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Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Brutal Massacre: A Comedy

Brutal Massacre: A Comedy
2008 (2008) - Anchor Bay

This Is Spinal Tap is a genuine comedy classic, rightfully acknowledged as one of the funniest movies of all time. It might also be the most evil motion picture ever filmed. In its wake, countless young filmmakers have been inspired to make their own mockumentaries, presumably thinking, "Hey, that looks easy. I can do that." Word of advice. If you think it looks easy, you can't do that. Brutal Massacre (helpfully subtitled A Comedy, just in case you're unable to tell from the movie itself) takes the mockumentary into the world of low-budget horror filmmaking. The results are... well, brutal.

David Naughton (An American Werewolf In London) stars as Harry Penderecki, the washed-up director of such films as Garbage Man and Sasquatch At The Mall. He's allowed a documentary crew to tag along as he films Brutal Massacre, his last-ditch attempt at a comeback. Now for a movie like this to work, everything must be believable. You believe that Spinal Tap is a real band, for instance. The biggest problem with Brutal Massacre is that within five minutes, you no longer believe Penderecki is a filmmaker. It's hard to swallow that he's ever set foot on a movie set before in his life, much less was once popular. The clips we see of his older films don't looks like real movies (the one exception to this is a bit from The Reading Dead, not surprisingly one of the best gags in the movie). And most damaging for a mockumentary, the actors always sound like they're reading lines, not actually talking.

So if the movie fails as a parody and as a mockumentary, perhaps it could still score a few points as a low-brow comedy, right? Unfortunately, no. The cast is game but they can't spin comedy gold from writer-director Stevan Mena's script. Mena seems to think that profanity is inherently hilarious in and of itself. It isn't and if nothing else, this movie will give you renewed appreciation for Kevin Smith's writing ability. Mena has assembled a horror fan's dream cast, including Ellen Sandweiss and Betsy Baker from The Evil Dead, Ken Foree (from Dawn of the Dead, well cast as a key grip looking to retire from the movies) and Leatherface himself, Gunnar Hansen. He even gets Masters of Horror creator Mick Garris and Fangoria editor Tony Timpone to make brief cameos as themselves. But he skimps on what horror fans really want to see, blood and guts. There are all sorts of missed opportunities for gags involving makeup effects and gore. The jokes that are here are all utterly predictable and telegraphed from miles away. Oddly enough, one of the movie's most affecting moments is a brief attempt to build sympathy for Penderecki as the depressed filmmaker wanders into a video store and finds his movies in the 99 cent clearance bin. It's a nice moment and Naughton plays it well. Too bad that by this point, we couldn't care less if Penderecki finishes his movie or not.

Anchor Bay's DVD presents the movie as well as can be expected and tosses in a handful of extras. There are 17 extended and deleted scenes, some of which are awful but there's one bit involving an elevator that I thought was funnier than anything in the movie itself. The behind-the-scenes featurette is an extension of the mockumentary. It's presented as if this was the DVD of Penderecki's movie and the cast is interviewed in character. If you didn't think the actual movie was funny, you aren't likely to be amused by this either. The extras also include the trailers for this and a few other Anchor Bay releases.

Low-budget horror filmmaking is a world ripe for parody and a great, hilarious movie could be set there. In fact, one already has. Troma's Terror Firmer is a movie with the courage of its convictions, wildly over-the-top and chock full o' the kind of gags that Brutal Massacre lacks. Directed by the honorable Lloyd Kaufman hisownself, Terror Firmer is one of the Troma Team's most underrated flicks. If it's a no-holds-barred, unpredictable horror-comedy about the movie industry you're after, check it out instead.

Film Rating: D
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/C-

Adam Jahnke
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