1. the sport or activity of grappling with an opponent
and trying to throw or hold them down on the
ground, typically according to a code of rules.
With the tragic death of the wonderful Rowdy Roddy Piper (goodbye, Maniac) I thought we should take a look at one of horror’s many (so very many) shameful little siblings – the rasslin’ horror movie.
Now rasslin’ is all-‘murican, baby. It’s drama, dress, sass and acting. This isn’t wrestling I’m talking about, when two people throw down in a gym somewhere – this is about character and fan involvement; and it really explains why rasslin’ so often goes hand-in-hand with film.
And like horror, mainstream rasslin’ has been getting pretty poor; and like horror, the independent stuff has been getting pretty fantastic (like Chikara; my favourite Indie rasslin’ promotion; they have done some crazy and experimental stuff and even have more than a few horror characters).
To be clear, my definition of rasslin’ horror is any horror film that stars and/or is produced by a wrestling promotion (WWF, really) that comes with all the same melodrama and rasslin’ acting that can usually be found in the ring.
Piper is one of my favourite rasslin’ actors to star on the horror screen – in fact, not just one of my favourite, the favourite (sadly the lovely Surfer Sting and Razor Ramon did not star in any horror films that I know of) – and it only seemed necessary to remember him by looking at this unusual branch of horror that he seemed to love so much. Piper did however break the mould; he was in some great movies that won’t be making the list today because true rasslin’ horror is pretty terrible in a way that only horror fans know how to embrace and even celebrate.
10. “Leprechaun: Origins” (2014)
Starring Hornswoggle; this 2014 reboot of the Leprechaun film series was directed by Zach Lipovsky and written by Harris Wilkinson sees two young couples backpacking through Irish countryside where they come across a legendary creature that is a lot more sinister than in the stories.
This is the first of the films in the “Leprechaun” series to not star Warwick Davis as the Leprechaun himself. This film also lacks the humour of the others which is an added insult to the series. The Leprechaun itself looks completely different, not that you ever really see him that well.
It just goes to show that as fun and terrible rasslin’ horror can be, they will destroy any series or franchise that they try to turn in to their own. Oh yeah, and if you’ve seen any of the other films in the series, but not this one, I better warn you Leprechaun just became half Predator.
9. “River of Darkness” (2011)
Starring Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash, Psycho Sid Vicious and Glacier; this 2011 horror film was both directed and written by Bruce Koehler sees a local Sheriff having to face his own dark past when a string of brutal murders hold a small riverside town in fear.
Just what. I mean what. This film had a budget of over 3 million – what did they do with it? Where did it go?
I can only assume this was a conspiracy to get some retirement money put away for when the cast is finally too old to wrestle. We all know rasslers live for their dramatic story lines; now more than ever. This film has spawned a real life drama of “where’s the money?” I think for that it deserves it’s place here.
8. “See No Evil” (2006)
Starring Kane; under the eye-rolling tagline “This summer, evil gets Raw” (a reference to the WWE Monday Night Raw), this 2006 horror directed by Gregory Dark (better known for his work directing porn) and written by Dan Madigan sees delinquents in a Detention Centre help clean up an abandoned hotel in the hopes of receiving a reduction in sentence, not realizing that a 7 foot serial killer with an interest in collecting eyes is lurking in the burnt out hotel.
I feel like the WWE had hoped that this film would be taken seriously; that audiences would be terrified and sickened as Kane ripped eyes from sockets and caught his victims with a vicious looking hook and chain. But no. Kane basically walked around with his face tripping, refusing to tell anyone why he was in a mood, but I’m sure Kane fans had a blast cheering him on like they would during matches. And so, so many plot holes.
The camera did make a great job of emphasising Kane’s height; already 7 foot tall, had to be asked to sit when he was introduced to the rest of the cast as some were too intimidated to go near him. As well as this Kane did all his own stunts, even the use of his hook and chain weapon which was originally going to be used in scenes through the help of CGI.
7. “The Devil’s Rejects” (2005)
Starring Diamond Dallas Page; this 2005 crime horror directed and written by Rob Zombie sees the serial killing Firefly family go on the run after the Texas police attack the families’ home while under the command of a Sheriff seeking revenge for the death of his brother.
I’ve got to say I’ve never been sure how I feel about Zombie’s work on the screen. The style is incredibly bold but I can’t tell if it’s unique or not but I feel like Zombie didn’t do it for the shock value at all. It’s more unnerving than that because it asks you to embrace the harshness of these people. Reading back on that I guess I liked it. Or I didn’t. I don’t know.
Diamond Dallas Page doesn’t have a huge part in this piece, but because of the outlandish nature, characters and poor acting it just has to be in the ranks.
6. “Army of the Damned” (2013)
Starring Tommy Dreamer; this 2013 independent action/horror film was both directed and written by Tom DeNucci and sees an army of undead brought back to life accidentally when a police chief goes looking for two missing officers.
The film even starred a couple of seasoned horror actors (Candyman, Tony Todd; and Michael Berryman of “The Hills Have Eyes”, 1977). Reminding me of an 80s action movie, it was guns, guns, guns.
