Monday, September 1, 2008

Review: Brutal Massacre: A Comedy (2007) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: David Naughton, Brian O’Halloran, Ken Foree, Gunnar Hansen
Written & Directed By: Stevan Mena
Released: 2008
Grade: B

Brutal Massacre: A Comedy is a mockumentary film that shows the making of a horror film that has continuous disasters in just about every part of the making of the film and even before and after the makers are at this point. It pokes fun at cheesy horror slashers in particular. While the movie is funny, in most parts it is not quite in a laugh out loud way, but more through the critiques of the horror industry and Hollywood.

Harry (Naughton) is a horror writer and director who has quite a few films under his belt. However, only one of them was really successful. All of the others did horribly in the U.S., although some had a following overseas. Still, many of them were thought to be too trashy to even get made in to films, including a children’s horror film he made with his partner, Jay (O’Halloran), that tried to moralize itself by making only the bad kids who didn’t eat their vegetables die. Most people don’t take him very seriously even more, especially those in the industry, making it harder for him to get investors to support him. Most of the people who are working with him are either amateurs or have been working with Harry for so long and feel that they must stay loyal to him. He eventually does find a studio to back his newest film, Brutal Massacre. From the start the producer wants to make changes to Harry’s original idea. Cranking up the nudity is a must or there will be no film. This conflicts with the story since Harry really wanted this to be a film concentrating on the premise, story, and characters, even feeling that nudity might seem random and out of place. He is forced to alter his vision a bit if he wants Brutal Massacre to even have a chance.

Finding a location gives them a lot of trouble especially since they don’t have a lot of money to pay for it. After quite some trouble, Jay finds a house that is absolutely perfect. Even better the old crazy drunk, Krenshaw (Hansen) tells them, “fuck if I care” about them using the house and they can do whatever they want to it, since he is planning on destroying it and creating a new one right after. Even after they start filming the problems still keep arising. They seem to be in the middle of nowhere yet there are still plenty of neighborhood teenagers who are getting a kick out of stirring up trouble and making it more difficult for the crew to get the shots that they need. Even when they do get a lot of things that they need it turns out that the sound didn’t match the images, because the sound guy is new at this and really doesn’t have too much of a grasp on what he is doing. Some of the actresses have problems that Harry and his crew have to work them through like hesitancy to shoot nude scenes, fear off blood, and overacting. Things get even worse as they get robbed, their dead corpses end up looking extremely fake, and it is Harry’s belief that his curse is coming back through the spirit’s that haunt him as one of the crew members, Carl (Foree), ends up dead on the set. Others leave for better opportunities else where while some just give up as they feel that they are working on a doomed to fail film. Even once Harry manages to get through everything it turns out that he can’t even have an ending to the film due to complications and hopes this will pass as an artistic decision rather than a mistake.

David Naughton made a very convincing horror writer/director and the struggles and desperation of this man was very evident in his performance. Naughton seemed very in tune with horror as his character claimed to even be haunted by ghosts. It was great seeing Brian O’Halloran in this and although he is playing a completely different character it brought me back to his performance in Clerks. His character, Jay, has a pretty creative mind and has real ambitions of his own that are campy but in good fun. Ken Foree gave us a more reluctant crew member who had a computer job waiting for him. This was his last film he was working on and wanted to get back to a more normal life, with normal working hours that would let him have a bit more of a life. Gunnar Hansen gave us Krenshaw, surely one of the funniest characters in the film. He was an old drunk that Hansen was able to perfect by using an almost angered and strong personality yet clearly off the wall.

Brutal Massacre: A Comedy concentrates on some of the flaws in the Hollywood system. For example, Harry is considered to be out of the horror genre for putting out too many cheesy and out there horror films. However, when he tries to put out a film that is focused on the story and has some serious elements and real purpose to it, the only producer that will actually listen to him immediately tries to dumb it down. The element of nudity trying to be shoved in to everything especially horror is shown here even in the case where it might not fit at all. This is actually an unfortunate fault of the core audiences. The reason that a lot of mainstream horror films are trash are because the audiences only responds to this trash rather than craving or demanding something that shows a bit more intellect or thought. The film also showed the opposite example of this, while a simple part of his film, which is really a shortcoming on his part is mistaken for an innovative statement by a critic who wants to see more than what is really there.

The film within the film has complication after complication, expressing the notion that often times everything that can go wrong does. When Harry is pitching his ideas, once most people hear that it is a horror movie they want nothing to do with it, as if horror has no potential to it and is something not even worth bothering with. Those who will look at it, assume that it is this low genre and try to exploit it as such. This represents a very real, but unfortunate opinion by the majority of the movie industry. Horror is only a respected genre for the fans and some bigger filmmakers committed to creating horror in creative ways to the masses, but more commonly with independent horror filmmakers who have the passion and drive that will not be skewed or toyed with by major studios. I really liked how committed Harry was to the film and that he seemed to have horror embedded in him and wanted to use his film for an outlet on it. In an interview he also talks about horror films being his creative medium to react to the world he sees around him. This is true of the greatest filmmakers and their movies, which is something most cynics aren’t able to understand.

Brutal Massacre: A Comedy isn’t really a comedy in my eyes. It is mildly funny and is an entertaining film. However, what you take away from the movie is not laughs. Maybe this would have happened if stereotypes and clichés would have been targeted more or if some of the characters would have been molded to be a bit more crazy personalities to make an example of this. The one really crazy character, Krenshaw, is by far the funniest, which just proves this. Perhaps, a more appropriate name would be Brutal Massacre: a horror industry examination. The film is not perfect and could have done more, but what it does well it does subtly, but still with intellect and craft. The examination is really Brutal Massacre: A Comedy’s concentration and although it may seem light and fun at times, overall it really leaves us with some insight, questioning, and depth in to horror films and the system they are built around.

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