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The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre | Max Martini

September 10, 2021

TMBMZM oddly tilts toward authenticity rather than camp, to disappointing results.

The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre is a title that promises a lot. For the record, the titular brothers have nothing to do with notorious serial killer, but are instead a pair of middle-aged amateur wrestlers — if it helps, think Mickey Rourke a la The Wrestler — who are coasting on the fumes of their waning low-level fame by participating in sparsely attended gigs in dilapidated arenas across the country. Stone (Chris Margentis) is the level-headed one with a gambling problem, while Skull (Mike Carey) is the idiot who constantly confuses and misuses words; if you think saying “prophylactic” instead of “prolific” is the height of comedy, Skull has you covered. The two brothers find themselves in the middle of the titular massacre after a steroid given to several of the participants has the unfortunate side effect of turning the dopers into zombies, forcing the brothers to break out their signature wrestling moves if they hope to stay alive.

It should come as no surprise that Margentis and Carey, who collaborated on the script, were once themselves professional wrestlers, and Midnight Zombie Massacre takes great care in highlighting the minutiae of its milieu, to the point that those unfamiliar with the sport may find their minds wandering by minute ten. Conversations detailing various maneuvers and holds carry the ring of truth according to their detail, sounding not dissimilar from something like Primer‘s monologues in terms of the amount of mind-numbing technical jargon employed. That level of authenticity is certainly appreciated, and makes the film stand out from others of its ilk, but therein lies the question: what kind of ilk are we even talking about here? With its sensationalist title, Midnight Zombie Massacre seems to be aspiring to a level of knowing camp often reserved for the likes of Troma. Yet the film keeps getting sidetracked by various subplots and characters that have little to no bearing on the zombie massacre itself — including some nonsense about a pair of magical wrestling masks — to the point that its ultimate inclusion feels like an afterthought.

Some of this feels like padding, while at other times an intentional and calculated move on the parts of Margentis, Carey, and director Max Martini to inject legitimacy into a project where, frankly, none is needed. The more realistic elements keep butting heads with the cartoonish ones in ways that prove wholly unsatisfying, sucking the fun out of what should have been a slam dunk of camp pleasures, especially when you have the likes of Randy Couture sending up his own well-known wrestling personality. The pacing is especially atrocious, with far too many dialogue-heavy scenes in a film about a zombie outbreak at an amateur wrestling match, and the comedy is never as funny as it thinks it is, although Margentis and Carey do possess a certain level of chemistry that feels genuine and works well here, which makes sense given their history. You can tell they know this particular field inside and out, and so it makes one wonder why they devoted so much of that knowledge to something like this, a film where even the gore is substandard. The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre seems to have been made for a very specific audience: tried-and-true wrestling fans who also love low-budget, tongue-in-cheek horror flicks and cornball jokes. Those viewers will find themselves in pure bliss; everyone else should hit the showers.