Harry Penderecki (David Naughton) is a warhorse of the horror genre. As the director of such titles as Bowel Movement and People Pesticide, he's established himself as a B-movie maestro, cranking out films on low and often no budgets at all. After a little breather from show business, Harry's ready to get back in the game with his latest picture, Brutal Massacre. As shooting commences, Harry assembles a crew that's stuck by through thick and thin, from his loyal assistant director (Brian O'Halloran) to a cinematographer (Gerry Bednob) with anger issues. But just as Harry's previous movies experienced their share of hiccups, so does Brutal Massacre. From rowdy locals to diminished funds, it seems the movie gods are using everything at their disposal to prevent Harry from finishing his work -- and judging from how the flick's shaping up, that might not be a bad thing.
Brutal Massacre: A Comedy is a movie that really wants to be liked. Made with great affection for horror while wise enough to acknowledge its shortcomings, this mockumentary-style farce (think Christopher Guest with a body count) aims to introduce viewers to independent filmmaking from the point of view of those on the front lines. Writer/director Stevan Mena (himself the director of indie slasher Malevolence) keeps his satire on an even keel, equally poking fun at showbiz blowhards and those filmmakers who take cutting costs a little too far.
But when parody is involved, execution is everything, which is where Brutal Massacre fails to find its footing. I'm not sure whether it was meant to reflect on the inexperienced actors who often find themselves in horror flicks, but much of the humor seems incredibly forced and obvious. But then how do you explain folks like O'Halloran and Evil Dead veteran Ellen Sandweiss, who nail their parts by playing them straight? I admire the intent, but seeing gags that aren't even that inventive telegraphed five scenes in advance wears thin fast. There are moments that indicate what a sharp and even tender ode to horror it could have been, but Mena all too often takes the easy way out and cover his tracks with a cameo.
Contained within Brutal Massacre: A Comedy are the ingredients to not just a great comedy but an all-around great film, too. If the right actors could've stopped mugging and winking at the audience every three seconds, they might have pulled together and brought the story's true potential to light. As it, Brutal Massacre parts with the occasional chuckle and nugget of insight, but the title of horror's version of Spinal Tap remains up for grabs.