[Review] 'Wrestlemassacre' is an Ugly Film in More Ways Than One, But at Least the Gore Lives Up to the Title
I consider myself to be a pretty forgiving critic...
...I can look past many flaws and extract positives from the many facets of film production. Some of my favorite films are commercial or critical failures, but beneath the surface, hide strokes of brilliance. It’s the beautiful disasters that are far more interesting than the crowd pleasers who chase the almighty Tomatometer. I root for the underdog, but all underdogs aren’t created equal. Director Brad Twigg has a bit of a track record for directing and producing “bad taste” horror. Films like Milfs vs. Zombies (2015) and Killer Campout (2017) are a few of his most notables. One of his most recent projects, WrestleMassacre doesn’t stray too far from familiar Twigg territory. While this film certainly isn’t out to pander to a general consensus rating pool, its anti-confirmative attitude doesn’t necessarily make for a great film.
WrestleMassacre tells the offbeat story of Randy (Richie Acevedo); a sheepish and compliant landscaper who daydreams of becoming a professional wrestler. Lonely, awkward and alienated from most social contact, Randy has trouble getting ahead in life. After getting fired from his job for a supposed video leak of him spying on the wife of a customer, he seems to have lost the last thing that was good in his life. Broke, defeated and lost, Randy happens to see a commercial about a wrestling camp. Infused with a new goal, he makes his way to the camp, only to be laughed out of the joint. Sick of being a laughingstock and being shunned by family and friends, Randy snaps and embarks on a killing spree. Using his knowledge gained from many wrestling TV binges, he starts disposing each person who wronged him with intense prejudice. Through all this, Randy is obsessed with the customer’s wife and will cross any line of decency to find her.
Before I wrote this sentence, I hesitated a number of times regarding calling WrestleMania trash. Thing is, I don’t think Twigg would argue that statement. My problem with the film, is that it’s poorly made trash. Within the first two minutes I felt as if I were watching the beginning of a bad porno. Harsh lighting, zero color correction and amateur camerawork were all large indicators that this would not be a pleasant film to look at. Once the dialogue began, the wave of realization began to truly set in. The interactions between homeowner, Owen (Julio Bana Fernandez) and his wife Becky (Rosanna Nelson) were connectionless and sometimes cringeworthy. To their credit, I don’t necessarily blame their acting chops. When a bad script and unflattering camerawork is all they have to work with, it’s never fair to assume the blame falls on the actors. Even their dialogue suffered at the hands of the film because of how bad the audio mix was. Many, if not all the scenes, sounded like they used unfiltered, unedited live sound. When you can hear the echo of the acoustics in a room, it’s not a good sign. We live in an age when so many tools are at the filmmaker’s fingertips, so it’s hard for me to go easy on technical production issues. Not to mention, many of the technical tools we have are very affordable today.
Once we get around to meeting Randy, the film becomes tolerable. Richie Acevedo is, without question, the best thing about this film. The shy and earnest nature of Randy is played very convincingly and with what little he had to work with, I think he did a great job bringing his character to life. You genuinely want Randy to catch a break and sympathize with his misfortunes. Unfortunately, the elements that make Randy work all get forgotten, when he begins his rampage. We see him kill many people who wronged him, but many of his victims are random bystanders or people who have had no previous connection to him. The fact that he so carelessly disposes of them goes against the moral code of his character. We as the audience start to turn on him and I don’t think this was an intentional move. Also, considering he was the one redeemable character in the film, I hated shifting my opinion on him. I would have easily still been on his side, had he killed only the ones who wronged him. Of course, I don’t condone killing anyone, but in a film centered around a psychotic wannabe wrestler raging war on his enemies, I give myself some slack.
I’m much less harsh when it comes to live production issues. Building sets or even scouting for good locations can be a nightmare for a production crew. That being said, I’d be lying if I said I was taken out of the film when Randy shows up to work at the “office” and their location is literally in someone’s bedroom. A computer chair and a desk lamp doesn’t add much to the believability factor of Randy working for a landscaping company. I totally understand that filmmakers have to work with the budget they’ve been given, but I do think much more could have been done to flesh out these locations. The one exception is the wrestling camp building. Walls are littered with wrestling memorabilia, feet shuffled on stained floors and it all contributes to a very lived-in feel. I was sold on the environment and the people who inhabited it. It’s just a shame that most of the film lacks good production design.
Despite the film’s laundry list of shortcomings, I can’t say anything negative about the special effects on display here. While the effects aren’t used well to help the story, good special effects are still good special effects at the end of the day. Heads get smashed and caved in, tongues dangle from jawless heads and the blood, while cartoony, is appropriately gruesome and in excess. They had an excellent effects team, operating in full force. Horror fans who are gluttons for gore or special effects students who are seeking reference effects will be highly satisfied. One of the standout effects consisted of a wrestling belt crafted out of human flesh. It was one of the only genuinely clever moments in the film, but definitely worth a mention.
After I watched WrestleMassacre, I was actually upset by how much I disliked it. It rubbed me all the wrong ways, was ugly to look at, and ultimately, it commits many narrative and general filmmaking sins that are hard to ignore. That being said, I’ve come to peace with the fact that Twigg made the film he wanted to make, and I respect him for it. I would rather watch a film by a guy who isn’t concerned with his mass critical response than a film by an accolade hungry hack any day. That doesn’t mean that I absolve WrestleMassacre of its lack of craft, taste and consistency, but again, as a fan of the underdog, I’ll fight for the ideal that this film stands for. If you’re into the wrestling scene and also happen to be a horror buff, you may get a few kicks out of this. Also, there is value in its excellent use of practical effects. However, the film as a whole is a mess and unfortunately, it’s not one that I can recommend to many.
Wrestlemassacre arrives on DVD and On Demand June 16th from Wild Eye Releasing.
By Jeffrey W. Hollingsworth