Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: David Naughton, Ellen Sandweiss, Gunnar Hansen, Ken Foree
Extras: Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Trailer
The hot topic about "Brutal Massacre" is the fact that almost everyone confronting it is going to be uttering "Spinal Tap" within the same sentence as this nutty horror roast. That being said, is "Brutal Massacre" really the "Spinal Tap" of its ilk?
Stop to consider – if you actually dare – other horror spoofs over the years, the popular drug and sex-happy "Scary Movie" films notwithstanding. Here are a few obscure horror spoofs you'll undoubtedly need to jump into the wayback machine in order to track down: "Saturday the 14th," "Pandemonium" and "Student Bodies." If these don't sound familiar, only "Student Bodies" is the most memorable, if for no other reason than death by paperclip! On a more recent note the British invaded and dry-wrought American zombie lore with the gleeful "Shaun of the Dead." Even "Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers" is inherently a horror spoof, and a damned hilarious one at that. Still, until now, there's been no justification to call any film in its particular genre relative to "Spinal Tap," at least not until "Brutal Massacre."
Okay, there's no miniature Stonehenges and dancing dwarves, there's no pus-leaking cold sores and there's no "Big Bottoms" to be found in "Brutal Massacre" (not with this cast, trust me). But there is an undeniable parallel to "Spinal Tap" that's overt in its "mockumentary" format and the fact that every film shoot of the fictitious director Harry Penderecki (An American Werewolf in London's David Naughton) results in a crew tragedy, similar to the multitude of righteously-offed drummers in the zany heavy metal world of Spinal Tap.
"Brutal Massacre" is a subtle, sarcastic and chuckle-busting quasi film boasting cult star firepower with Ellen Sandweiss of "The Evil Dead," Gunnar Hansen (the very first Leatherface, for the record) and Ken Foree from "Dawn of the Dead" (both versions, thank ya), along with Kevin Smith affiliate Brian O'Halloran and "The 40 Year Old Virgin's" Gerry Bednob.
David Naughton (who makes you forget it's really him), portrays a nearly down-and-out horror director with a panache for Grade B schlock, given his repertoire of fictitious films such as "Fish Who Ate Flesh," "Bowel Movement," "People Pesticide," "Sasquatch at the Mall" and "I'll Take the Ring Back…And the Finger Too!" Once the toast of the horror genre, Harry Penderecki's current track record for bombed chum bucket films prompts him to take one last shot at fame and fortune with his newest feature "Brutal Massacre" and along the way is made part of a documentary that follows him from the beginning stages to the no-ending final cut that improbably wins the day for Penderecki.
Famed horror director and "Masters of Horror" series creator Mick Garris has a waving cameo in the opening sequence of "Brutal Massacre," and if you've read his nervy and acerbic torching of Hollywood, "Development Hell," then you're in the right frame of mind for the approach mastermind Stevan Mena takes on this project. "Brutal Massacre" is as much a jibe at the industry itself as it is the horror genre. The inherent message, similar to Garris' novel, is that Hollywood is a consumptive succubus that nurtures her favorites then gobbles and shits down the pipe when she has no more use for them.
In "Brutal Massacre," Harry Penderecki is compelled to do trash horror, even with the specter of a looming "curse" about him that not only results in routine death on his film shoots, but also routine mishaps and misfortunes in the extreme way "The Out-Of-Towners" and "National Lampoon's Vacation" sadistically torment their lead characters without mercy, all to the audience's benefit. If anything, "Brutal Massacre" is the Vacation of horror, because what can go wrong will go wrong.
Just by having his lowbrow financier insist on nudity despite Penderecki trying to clean up his image, the tone is set for the film, and "Brutal Massacre" wastes no opportunity to cut T&A slices at random, albeit in comical fashion like "Kentucky Fried Movie" or "Amazon Women On the Moon." Amusing scenes of clothing that is supposed to rip open on cue but doesn't while rolling the camera, to the reluctant lead actress giving Penderecki only one shot at capturing her breast on film, only to have the daily print end up out-of-focus, this is the sour broth flavor of "Brutal Massacre."
Ending up on a shooting range for a scene location, constantly interrupted by interloping teenagers who drive their jeep through Penderecki's shots, a soundman with no experience who wastes an entire day of shooting and "Brutal Massacre's" truest grossout gag, Ellen Sandweiss covered in fecal mater…these are some of the film's blunt images. You're going to have to pay attention to "Brutal Massacre" because like "Spinal Tap," most of the humor is understated, as if directed to in-the-know movie folk more so than your average fan, but the way Penderecki continuously yells "Cut!" from flubbed lines, airheaded translation and a primadonna lead who eventually walks out on him, is not dissimilar in endearment to Daffy Duck when he's hired as Bugs Bunny's stand-in, constantly yelling "Makeup!" in frustration as an unwilling butt-end.
Then again, getting to see a Santa-bearded Gunnar Hanson yell "fuck" at every turn is worth the price of admission, as is Gerry Bednob's karate chopping to quell would-be troublemakers. There's something delicately Romero-ish to David Naughton's performance in the conjured director's chair, as there is Savini-esque to Brian O'Halloran's Jay. In her own way, Ellen Sandweiss becomes the glue, if not the conscience of "Brutal Massacre," as if it needed one.
Fans can rejoice in the behind-the-scenes footage on the extras of "Brutal Massacre," as well as deleted and extended scenes. While some of these buffs are going to find "Brutal Massacre" in contempt for sometimes holding its thumb on the trigger, considering they aren't going to settle for anything less than "Cabin Fever" reduced to even more slapstick, they'd be missing the point of the film. Industry-kissed it may be, "Brutal Massacre" is a raucous rage against the celluloid machine. Just get it, already!