Before I even begin with the plot, I just want to say that SAMMAZM (no, that’s not an old incantation to summon Pazuzu) found my alley and went right up it. Like, right up that alley, my friends. I think I need surgery to get it out.
As you may know, I am a fan of campy, schlocky goodness. I drink it down deep and enjoy the burn, like a fine whiskey. So, their movie, with its boyish wish-fulfillment fantasies featuring zombies, babes, and riding sky-high ollies while yelling, “Later, bitches” isn’t my cup of tea. It IS my tea. And, sure, we’ll get into some of the flaws and my brain roll juice, of course, but I was ecstatic to watch this and it did not disappoint.
So, this is actually two movies. It is, in large part, a documentary and also the final film. So, let’s take them both as separate beasts.
The documentary is about real-life best friends, Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt. They have been very close friends since childhood, often doing what every aspiring film-maker does with their friends – making crappy movies in the backyard. However, their dream went bigger than just those movies and they dreamed big – they wanted to make their own teen zombie movie. So, with the help of Sam’s brother, Jesse, they set out to do just that, while also learning a plethora of lessons along the way.
The movie portion is a wild ride that is part Andy Sedaris, Charles Band and Velocipastor. The story goes: the Smith brothers are born on the same day, literally as “brothers from a different mother”. And all is okay-doke until Satan shows up to be a massive dick. After being told to “grow up”, the devil kills the mothers and plots his revenge against the brothers.
Twenty years later, these dudes ROCK (like, literally, they’re in a band). They fight off bullies, are members of underground martial arts gyms, and are gifted with bionic powers to survive Satan’s zombie, demon, and zombie-demon hordes. It is a kaleidoscope of fake blood, Pauly D, and slow-mo action scenes that are cooler than you will ever be (no matter what your mom says).
So many thoughts. So, so many.
First off, I love the “making of” process alongside the movie. For many aspiring indie film-makers it really shows the process of making it all work (including begging people for money and free work). It’s exhausting. It’s time-consuming. It is a labor of love. It’s not easy.
The dudes showed their dedication and commitment throughout the whole thing, even when things got tough and it would have been easier to just give up. I enjoyed the scenes when they would argue plot structure or nonsensical details that they wanted to be in their movie because it really is their movie.
Their chemistry and writing is fun and engaging. These are two seriously funny dudes, especially when you get them in a room together. And I’ll be honest, I was on Sam’s wavelength and vibes for most of the movie. His wit and self-deprecating humor is on point and I’m hoping to see more scripts from him and Mattie in the future.
There are a few problematic areas, however. The first being the cuts in the actual movie, to explain certain scenes, were incredibly abrupt and took me out of the momentum. It happens three times and after the first part being all documentary, and at that point, I just really wanted to watch the whole damn movie without any interruptions. I think those should have been added prior, just like the rest of the documentary and that would have been a better flow.
Also, I appreciated the “girl power” moment, but I would like more of that in their sequel…maybe a secret half-sister? I agreed with the director that there’s a fine line of wish-fulfillment and misogyny, and thankfully, they did pull back after consideration. To be honest, more time exploring their relationships would have been a great way to further engage the audience and to pad the time. We would get more of a sense of who these bionic warriors were and are, especially in relation to other people in their lives.
But on the other hand, one huge thing that thoroughly delighted me was the absolute paradigm shifts in the plot and how unaffected the characters were. There were times that they just didn’t give a fuuuuuck (pg-13 means I get one f-bomb, thanks). For example when Sam’s girlfriend was like, “I’ll break up with you if you don’t do what I say.” And his response was basically, “Yeah, okay. Whatever.”
There were quite a few scenes like that where their utter dismissal of another character when there’s usually some kind of emotional bond was hilarious. Same with one of my favorite scenes with Mattie and a zombie, where she’s crawling towards him and he just tells her, “I hate you” and then walks back into the house.
But the real story is about love, and I mean the real story behind SAM AND MATTIE MAKE A ZOMBIE MOVIE. It’s about love of the family we make and the family we’re born into. It’s about taking chances and taking risks. And about working towards (maybe impossible) dreams with the acceptance that the journey is so much more important than the end.
I really hope to see a sequel from these two and, even more so, I would love to see more scripts. These are incredibly funny writers with heart and cliché-breakers that are so refreshing in the horror genre. They manage to take the tropes of movies we all know and love, and then completely push them out of the way with a “later, bitches”. And we need more of that, especially in our camp movies, as camp never goes out of style and always needs fresh blood.
Brain Roll Juice:
Okay, I’m going to say the thing that stuck out to me and you can feel weird or hate me or whatever, but their movie, Spring Break Zombie Massacre, needed to be an R. That seemed like that was the vision of what these dudes wanted, but were strangely denied. In fact, multiple times during the documentary they were told, “No sex! No nudity!” And a part of me was like:
If these are adults, wanting to make a more adult movie…why not? In fact, sexuality and drinking was completely and utterly stripped away although they were college students portraying college students. Even a kiss seemed risque for this film and…that makes me a bit uncomfortable because it never explains why.
When our society is already squicked about sex in general, the conversation gets so much more complex because people with disabilities are sexual and desire intimacy (should be a ‘no duh’). They have sex lives and should have healthy sex lives. This fact doesn’t go away and isn’t erased just because people don’t want to talk about it. We need to advocate for their sexual health, awareness, and well-being; and, of course, listen to people with disabilities.
As the National Down Syndrome Society states, “Creating an environment conducive to healthy sexual expression must be considered in designing educational, vocational, social, recreational and residential programs. Positive sexual awareness can only develop through personal empowerment, self-esteem, understanding of social relationships and personal interaction/communication skills.”
Building this personal empowerment and identity is crucial because if there isn’t any education and awareness, it can lead to being taken advantage of. In fact, people with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted at a rate seven times higher than those without disabilities. And the National Down Syndrome Society explains that, too. And telling two adults, without any clear reasons, that they can’t show some titties or an after-sex scene in their own movie doesn’t seem empowering.
But I want to be crystal clear that I am just on the outside looking in, so I don’t know everything in the background of that discussion or in their lives. Maybe it was for budgeting reasons. Maybe for distribution reasons. I don’t know (it was never said why).
However, I just wanted to bring into focus something that stuck out to me as a viewer and I will admit that I’m hoping the sequel thinks about this. It’s clear the dudes wanna show their characters being as badass as possible and they want to be swimming in V. I would something more substantial for a female cast member and exploring the relationship with them (maybe even a girl comes between the brothers and Mattie is the “but I’m just in it for the V” type and Sam’s like, “no, dude, you have to be in it for the love” – just spitballing here).
Regardless, I’m sure with the creative ingenuity of Sam and Mattie, the two ideas could meet and make for a movie that the fans and the directors both want. Tag me in your next kick-starter, my dudes; I’ll gladly fork over the cash.
If you love camp with a background into how films are made, but also something with some heart, you’ve found it, my dude.(5 / 5)
And to that, I say: