“Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies” (Film Review)
In the world of genre film, there’s a seemingly constant discussion about the validity of “fun” as a means to excuse poor filmmaking. Speaking in a narrative sense, there is admittedly leeway in terms of logic and execution with horror films even if the story comes first and foremost. When a film hinges so much on this perspective however, a certain amount of desperation permeates and criminally depreciates the fun factor.
It’s that dynamic which blurs the lines between intent and execution for PRO WRESTLERS VS. ZOMBIES, Cody Knotts’ over-the-top subgenre crossover. With production values and a script that mirrors its miniscule budget, PRO WRESTLERS VS. ZOMBIES too often relies on its novelty for its own good. As a result, for those outside of the professional wrestling fanbase, the fun comes to a screeching halt during moments of unfocused, middling drama.
PRO WRESTLERS VS. ZOMBIES follows the story of a group of wrestlers who are hired for a private event in a prison, only to find themselves face to face with horde of the undead. While the film is novel by going the supernatural resuscitation route over the more commonly used “outbreak” method, that’s about the extent of the narrative credit one can give the story. There’s minor drama in the subplot, but most of it falls to the wayside in favor of elaborately staged escape or wrestling sequences. It’s almost always silly and there’s fun to be had in the action, but the rest is presented in such droll and unprofessional manner that it’s a chore to wait for.
Knotts’ script manufactures weak drama from largely ignored plot points, and his direction often results in long, meandering scenes of improvised dialogue. With a concept such as PRO WRESTLERS VS. ZOMBIES, Knotts proves himself a knowledgeable wrestling fanatic, but with the technical prowess of a videographer rather than a filmmaker. Joseph Ruffio’s cinematography is truly what keeps the film down however, as the aesthetic is low-rent at best and hard to take seriously.
Luckily, most of the fun comes from the pro wrestlers who go head-to-head with the zombies and bring natural charisma to their roles. Shane Douglas and Roddy Piper act as the de facto leads and both do well with their served material, especially the gravitas-wielding Piper. Matt Hardy, ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan and Taya Parker feel comfortable playing alternate versions of themselves, yet rarely get the chance to shine beyond their action sequences. And Kurt Angle, who appears ever-so-briefly, injects the film with a bit of cartoonish self-awareness and allows his cameo to serve PRO WRESTLERS VS. ZOMBIES in the most fun way possible.
Despite commendable low-budget zombie make-up and admittedly fun wrestling sequences, PRO WRESTLERS VS. ZOMBIES has enough shortcomings to slight its audience from a truly unique experience. Instead of capitalizing on the concept and going full-force, PRO WRESTLERS VS. ZOMBIES stretches its novelty to the breaking point by sitting on a repetitive story structure. By becoming victim to his limitations, Cody Knotts’ ambition suffers as a result despite his noble intentions to create a fun fright flick. With both pro wrestlers and zombies in tow, PRO WRESTLERS VS. ZOMBIES is fatally missing its heart, and audiences are left with occasional genre levity in between uninvolving narrative banality.