It’s this strong element of action teamed up with an atmosphere similar to “Army of Darkness” (1992) and “Evil Dead 2” (1987) that gets it in this countdown today.
5. “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” (1990)
Starring Hulk Hogan; this 1990 sequel is directed (again) by Joe Dante and sees our old friends Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and Gizmo (dressed to look like John Rambo; with permission from Sylvester Stallone) teaming up to stop another accidental gremlin outbreak, but this time those pesky gremlins have access to a lab with many, many drinkable chemicals and take over a corporate skyscraper.
This is such a fun movie, and they clearly had permission to run with the humour and cameos in this one. It’s comedic, witty and pokes fun and Hollywood.
I almost didn’t include this one for three reasons – 1) the wrestler in question only made a cameo appearance making its standing as a rasslin’ horror questionable, 2) I don’t like Hulk Hogan – Randy Savage is my guy, even my cat is named after him, and 3) we just found out how incredibly racist the man is. But I love the “Gremlins” movies; and like the WWE Wrestling Network’s match archive, I will not let him ruin them for me.
4. “Bride of the Monster” (1955)
Starring Tore “Tor” Johnstone; this 1955 sci-fi/Frankenstein horror directed and co-written by Edward D. Wood Jr. (also co-written by Alex Gordon) sees reporter Janet Lawton (Loretta King) kidnapped by Dr. Eric Vornoff (Bela Lugosi) for trying to look in to the cause of men disappearing in the area. With Johnstone playing a Tibetan Igor-like character, and with an experimentally altered octopus living in a lake, you can tell exactly how this film will go.
Being Ed Wood’s only financially successful film on release, it had a number of interesting behind-the-scenes tales. For instance, Wood decided that cue cards would be held up for Lugosi during his long speech because he was old and his memory may have faltered. An embarrassed Lugosi pleaded with the cue card man who, during the scene, kept the cards by his side as Lugosi made his speech without error or assistance. When he was finished the entire crew stood and applauded. As well as this the octopus used in the film was stolen, without the accompanying motor and with one missing tentacle, from Republic Studios (it had been made for use in “Wake of the Red Witch”, 1948).
I’ve come to the conclusion that all rasslin’ horror can be traced back to here – professional wrestler Tor Johnstone’s continual working with the infamous Edward Wood. It makes so much sense, it’s all been one continual spoof spanning over half a century! Maybe that is why this film is actually pretty good.
3. “Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies” (2014)
Starring Rowdy Roddy Piper, Hacksaw Duggan, Matt Hardy, Kurt Angle and many, many more; this 2014 comedy/horror, both directed and written by Cody Knotts sees a wrestler bent on revenge after his brother’s accidental death in the ring and so he sets a trap under the guise of a match in order to lure Shane Douglas and Rowdy Roddy Piper to their deaths at the hands of a hoard of undead.
This film was pretty good, I’ve got to say (I mean for rasslin’ horror standards) and it looked like Piper enjoyed himself immensely; he even put a stuntman in hospital because he hit him over the head with a frying pan too many times on set (the frying pan was given to the stuntman as a gift afterwards).
This is a proper horror rasslin’ film. I don’t know how many more time I can say cheesy – but CHEEEESY. It’s pure B, and I’m loving it.
2. “Santa’s Slay” (2005)
Starring Bill Goldberg; this 2005 Christmas horror/comedy movie is both directed and written by David Steiman. And so the story goes that 1,000 years ago, Satan’s son loses a bet with an angel and must spread Christmas joy until exactly 1,000 years have past. Now that his debt has been paid he goes on a killing rampage; exploding children with presents and punching people. The film follows a Christmas hating teen, who discovers the truth of Christmas from his grandfather and is systematically hunted down by Santa.
Goldberg looks like a white-haired biker in a red suit, ready to kick ass and take names; and I wonder if he thought about how (whether practicing or not) he was a Jewish man destroying Christmas. This film is purely for fun, and even the rising death count doesn’t put a damper on the viewing. It’s cheesy, comical nonsense and Goldberg is absolutely fantastic in it – so it’s perfect in rasslin’ horror standards and I’d recommend that you all sit down to this (and “Die Hard”, obviously) this Christmas.
1. “Doom” (2005)
Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnstone; this 2005 action sci-fi horror was inspired by the games of the same name. Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, the film sees a group of marines being sent to a research facility on Mars to investigate some strange goings on, only to end up having to fight off genetically enhanced violent monsters.
This film truly embraces the rasslin’ horror subgenre – but in space! So, you know, ten times worse/good for being worse. Planned to originally be filmed in 1999 with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the film had to be put on the back burner when two teenagers who were fans of the game got in to an accident when they played around with a chainsaw.
Maybe I’ve built it up to something greater in my head, because I saw the trailer as a teenager with my friend, Stella, and it suddenly became all we would laugh about for months – “DOOM. When all hell breaks loose”; and because I grew up playing the game myself on PS1. It actually took me about 8 years to finally see the film, and when I did I was delighted and a bit ashamed to be delighted.
It was so cheesy, and Johnstone played it well; I will never forget his line near the end, “Semper fi, Motherfucker”.
So ‘murican – just like rasslin’.