In the spirit of American Movie and Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie is a fun movie about the indie filmmaking process. This time, audiences watch aspiring filmmakers Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt, best friends since hitting it off at the Special Olympics as youngsters, as they attempt to cut their teeth making the most outrageous party-horror ever made. Their dream project is titled Spring Break Zombie Massacre. And with the help of family, volunteers, and a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign, the directorial duo finally prepare to make their feature debuts.
Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie is a split combo: the first half is a documentary about the making-of, the latter half is Spring Break Zombie Massacre. While this is nice considering the audience usually never gets to see the finished product in these movies (only clips), it also makes Sam& Mattie Make a Zombie Movie seem confused as two separate, thin concepts are “Frankenstein’d” together to make one long movie.
The documentary segments are the most interesting parts, though these portions are light on background. Audiences don’t receive a lot of information on Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt, other than visual evidence confirming they’re fun-loving dudes who love to watch movies. However, Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie makes a strong case about the importance of film producers. The makers of the documentary (who share double duty by working on the zombie movie) help guide Sam and Mattie, but also respect their original vision – even when the zombie movie’s continuity starts to fold in on itself. Outsider guidance from other producers give the teenage filmmakers even more perspective; such as discussions about how to budget their movie and a script reading (with Academy Award winner Peter Farrelly) that sheds contemporary consideration towards gender roles within horror. Sam and Mattie could’ve used less leeway on the latter point though. It seems as though women in their movie are only present to be killed or ogled over. Despite creating this positive representation of film producers and chronicling this filmmaking journey, as a documentary, Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie isn’t as focused as it could be.
As for Spring Break Zombie Massacre, it is what it is; and it’s impossible to truly grade. It’s funny and delivers on its promises, but it’s also overstuffed nonsense (with a great cameo by Jersey Shore’s Pauly D). However, the most important takeaway is that it was a labour of love that everyone had a blast making – a truly infectious feeling for all movie goers.
Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie averages out to be, well, average. I would’ve preferred to see a full-length making-of, topped off by a title card informing movie goers that they could watch Spring Break Zombie Massacre for free on YouTube or something. Nonetheless, this is a surefire pick for film fans who enjoy the craft of filmmaking.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie