Mockumentaries can often walk a fine line between tedium and genius. We’re watching in depth coverage on a made up subject that we know nothing about and probably wouldn’t care to know more about if it were real. As a result, they can be hard to connect with and relate to. When they do transcend the shortcomings of the genre, it's usually due in part to a stellar ensemble cast. In the case of “Brutal Massacre”, we follow along with horror auteur Henry Penderecki, who had one monumental classic in his portfolio and a whole truckload of stinkers, as he sets out to film what he hopes is his greatest film yet. Too bad nearly everybody involved on the crew are incompetent.
Luckily for "Brutal Massacre", they hit a lot of great notes with their casting. They’re an all star HORROR cast though; not necessarily known for their comedic prowess. Heading up the juggernaut is David Naughton, star of the classic “American Werewolf in London”., in the role of frazzled director Penderecki. He is low key and acts as more of a straight man here. I will have to say, this is a role he pulls off well as I didn’t even realize it was him until the credits rolled! Joining him as his Assistant Director is “Clerks” alum Brian O’Halloran. To be honest, he’s not turning in a performance here that’s all that different from his iconic turn as Quick-Stop employee "Dante", but he manages a few laughs.
But wait, there's more! How about the Producer of the movie, played by Ellen Sandweiss? You may remember her from a little ditty named “Evil Dead”. The film makers worked hard to pack a lot of b-movie talent into the cast and over all it works, but there's a problem, overall they just don't have the comedic timing it takes to fully pull off a concept like this. Ken Foree as the Key Grip though? He’s pretty funny, and I'm not just saying that because he's sort of terrifying in real life.
The lack of comedic chops is a problem because aside from the overall setting, this is much more comedy than horror. You see a few guts here and there but they’re all props that the crew is using for their filming. It is a sometimes fun look at the behind the scenes world though. As we all know, the world of independent horror is rife with the kind of budget issues, personality clashes and mishaps that make for pretty interesting fodder. They’re working with zero to no budget and have to cut corners to make ends meet. Sometimes things go wrong. These are the moments that “Brutal Massacre” latches onto to make their story work; which occasionally, it does.
The movie is a low mark for a straight comedy, but there are some good laughs to be had. Many of the laughs come from deliveries more so that setups but there are still some fun scenarios. Though we don’t see the brunt of Producer Ellen Sandweiss having to dump their RV’s toilet tank, we get to see the aftermath and there are a few obvious jokes worth a chuckle. Brian O’Halloran’s character Jay delivers a few laughs of his own though it has nothing to do with the film being made, instead his brief flash of fanboy-ism in talking about his own script he’s working on. The biggest laughs in the movie come from the town nutjob played by Gunnar Hansen because he’s been to 'Nam dammit, he doesn’t give a shit what you do to his house you motherf*@#($s.
“Brutal Massacre” isn’t going to be seeing any nominations as best comedy of the year, but there are some good laughs to be had throughout the movie. It won’t leave you gasping for breath, but there is a story that is somewhat engaging and helps to keep you moving towards the end. They’re all a bunch of bumbling idiots, (the characters, not the actors) which makes them a bit lovable.