A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff
Directed by: Mitchell Altieri
Run time: 87 minutes
The Lowdown: Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores, aka The Butcher Brothers, are probably best known for their debut, The Hamiltons, which premiered as part of After Dark’s 8 Films to Die For series back in 2006.
The duo’s latest, A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff, which is essentially a solo outing for Altieri as director (he and Flores contributed to the story, but not the screenplay), is a welcome return to the creative promise they displayed way back then.
It’s also one of the better horror/black comedy mashups to come along in recent memory. I couldn’t stop laughing and cringing throughout, so much so that I even wrote in my notes: Imagine if Harry Lime and Marv Merchants from Home Alone decided to make a snuff film.
A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff opens right in the thick of it with two guys in masks menacing a buxom beauty strapped to a gurney. Only, she has the upper hand.
“I’m done playing the victim,” she tells her would-be assailants. “That part of the movie is over.”
One of the dopes picks up a chainsaw. It immediately breaks. The girl laughs like crazy.
He grabs a pistol and makes a show of placing one bullet in the chamber before spinning it shut. Then he points at the girl’s head.
“You dickless, fucking pussy, do it!” she screams. “Do it!”
And this is all before the title card and opening credits, which get nerd points for playing like a worn-out VHS tape.
The two idiots are actually brothers, Dresden (Joey Kern) and Dominic (Luke Edwards), from Minnesota, who moved to Los Angeles only to find themselves stuck in career suicide mode as wannabe actors who can’t land a good-paying job.
Then they see an ad for a filmmaking contest. Dresden fancies himself an auteur. He pitches Dominic with his idea to make a fake snuff film that oozes reality because they will fail to mention to their lead actress that she’s starring in a fake snuff film.
“Aren’t you more of a romantic comedy guy?” Dominic asks.
“Yeah, but there’s a journey of suffering in both comedy and horror,” Dresden tells him. “One’s just got more violence.”
The knuckleheads host an open audition where they manage to offend every actress except one, Jennifer (Bree Williamson), a self-professed horror fanatic. And, of course, that’s who they choose to stalk and kidnap in the name of exploitation cinema.
“Her resume said Brazilian jiu-jitsu and krav maga,” Dominic points out.
“All actresses put that,” Dresden reassures him.
By now, you’ve probably got a good idea where this is all heading, but trust me, it’s well worth the ride. A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff consistently surprises with unexpected twists and some serious consequences, culminating with one of the funniest and most brutal #MeToo comeuppances this year.
If you had given up on The Butcher Brothers after their lackluster The Violent Kind and The Thompsons, it’s time to re-engage.
A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff is both funny and bloody as hell. And, as of right now, it’s on my short list of 2018 releases for Best Comeback of the Year.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – Brief.
Gore – Yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – The Apple Dumpling Gang of snuff killers.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Unfriended: Dark Web (Universal, 88 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): The Blumhouse machine rolls on.
Unfriended: Dark Web is a sequel to 2014’s Unfriended, which I will readily admit to never watching.
However, for a movie that is contained exclusively to webcams, Skype video calls and computer monitor screens, Dark Web is actually very watchable and surprisingly entertaining.
It won’t win any points for originality, but it works as a timely and visceral reminder that the Internet is not our friend.
City Slickers: Collector’s Edition
Valley Girl: Collector’s Edition
Now on Video-on-Demand:
Bonehill Road (Wild Eye Releasing, 106 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): When is a werewolf movie not really a werewolf movie?
When it’s called Bonehill Road, apparently.
The latest lycanthrope saga to hit the small screen is packed with ho-hum personal drama, some serious continuity issues as far as the lead actress' screen makeup and some of the worst full-bodied werewolves to be featured in recent memory.
There’s also a wholly unnecessary subplot about a misogynistic cannibal (yes, you read that right), which is only acceptable because it introduces genre icon Linnea Quigley to the party, albeit briefly.
Bonehill Road is the kind of low-budget effort that seems to lose itself in irrelevant subplots for large chunks of screen time, and then suddenly the camera cuts to a fourth-place Face-Off competitor’s version of a Rob Bottin werewolf, if only to let viewers know the creative team hasn’t forgotten they’re supposed to be making a werewolf movie.
Thanks. I'll pass.
Not to be Overlooked:
Followed (Branded Pictures Entertainment/Viscape Arts, 90 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Followed, the debut feature from director Antoine Le, recently premiered at the Burbank International Film Festival, where it won “Best Horror Film.”
It’s easy to see why the festival circuit is already proving kind to Le’s film.
Followed tells the story of Mike (Matthew Solomon), a video blogger who goes by the handle Drop The Mic, who is offered a deal for $250,000 if he can solicit 50,000 new online subscribers for a live Halloween streaming event at a hotel known for its mysterious deaths and a woman’s recent, chilling disappearance.
Mike isn’t a believer, but his usual crew is hesitant to sign up for his latest scheme.
“This is exactly why I keep you around for this Catholic-y, Pope-y nonsense that you were raised on,” Mike tells his camera operator.
After the hotel declines to let Mike film inside, he and his team sneak in by pretending to be paying guests. He makes sure they are given one of the rooms where a serial killer allegedly stayed during a gruesome murder spree.
Le expertly unspools the early stages of the story, playing up the age of the team, in particular. At one point, a team member unveils a drone that they can pilot through the hotel basement for footage. “How millennial,” Mike quips.
The important thing is that, as a viewer, you actually like these people, which isn’t always the case within the found-footage genre.
As the team encounters minor events (doors opening and closing, lights operating independently), Le builds to his first big scare, which involves what’s called the “Elevator Ritual,” which the woman was doing when she disappeared.
When Mike does the ritual, he actually captures a ghost on camera. Then a team member sees another spirit. Then they venture up to the roof of the hotel where they discover a satanic symbol scrawled right over where their room is located. And a room service cart with a severed tongue swimming in maggots.
At this point, in real life, most reasonable people would tap out. But, this being a movie, they trudge forth, undeterred.
Followed does an excellent job ratcheting up both suspense and some genuine scares as the haunting escalates and Mike’s team begins dropping off one by one.
While I didn’t love the ending – there’s a lot of story that gets unpacked in the third act – I did really enjoy the overall experience watching Followed.
This is another solid, recent example of found-footage that makes clear there’s still a lot of stories to be mined within this genre, and fans will likely make a point to share and recommend Followed to a much larger audience, which it definitely deserves.