menace to the proceedings. I absolutely loved all of his intros throughout the film!
Out of all of the various monster makeups that were used on the film, is there one in particular that you weren’t too happy with overall? If you had a chance to do it all over again, which character would get the biggest makeover?

JTC: Maybe the “Witch Bitch”, maybe we could’ve gone a little bit further with her character. She was basically just an actress with some minor prosthetics added to her face & some of her teeth were rotted out. Had we had the budget or the time we might have been able to make her look better but we did the best we could with what we had.

HN: Since you mentioned the budget, how much did “Monster Brawl” end up costing when it was all said and done?

JTC: It was just over $200,000 dollars.

HN: And you filmed entirely in Canada?

JTC: Yes sir! We filmed in a small town just north of Toronto.

HN: Were the scenes where the Cyclops was introduced filmed in Canada as well?

JTC: We shot all of the Cyclops introductory scenes on the shoreline here in Canada.

HN: I asked because they looked very lush & exotic to me. I actually thought they looked like they were filmed off the coast in Greece or somewhere similar!

JTC: Thanks!

HN: Who decided which monsters were going to be featured in the movie?

JTC: That would be me! I just decided which monsters we could execute practically and we wanted to pay homage to the classic monsters like “Frankenstein” & “The Werewolf” while spinning off a few originals of our own design like “Witch Bitch” & “Swamp Gut”.

HN: Were there any monsters that you wanted to include in the film but couldn’t?

JTC: Yeah we always wanted to include a Sasquatch or Yeti type of creature but we couldn’t…this time.

HN: Do you plan on a sequel to “Monster Brawl” in the future?

JTC: We would like to do a bigger budgeted remake of “Monster Brawl” in the future for sure. One in which we could follow through on some ideas we had for this one but couldn’t afford this time around. That is something we’re talking about.

HN: What kind of reception did you get from audiences when “Monster Brawl” played at various festivals?

JTC: Overwhelming! We had crowds outside of the theaters shouting out which monsters they were pulling for! It was really incredible to see and since there is no audience in the movie, the theater audience fills that role and just yells at the screen rooting for their faves!

HN: What extras can we expect on the DVD/Blu ray release?

JTC: There’s a “Making Of” segment, there are some outtakes & bloopers from Jimmy “Mouth Of The South” Hart, audio commentary from myself and the two producers and the trailer as well.

HN: I’ve read some negative reviews about the film. Most of them boil down to saying that it’s just a wrestling movie with monsters instead of people. I disagree of course because I thought it was a ton of fun watching monsters pull off all of these sick wrestling moves on each other! What is your reaction to the negative reviews though?

JTC: Oh it’s fine! We just tried to make a fun movie, one that was accessible to everyone and especially to those who like wrestling so I just take it all with a grain of salt.

HN: Was this the first feature you directed?

JTC: It was my second one actually…my first was called “Scarce” which was released in 2008.

HN: I’m assuming that “Monster Brawl” was either filmed early this year or late last year. Why so long between projects?

JTC: “Monster Brawl” was filmed in 2010.

HN: Really? What took so long for it to be released?

JTC: We started filming in August of 2010 and finished early 2011 and then it got through post before it was released in March of this year in Canada.

HN: Do you know if it received any kind of theatrical release here in the U.S.?

JTC: Nope! Straight to VOD and DVD/Blu ray over there.

HN: What’s next for you now?

JTC: We’re making three movies this year actually.

HN: Are they all genre titles?

JTC: Yes they are.

HN: Is it too soon to ask what the titles are just yet?

JTC: Well we just announced the first one which we finished in May. It’s a high concept sci-fi film that was written by the author of “Pontypool” (Tony Burgess) which is a pretty popular and offbeat zombie film. We’ll be working with him on our next three films and the next one is called “Ejecta” and we just released a press announcement on that one.

HN: Are the budgets going to be about the same as for “Monster Brawl”?

JTC: Yeah, that’s the kind of budget we’re comfortable with right now.

“Monster Brawl” will be available on DVD & Blu Ray on June 12th at stores everywhere. Do yourselves a big favor & pick up a copy. It’s a ton of fun & the kids will get a kick out of it too! Don’t you want to know which monster wins it all? Buy the movie and find out!!

Interview: Jesse Thomas Cook – Director (Monster Brawl)

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Those of you who don't know of The Black Saint & have yet to commit yourselves to him body, mind & soul will find yourselves in a most uncomfortable position when my army of acolytes is complete & ready to wreak havok upon this pitiful blue ball we live on. Oh, I really like horror movies as well & will take on all comers in a horror trivia contest. Bring it on!
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