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Pro Wrestlers Vs. Zombies

Troma // Unrated // October 13, 2015
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted October 15, 2015 | E-mail the Author

It never really hits the mark...but from a basic standpoint, Cody Knotts' Pro Wrestlers Vs. Zombies (2013) makes good on its title's promise. Appearances by former A-list rasslers like the late "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, "The Franchise" Shane Douglas, Matt Hardy, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, and Kurt Angle? Check. Human sacrifices and hordes of the undead? Check. Foreign objects, signature moves, fake blood, and at least one table break? Check. Snapping a zombie's leg off via ankle lock submission? Check. But while Pro Wrestlers Vs. Zombies delivers a handful of memorable moments during its second half, it takes a looong time to set up the action, and this micro-budget action film features no shortage of technical issues, bad edits, distracting music, and a story that takes itself much too seriously.

In short, there's very little to like about Pro Wrestlers Vs. Zombies as a whole, even if a handful of small highlights are found along the way. Take, for instance, the film's dim-witted plot: Shane Douglas catches another wrestler making time with his girl in the locker room, so he purposely botches an in-ring Tombstone piledriver that kills him. The dead wrestler's brother Angus (Ashton Amherst) seeks revenge, conspiring with a shady wrestling promoter (Cody Knotts) to set up a last-minute show with appearances by Douglas and others. Angus then performs a human sacrifice to start his army of undead followers (WTF?), who will be waiting for the hapless wrestlers after their tour bus arrives at the event. That's an awful lot of work for revenge, instead know, just shooting the guy or something.

It's kind of prophetic, because Pro Wrestlers Vs. Zombies takes the long road when a much shorter route would've been fine enough. But once the action heats up, Knotts' film shifts gears from "student film bad" to "somewhat tolerable". The featured performers are used fairly well: Douglas' hammy tough-guy persona and Piper's intense personality are a good fit, while Duggan and Angle's smaller roles are enjoyable. As for Matt Hardy? Well, he's basically there to suck face with real-life girlfriend Reby Sky during the first half, but finally gets a half-decent "cage match" before kicking the bucket. Our main non-wrestler in this mess is Sarah Schuman (Adrienne Fischer), the promotion's brand new marketing exec (I guess?) who quickly turns into a not-at-all believable ass-kicker and Piper's kinda-sorta love interest. But even with its sporadic bursts of action and a few clever industry in-jokes, Pro Wrestlers Vs. Zombies is little more than your standard "pick-'em-off" horror movie with a lot of padding to kill time.

Originally issued as a limited-run DVD sometime last year, Pro Wrestlers Vs. Zombies now appears to be a Blu-ray exclusive courtesy of Troma Entertainment. But don't get your hopes up at all: the A/V presentation is sorely lacking and the limited bonus features are kind of a mess. Just like its main feature, the good intentions are there...but poor quality control and lack of attention to detail wipe out almost every remaining ounce of enjoyment.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

I wasn't expecting much from this micro-budget production, and that's exactly what we get here: this 1.78:1, 1080i transfer rarely exceeds DVD standards and...well, it just isn't much to look at. Most of the production has a dull appearance with muddy colors, waxy textures, excessive noise, and at least a half-dozen other issues native to low and mid-grade digital recording equipment. To be fair, some of these problems actually suit the material, and indie wrestling fans or schlock lovers may not mind the lack of pristine image quality. But other distractions are less forgivable, like a handful of glitches, drop-outs, and odd frame jumps during many of the action scenes: perhaps they were recorded at a different frame rate, or maybe the conversion to disc just wasn't handled properly. Either way, I can't imagine a DVD would look worse---and strangely enough, this is now a Blu-ray exclusive---but Pro Wrestlers Vs. Zombies absolutely doesn't push (or even meet) any standards set by either format.

DISCLAIMER: The resized screen captures and stills in this review are decorative and do not represent this title's native resolution.

The audio doesn't fare much better, but that's probably because it's limited to Dolby Digital 2.0. Yep, a lossy two-channel audio track on a Blu-ray. Dialogue is hit-or-miss; most of it was obviously re-dubbed after shooting, and these segments usually sound out of place within their environment (too much echo, etc.). Still, it's hard to be too critical of what's obviously a problem with the source material. But other post-production decisions aren't as easy to overlook, such as the constant use of nu-metal sludge and bro-rock over at least a dozen action sequences and other moments, which turns Pro Wrestlers Vs. Zombies into a music video marathon on several occasions. These bits of music were obviously inserted over the action to cover up poor quality effects or other issues, and they're often mixed loudly to the point of distraction. Not surprisingly, no optional captions or subtitles have been included.

Menu Design, Presentation, and Packaging

Troma's basic interface isn't exactly attractive by any measure, but it's organized and easy to use; the pop-up menu even features a built-in chapter selection, which is nice. This one-disc release is housed in a standard keepcase and includes no slipcovers or inserts. The Blu-ray itself appears to be unlocked for region-free playback.

Bonus Features

The main extra is an Audio Commentary with director Cody Knotts, who does a decent job of sharing production stories and pointing out some of the cameos and bloopers along the way. Unfortunately, this track has a pretty glaring defect: it begins during an annoying 15-second "Troma Team Release" logo (which appears at least half a dozen times elsewhere on this disc) instead of the studio logo, which means that all of the scene-specific comments are delayed by 1/4 of a minute. This makes it tough to follow and renders most the shout-outs pointless; in short, it basically spoils what may have amounted to a somewhat enjoyable commentary for fans of the film (I'm not holding my breath for a recall, though). We also get the Trailer, plus a handful of non-film Tromatic Extras celebrating the house that Toxie built. Amazon's product page also advertises "additional scenes", but these are nowhere to be found.

Final Thoughts

Even considering the film's low budget, Pro Wrestlers Vs. Zombies won't satisfy die-hard fans of either camp: this is a poorly paced, uneven film with a story that takes itself far too seriously. Still, some of the gore effects are decent, its second half features a fair amount of brutal action, and the over-the-top performances by Shane Douglas and the late Roddy Piper suit the material well enough. But that's as diplomatic as I can be: only the most patient fans should bother renting this one, as it's got plenty of technical issues and waaay too much setup for the eventual payoff. Troma's Blu-ray is even cheaper than the retail price implies, serving up a bargain basement A/V presentation and the bare minimum of bonus features (and one of them is defective!). Rent It at the very most.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
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