Stevan Mena has followed up his 2004 low-budget slasher film “Malevolence” with a documentary-style comedy about the making of a low-budget slasher film. It's a cinema verite, art-imitates-life-imitates-art moment for Mena, but is it funny?

“Brutal Massacre” covers the declining career of b-movie director Harry Penderecki. Over the years Harry's been responsible for horror junk such as “Retirement Home”, “Sasquatch At The Mall”, well... you get the idea. A documentary crew is on hand to cover Harry's “last chance” as he tries to secure financing for, and shoot his latest film “Brutal Massacre”. The production is plagued by everything from uncooperative locals, a woefully incompetent and sometimes mutinous crew, to Harry's own diminishing confidence. Still, Harry has a few fine people still loyal to him and they help keep Harry from a complete nervous breakdown and keep the film moving.

There have been horror-comedies and documentary style comedies before. By combining the two “Brutal Massacre” is unique in it's ability to skewer the standards and cliches that we see in low-budget horror films . As an example, instead of just being able to spoof the ubiquitous “boob shots” found in slasher films. Mena is able to satirize the need for a boob shoot, the process of finding the girl willing to go topless, getting the actual shot and turns the whole thing into a very funny subplot. The film is very funny, especially considering how hard comedy is to get right and that this is the first comedy by the writer-director Mena. Some jokes, such as a look at some of Harry's past films “Retirement Home” and “Killer Koala” are absurdly funny.

The cast consists heavily of staples and legends of the horror genre themselves. If you never thought the Gunner Hansen (the original “Leatherface”) could do comedy you'll be pleasantly surprised. Penderecki is played by “American Werewolf in London” star David Naughton, his assistant Natalie is played by (the absolutely great looking) Ellen Sandweiss (Cheryl from “Evil Dead”). Ken Foree (“Dawn of the Dead”, “Devil Rejects”) is Carl, a grip who's worked on all of Harry's movies. It's really great watching these guys try and succeed at being ridiculous and funny. Also starring is Brian O'Halloran (“Clerks”) as Jay, Penderecki's production manager, Gerry Bednob (“The 40 Year Old Virgin”) as Hanu the DP.

The film has a great supporting cast. It's those supporting characters that really round out “Brutal Massacre”. Jay, Natalie, Hanu and Carl really are the glue that holds the film together, as much as they work to hold Harry Penderecki together. They're not just comic stooges. While the humor in “Brutal Massacre” is often very broad, these loyal friends and associates of Harry add a lot of heart and soul and there's more than few scenes are very touching, especially when things get very rough on the set of the film.

The only thing holding “Brutal Massacre” back from being truly great is that sometimes the dialogue and timing in certain scenes seem a little stiff, and certain shots last a little too long after a joke plays out . Now I'm judging this from an early festival cut of the film, so it's probably nothing a little tightening up wouldn't hurt. Overall, the idea of yet another documentary style, “Spinal Tap” inspired comedy initially seemed, well, not very inspired, but Mena and his great cast have pulled it off. “Brutal Massacre” is a sometimes quite moving, often very hilarious look at the tough world of low-budget film making. - Mike C.  


back to: