Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Brutal Massacre (2008)

Director Stevan Mena greatly impressed me with his first film, Malevolence, so I was eager to check out his follow-up, Brutal Massacre: A Comedy. Exactly as the title states, Brutal Massacre is a comedy, filmed like a faux-documentary on the making of a horror film. This is definitely not your traditional horror movie, but more like a mockumentary along the lines of Christopher Guest’s Best in Show. Despite this, the film seems tailor-made for horror fans. It features a stellar cast of horror veterans (David Naughton, Ellen Sandweiss, Ken Foree), a very dry sense of humor and an engaging story line.

After making numerous horror films like I’ll Take the Ring Back…And the Finger Too, Bowel Movement and The Fish that Ate Flesh, director Harry Penderecki (David Naughton, An American Werewolf in London) is a bit of a has-been. He is still big at conventions, but often gets hassled for the violence in his films and the supposed “curse” that brings death to every production he’s worked on. Despite all this, he is ready to make a comeback with his new film, Brutal Massacre. As a documentarian (Vincent Butta) follows him, Penderecki begins the process of securing financing, while his assistant director Jay (Brian O’Halloran of Clerks, Dogma, Clerks II) scouts locations and finds a special FX coordinator and his casting director (Betsy Baker, Evil Dead) tries to find actors who can actually ACT. His producer Natalie (Ellen Sandweiss), meanwhile, is trying to keep the production on-budget.

The crew finally secures a location at a run-down farmhouse of a man named Krenshaw (Gunnar Hansen, Texas Chain Saw Massacre) and the remaining cast and crew converge on location to shoot the film…only to be met with mishap after kooky mishap while filming.

Brutal Massacre is exactly what Fangoria called it…Spinal Tap for the horror set! Serious horror fans (especially those interested in what goes on behind the cameras) will definitely dig this film! The humor, performances and storyline all work and make Brutal Massacre a must-see!

First off, the performances across the board were great! There were even cameos by people that horror fans will have no trouble recognizing (among them Tony Timpone of Fangoria Magazine and director/producer Mick Garris) and a large part of the cast have their roots in horror films. David Naughton was terrific as director Harry Penderecki. Though he was clueless at times and made questionable decisions, you still couldn’t help but root for him as he tries to accomplish his dream. I loved Ellen Sandweiss as the hard-nosed producer and Brian O’Halloran did a great job as Jay, the AD. We even get to see a softer side of Ken Foree as he plays the grip Carl who longs for a 9-to-5 job. Everyone’s performance was great, and their characters were fleshed out enough for the audience to be able to relate to them, but the actors were also given enough room to make the characters their own.

Secondly, the storyline about the hardships of filming an independent horror movie really hit close to home. I watch a ton of independent horror, and the situations that the Brutal Massacre cast got into seem totally believable! I’m not sure if writer/director Stevan Mena culled some of these from his own personal experiences, but I’m sure any independent filmmaker can relate to the shenanigans that ensue on the Brutal Massacre production. We get an actor who holds the final reel hostage, a stolen rental van, a disappointing special FX “artist,” an actress who will only give one take of nudity, heckling locals, out of focus nipples, actors who quit and police involvement, among other things.

Lastly, the humor is bone dry and played pretty straight. It may not be for everyone, but it was downright hilarious to me. There were some parts were the laughs felt a little forced, but these were usually few and far between. One thing that didn’t really click was Penderecki’s existential crisis towards the end of the film when he wonders if he should just quit the film business and give up his dream. This threw off the wacky mood of the film a bit, but not enough to ruin it. The ending more than made up for this slip up, though!

Brutal Massacre is a must-see for horror fans that can appreciate all the hard work that goes into making an independent horror film, as well as all the craziness and mishaps that can occur! A film made by an independent filmmaker for horror fans and other filmmakers, Brutal Massacre is a very funny, very enjoyable film that deserves to be seen!

I’ll even go as far as saying it’s one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year!

Available from Amazon!

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