A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO SNUFF **** U.S.A. 2016 Dir: Mitchell Altieri. 87 mins
A witty black comedy from one half of “The Butcher Brothers”, this tips its hat to The Coen Brothers’ FARGO with a farcical / uncomfortable kidnapping set piece, but earns its biggest laughs from puncturing the po-faced, post-HOSTEL torture movies that dominated horror in the early 2000’s. Joey Kern is terrific as an increasingly desperate, vain, pitifully struggling actor in Hollywood. He’s so bitter and twisted about not yet having his own sitcom that he coerces his more sensible younger brother (Luke Edwards) into fabricating a snuff movie.
The plan is to jump on the “found-footage” horror bandwagon and craft such a realistic flick that they will have a major shot at winning a movie-making contest: the main prize is $250,000 cash and a meeting with Freddie Prinze Jr (!). Unfortunately for them, they picked the wrong abductee (Bree Williamson) to be their unwitting “star” / victim. Kern’s descent into desperation is a joy to behold as the movie moves from amusingly lame casting calls to the evolution of their crap villainy (“Why do you sound like Batman?”) and a second half subversion of typical torture movie scenarios. Altieri and his screenwriters ape the pop culture-saturated movie psychopaths of NATURAL BORN KILLERS and SCREAM with the incompetent double act, and offer an unsubtle running commentary on the genre’s employment of female characters. Most importantly, however, it’s genuinely funny throughout and features a ballsy, bravura turn from Williamson as the aggressively mocking, chainsaw-wielding (anti) heroine.
Review by Steven West