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A low-budget love letter to the genre, “Brutal Massacre: A Comedy” is an endearing mockumentary made exclusively for horror fans.

Brutal Massacre

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What if I told you that there was a movie out there that starred actors from An American Werewolf in London, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Evil Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and other beloved staples of horror and cult movie fandom? And get this: it’s not a horror movie. Well, it’s kind of a horror movie… but more a movie about horror movies than a horror movie itself.

Still, you’d probably ask yourself, what is this movie, where can I watch it, and how come I’ve never heard of it?

The answer to the first question is Brutal Massacre: a Comedy, Stevan Mena’s charming 2007 mockumentary about horror movies and those who make them. To that second question, it’s currently streaming for free on Tubi. As to that third question, I’m really not sure.

As far as I can tell, it was very much an indie production and didn’t seem to garner much attention despite a cast full of horror luminaries. Much like its main character, it’s a movie that can’t help but be overlooked.

Brutal Massacre follows one Harry Penderecki (American Werewolf’s David Naughton), the filmmaker behind such cheap-and-dirty horrors as I’ll Take the Ring Back…and the Finger Too! and Bowel Movement (tagline: “whatever you do – don’t look in the bowl!”), on a quest to finance and produce his latest feature, the titular Brutal Massacre. Hoping for a late-career hit after years of disappointments, he’s being followed by a documentarian named Bert (Vincent Butta, also a producer) as he endures one indignity after another on the road to completing the film.

At first, I thought maybe Brutal Massacre would morph from a mockumentary to a horror movie in its own right, either with a real killer stalking the film shoot, or maybe Harry deciding he needs to spice up his work with some IRL murders.

But Mena takes a different approach, choosing to stick to the (maybe slightly exaggerated) nuts and bolts of trying to make a film with limited resources and little, shall we say, conventional talent. 

Beyond Naughton as Harry, the film is populated with the aforementioned horror luminaries as his hapless crew, from Evil Dead’s Ellen Sandweiss as perpetually frazzled production manager Natalie (original Linda, Betsy Baker, also appears as Harry’s jaded casting director), to Dawn of the Dead’s Ken Foree as his loyal key grip, to original Leatherface, Gunnar Hansen, as a foul-mouthed old crank who gives the team permission to film in an abandoned house.

There are a few recognizable faces from outside the horror world too, most prominently ClerksBrian O’Halloran as overworked AD Jay, and Gerry Bednob, known for his memorable role in The 40 Year-Old Virgin, as Harry’s volatile DP Hanu.

It’s a treat for fans of the genre, to see recognizable faces — or those usually hidden by masks of human skin — in much more mundane roles.

And that’s really the main appeal of BRUTAL MASSACRE in a nutshell: it’s a love letter to the genre, its makers, and its fans, which likely has limited appeal outside any of those groups.

With Harry and his crew’s tireless devotion to their work and perseverance in the face of constant setbacks, the film also stands as a loving tribute to those who have no choice but to keep on creating, no matter how many (or how few) people are paying attention.

Everyone seems to realize this is a very dysfunctional and destructive working environment, but they’re bound together regardless. Whether that’s because they truly love what they do or can’t get work anywhere else, the end result is the same.

Harry keeps making movies not because he has some kind of grand artistic vision that can’t be ignored, but rather because it’s tied up in his whole sense of self. That’s a feeling I certainly relate to as a creative person, and one I can openly acknowledge is unhealthy.

But for those true creative souls, we can’t imagine not doing what we do, no matter how much it disappoints us sometimes. That constant dance between triumph and failure, rejection and approval, becomes the thing that drives us.

The movie’s certainly not perfect. Much of its mockumentary style feels overly scripted and not naturalistic, and its pacing lags in the latter half. Some of its jokes fall flat, and the ones that work are more often mildly amusing than fall-down-laughing.

Still, there’s a scrappy charm to the whole thing that’s hard not to like, particularly as a horror fan.

It might not resonate much with those outside the horror bubble, but since you’re reading this article, odds are high that you’re safely inside that bubble, so you just might get something out of it.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3

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