Close to a year ago, I wrote a preview piece on the movie, Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies. As the film is finally reaching its planned release in late March, I have obtained a press copy of the movie from the film's writer/director/producer, Cody Knotts, to review for Bleacher Report.
So then, what is there to say about Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies that you do not already know from the title? The film's tagline, "Good Old American Violence," should squash any doubts that the film will stray too far from its expected parameters.
That being said, while the movie does do everything you expect it to, with the anticipated levels of bloody excess, there is actually more to Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies than one might immediately expect.
First and foremost to get wrestling fans excited, there is the cast. Kurt Angle, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, Matt Hardy, "The Franchise" Shane Douglas and several other names you should be familiar with take on major roles in this movie.
These are guys who have headlined shows for WWE, WCW, TNA and ECW, seeing them all in one movie is a rare treat. Also worth mentioning among the wrestlers in the cast are Thomas Rodman (of Blue World Order fame) and Reby Sky. Viewers might be more familiar with Reby Sky's modelling career but she has also been working as a wrestler on the Indy scene for several years now, and it is nice to see a female wrestler highlighted in the movie as well as the men.
Then there are the zombies themselves, played by a mixture of talented wrestlers from the Indy scene, including Extreme Rising (an Extreme Rising show is even used as the location for the film's opening scenes). This means the zombies are fast and athletic, and they know how to take bumps!
Former Penthouse Pet and VH1 star Taya Parker is the final name that viewers might recognize before watching the movie, but the real highlight of the non–wrestlers in the movie is Adrienne Fischer, who plays the primary heroine. Despite being a relative unknown compared to the Hall of Famers and former world champions in the movie, she makes a strong impression, and I found her as compelling as anyone else in the cast. I genuinely hope to see her in move movies following her role in this one.
The presence of a full cast of wrestlers makes Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies much more of a wrestling movie than the film exploits of men such as The Rock and Steve Austin. When The Rock shoots movies, you don't see him doing piledrivers to his opponents. This film is filled with every cast member's signature spots—from Matt Hardy attacking a zombie with a ladder to Roddy Piper smashing a coconut over a zombie's head.
Such knowing references make this a real fan–fest of a movie, and it is clear that Knotts has a genuine, personal love for professional wrestling and its rich history.
Thankfully, Cody Knotts and co-cast wrestlers, who all appear to own the rights to their gimmicks, avoid some of the awkward name changes you sometimes see when WWE guys jump to TNA. Everyone here plays their classic characters to perfection—guys like Matt Hardy never lose their tight grip on their characters, despite them appearing in a different setting to usual.
Another notable feature of the film is its soundtrack. On screening my review copy of the movie to a test audience, almost everyone commented on the great selection of rock songs that have been written specifically for the movie.
Cast and soundtrack aside, the film is your standard zombie schlock film. It isn't trying to be smart or groundbreaking, just a lot of big, silly, violent fun. Genre wise, Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies sits comfortably in between a slasher flick and an 80s action movie, filled with macho bravado and not taking itself too seriously.
The story opens with Shane Douglas accidentally killing a wrestler in the ring. The dead wrestler's brother creates a zombie army to kill the former franchise player of ECW, and he books Douglas and his friends to do a wrestling show at an abandoned prison—where he unleashes his zombie trap on them all. The movie is well shot—spooky and atmospheric—with all of the live–action special effects looking fairly convincing.
The film is not without its flaws, however. It is a lot of fun to watch with friends, but when watching alone, the relentless fighting and gore can drag a little, despite the movie's intense pace.
Key plot elements are not always obviously telegraphed to the audience, so you have to pay surprisingly close attention to what one might assume was a film to watch casually with friends; some of the people I watched the movie with needed me to explain the significance of early events in the film and how they relate to what happens later on.
Lastly, the film is almost overly aimed towards its target demographic. If you are a wrestling fan, you will love this movie.
However, if you plan to watch it with non–wrestling fans, they might find the heel turn that happens in the film a bit confusing. (I won't spoil it for you, but it changes the entire course of the movie.) There are a lot of in–jokes they won't understand, such as the way the film plays around with the idea of kayfabe.
None of these issues ruin the movie by any stretch; you simply need to pay attention, really like wrestling and be cautious about showing the movie to non–wrestling fans. No one is going to be watching this film hoping to witness Shakespearean poetry in motion; viewers will come for the "Good Old American Violence," and that is what they will get.
The bottom line? If you are a wrestling fan, you are going to really enjoy this movie and be able to forgive its imperfections. Furthermore, the film's surprisingly subtle plot progression, though it can prove confusing on first viewings, means the film really is worth watching multiple times—a rare feat for a genre that produces so many generic movies.
Do you plan to watch Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
You can follow Richard Warrell on Twitter: @TheRamblingElf