Tearin’ Down that House

As director Harry Penderecki takes the stage at a horror convention, a mega fan, in the standing room only section, goes gonzo. He’s so excited, so hyped, so amped up, his shouting overwhelms the space – mostly because no one else is cheering.

Brutal Massacre adapts the Christopher Guest mockumentary formula, becoming a loving embrace of genre filmmaking. Penderecki (David Naughton) only wants to make a movie while a film crew documents the project, descending into total chaos and idiocy as it goes.

Incompetence is key, but not so much as to enter implausibility. The slasher movie production doesn’t become a real life slasher event; Brutal Massacre sticks to a satirical reality, only slightly more ridiculous than z-grade filmmaking itself.

Brutal Massacre sticks to a satirical reality, only slightly more ridiculous than z-grade filmmaking itself

Multiple times, people ask Penderecki what effect horror cinema has on people and why he’s drawn to gore. He responds ludicrously, as if he’s making high art for the sophisticated. Stupid, but genuine. The man’s passion for genre films and belief in his ideas indicate ego, if also someone doing what he loves no matter the odds. Ed Wood, for the ‘80s slasher, even if Penderecki doesn’t realize the decades in-between changed some things.

Hilarious as Brutal Massacre is, down to priceless bit parts (Gunnar Hansen lets it all out), the dedication comes through. Money runs out, Penderecki keeps going. When someone steals the production’s van, Penderecki keeps going. The staff quits, a botched stunt kills a guy, the film’s negative is held for ransom, props fail, key shots go out of focus, pranksters interrupt location shoots, and none of it stops Penderecki’s movie. He’s an idiot, but one worth rooting for. The independent zeal feels totally authentic.

Like Penderecki’s movie itself, Brutal Massacre doesn’t have much in the way of budget to show. It’s small and lean, fighting to reach the full runtime. Not every joke lands, yet the escalating absurdity gives Brutal Massacre a curiosity factor. Getting to the credits, Brutal Massacre wraps up with text, telling where these people ended up after filming. Those, too, are hysterical, in-line with the tone and plausibility. The easy out is to let Penderecki fail, preying on his naivety, and punching down. Instead, Brutal Massacre succeeds in a middle ground where the whole thing is nothing more than an accident. That’s a win, and comically-imbued joy.


Shot on Super 16, Brutal Massacre looks better than that, even suspiciously so. Most scenes lack a thick grain structure common to the format, and certain shots appear digitally smoothed. When grain does gain weight, encoding chokes, leaving artifacts behind. It’s inconsistent and messy.

That said, the overall image does produce firm imagery, defined enough and at times, well detailed for such a production. Clarity impresses, gorgeous too, locking in a horror film aesthetic. Surprising brightness gives Brutal Massacre substantial pop. When shooting inside small barns, without much light at all, black levels drop to stable, convincing density.

Exterior footage brings in a nice, wide palette. Greenery and earth tones saturate to a natural peak. Flesh tones suffer no ills. Some primaries stick out, reds especially, nicely elevated. There’s no bleed to notice, just richness in these hues.


Might as well go for the stereo mix. There’s a 5.1 track too (both compressed Dolby Digital), using the rears during a scene near a shooting range, bullets streaming by. That’s it though, and the stereo sounds more natural. Either way, be ready for a volume jolt in the early going as the opening credits blare metal to deafening decibels.


An in-character behind-the-scenes featurette lasts 16-minutes, joined in the menu by 22-minutes of deleted/extended scenes. Director Stevan Mena offers thoughts on a commentary, and during a convention panel later on the disc. A poster gallery and trailers follow (there’s a hidden bonus too, and the menu makes it clear where that’s located).

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Brutal Massacre: A Comedy
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Honest and only slightly exaggerated, Brutal Massacre successfully spoofs low budget filmmaking, and it’s enough to root for the fictional crew.

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