'Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre' meshes horror, comedy for gory good time

 
 
Updated 9/10/2021 6:09 AM

"The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre" -- ★ ★ ★

Professional-wrestler-turned-filmmaker Chris Margetis swears that he and his professional-wrestler-turned-filmmaker partner Mike Carey wrote and shot their shockingly violent virus horror/comedy way before COVID-19 took over the world.

 

"Purely coincidental," he wrote me in a text message, "which is a bit eerie."

Not only eerie, but downright prescient.

As a result, their surprisingly smart, fiendishly funny, gore-ified study in narrative anarchy, "The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre," joins such films as "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "The Exorcist" -- horrific tales that encapsulate the social or cultural zeitgeist of their time while vicariously addressing our latent fears.

Or in this case, not so latent.

"Midnight Zombie Massacre" pairs two of the most exploitable groups in show biz: professional wrestlers and virally infected homicidal cannibals.

Margetis and Carey play the titular Manson brothers, Stone and Skull (their real stage personas in the pro-wrestling world). Now in the twilight of their tag-team years, the brothers struggle to remain relevant in a world that prefers younger, cooler characters such as Dave Meadows' Carson the Crippler, a narcissistic Adonis whose locker room office looks like it could host a Roman orgy. (Meadows proves to be a charismatic actor whose previous profession was in the U.S. Navy as a SEAL.)

Stone and Skull possess their own special bond reminiscent of R2D2 and C3PO, kindred spirits traversing through strange environments with Stone constantly critiquing and criticizing their wrestler subculture, and Skull serving as his comic sounding board.

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We meet up with a rogue's gallery of outrageous wrestlers (is that redundant?), such as Captain Marvelous, hilariously engineered by Jayden Lund as a sweet, out-of-shape, wisecracking foil, and Thump Hanson, played by pro wrestler star Randy Couture as a soft-spoken veteran of the sport.

But the nuttiest cartoon characters belong to D.B. Sweeney as Vic Quickbuck, an effusive, over-the-top wrestling promoter in a sharkskin suit, and a nearly unrecognizable Adrian Pasdar as Dr. Dudembru, a quack with a knack for gassing himself silly.

Mindy Robinson and Nancy Wetzel make the most of their limited romantic interest roles for Stone and Skull.

Just when we start wondering if somebody forgot about the zombies, a case of mutated rabies breaks out in the wrestling arena, under lockdown during a terrific storm at midnight on Halloween.

The unrated "Midnight Zombie Massacre" makes for a gooey, gory good time that even "Godfather of Gore" Herschell Gordon Lewis could appreciate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Director Max Martini drives this film with great affection for the genre, amassing such congenial good will that we easily go along with Stone and Skull no matter how ridiculous or meta the story becomes. (When the Crippler screams at noisy zombies to shut up, they listen. And those magic-infused lucha libre masks? Don't ask.)

Technically speaking, these "zombies" are not textbook reanimated corpses, but infected maniacs as popularized in Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later."

Even so, "Midnight Zombie Massacre" has all the makings of a cult classic: odd characters, moments of sheer comic shock, eye-popping costumes and a few quotable lines, all steeped in a weirdly joyful, cinematic celebration of exploitative excess.

• • •

Starring: Chris Margetis, Mike Carey, Randy Couture, D.B. Sweeney, Adrian Pasdar

Directed by: Max Martini

Other: A Gravitas Ventures release. In theaters and on demand. Not rated; contains graphic violence, graphic nudity, adult language. 93 minutes

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