★★★ out of ★★★★★
Small-time, trailer park professional wrestling meets zombie grindhouse mayhem in director Max Martini’s sophomore outing.
Directed by Max Martini
Good ol’ Max Martini. You know him as an actor from such well-loved shows like TV’s The Unit (2006 – 2009) and Revenge (2011 – 2012) as well as big screen affairs like the Fifty Shades series, Pacific Rim (2013), and Eli (2019). He’s one of those “Oh, yah! That guy!” guys you might not know by name, but you’ve seen him all over the place. Well, did you know he also directs?
Not that it’s particularly surprising. The directing bug eventually gets to everyone in Hollywood. For Max, his big debut was a $2.5 million vanity project called Sgt. Will Gardner (2019). Written, directed, and starring Mr. Martini, it underwhelmed at the box office earning him almost enough for a Venti Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. The problem with it? There was a grand total of zero zombies in it! Not a single one!
Luckily for his sophomore project, The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre (2021), director Martini fixed that problem. He also decided to focus on the fundamentals of directing and left the writing and acting to others. The result is a campy, low-budget, wrestler-filled zombie romp that would’ve been right at home on the shelves of your local video store back in the early 90s.
The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre tells the inglorious tale of two brothers, “Stone” & “Skull” Manson. Dropped back down to the (very, very) minor leagues of the professional wrestling circuit, the Manson Brothers are just trying to eke out a living doing what they love. Sure, Stone [Chris Margetis; Frankenstein: Day of the Beast (2011)] has a bit of a gambling problem and Skull [Mike Carey; TV’s Crisis (2014)] may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but they’re good at what they do.
When some of their fellow wrestlers come down with a severe case of zombie-ism on account of some cut-rate growth hormone injections smuggled in from Mexico the Manson Brothers have to team up with some of their friends — like wrestler Thump Hanson [Randy Couture; The Expendables film series] and match promoter Vic Quickbuck [D.B. Sweeney; Spawn (1997)] — to put the zombies down for good.
The Manson Brothers are not only the heroes of this grindhouse zombiemania wrestlefest. They’re also the writers! The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre marks the debut of Chris Margetis & Mike Carey as screenwriters and they did a fantastic job. With a rapid-fire dialog style reminiscent of a Howard Hawks production the main characters have a lot to say. One liners, brotherly banter, and some clever wordplay for Mike Carey’s character, Skull, flies by. Occasionally, it flies by a bit too quickly, but for the most part their delivery is spot on.
The story they’ve come up with is pretty standard zombie fare: location X gets cut off from outside help because of disaster Y and then zombies show up. But Margetis & Carey took “write what you know” to heart with their script. They worked together as a professional wrestling duo early in their showbiz careers and that touch of realism gives an otherwise goofy film a decent foundation to build on.
With Dan Levitan as visual effects supervisor, The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre crüe manages to stretch their minimal dollars and come up with some decent zombie gore. Dan’s been working in the visual effects arena since the mid-90s and it looks like he’s learned some tricks along the way. It’s still a low-budget production, but as a schlocky grindhouse zombie flick it works.
So if you’re in the mood for some occasionally low-brow, not-entirely-PC, steroid pumpin’ zombie wrestling action, this may be just the thing you’re looking for.
And, since I know you’re already wondering, yes. There’s definitely a sequel in the works. Stay tuned for The Manson Brothers Satanic Vampire Death Match!
You can catch The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre streaming on Amazon Prime and likely anywhere else undead carnivorous wrestlers usually hang out.
Review by Robert Zilbauer.