2008 - 94m.
When it comes to faux documentaries the still reigning king is one of the first ones to do it. Of course, I'm talking about Rob Reiner's 1984 'mockumentary' This is Spinal Tap. It's a flick that's gone on to such a cult following its influence is still felt today with various clones arriving over the years. Even co-star Christopher Guest has gotten in on the act directing The Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman, and Best in Show (which, for the record, were all pretty funny). That brings us to writer-director Stevan Mena and Brutal Massacre. Set-up as a documentary, it follows the exploits of legendary b-movie director Harry Pendrecki (David Naughton) as he tries to get his newest film off the ground.
Obviously low budget in nature due to its premise; Brutal Massacre is an oftentimes loving tribute to the makeshift, do-it-yourself horror movies of the 1980s. Penderecki is a junky filmmaker, with a big ego that makes him feel like his work has actually social significance, whose time has passed and is finding it very difficult to get financing. Thanks to some mild renewed interest in his past works like The Fish Who Ate Flesh, Bowel Movement, and Sasquatch in the Mall (all titles that would easily snag me into watching them) he's actually given the chance to make what he hopes will be his best effort yet, Brutal Massacre.
Planning for it to be a thought-provoking slasher flick, but in reality just another shitty and cheap one, Penderecki allows access to a documentary crew that follow the production through all steps of funding, casting, filming, and completion giving us a look at all the hurdles, and arguing, along the way while our veteran director tries his best to keep a grip on his sanity and slowly realizes (especially after seeing the film considered his biggest hit in a bargain bin at a video store) that everyone might be correct about him being well past his prime.
As the main focus of the film, Naughton (An American Werewolf in London) gives a decent turn as Harry giving him enough bravado and humility for us to buy his character. He's surrounded by a cast filled with faces that'll be familiar to b-movie fans everywhere. Brian O'Halloran (Clerks) gets to swear a lot as Harry's right-hand-man, Gunnar Hansen (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) hams it up as a loony "I don't give a shit..." Vietnam veteran, Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead) is likeable and muted as the films lighting specialist, and Ellen Sandweiss (The Evil Dead) turns in the best performance of the film as production manager Natalie.
In case you weren't sure, distributor Anchor Bay has made sure to proclaim on the DVD box that this is a comedy. I'm going to assume this is to try and draw in non-genre fans but I'm not that optimistic on how successful that campaign will be considering Mena has stacked his movie full of actors who are, for the most part, familiar mainly to horror diehards and there's a lot of in-jokes and references that would probably go over-the-head of your regular, casual viewer.
Taking his experiences making his debut feature, 2004's Malevolence which is supposed to be quite good, Mena does pepper in some amusing bits and does seem to have his heart in the right place. Every one of his actors also seems to have bought into the concept. Then why is Brutal Massacre just not as outrageously funny as I'd have liked it to be? Thinking a little bit about why it personally didn't resonate with me as much as it should have (since I've been watching scare flicks as long as I can remember and have always had an affinity to the low-budget end of the spectrum), I've come to the conclusion that everything here just feels too dry. While it's not on the level of such fellow filmmaking spoofs like Hollywood Boulevard, I will admit I did mostly enjoy my ninety-or-so minutes with the film and I did get a huge kick out of the cast, I just feel like this isn't something I'll go back to in the future. (Chris Hartley, 10/28/09)
Directed By: Stevan Mena.
Written By: Stevan Mena.
Starring: David Naughton, Brian O'Halloran, Gerry Bednob, Gunnar Hansen.