By Jeremy Smith
One of the very few downsides to the digital revolution has been the format’s insistence that every movie, great or wretched, deserves a high-quality transfer. As anyone who gorged on the ‘80s glut of low-budget, and even-lower-IQ slasher movies will tell you, this simply isn’t so. There’s something aesthetically wrong about watching a pristine 2K restoration of, say, Buddy Cooper’s THE MUTILATOR; the film’s grimy, gut-spilling “style” matches up beautifully with the muddy, bad-tracking presentation of a heavily-rented VHS tape. Bodies are dismembered. Primal urges are satiated. Women are bedded and beheaded. You want these movies to look like shit.
Thank god, then, for DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III, which harkens back to the good old days of scouring your local video store’s horror section for the sketchiest-looking regionally-produced gorefest in existence. It’s the absurdist brainchild of 5-Second Films, the online comedy collective that’s been rattling off terse bits of bizarre hilarity since 2008. With DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III, the group has made the leap from five-second goofs to ninety-minute long-form storytelling with relative ease, and they’ve done so by both celebrating and lampooning the most disreputable non-porn film genre known to cinephiles. Given that viewers are conditioned to relax their standards when throwing on a slasher flick, the filmmakers have the built-in advantage of over-indulging in every distasteful convention imaginable while also going to town on the obligatory misogyny that makes these movies such a drag. Call it the benefit of low expectations. It’s so deliriously over the top that, as the movie progresses, you begin to realize that the directing team of Tomm Jacobsen, Michael Rousselet & Jon Salmon and screenwriter Alec Owen aren’t just shredding a bygone misanthropic era of filmmaking, but the last vestiges of bro culture as it drunkenly brawls for its dear, dopey life today.
Presented as the last known copy of the film (taped off a Minneapolis late show in the 1980s), DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III opens in classic bad-horror-sequel fashion by flashing back to the events of the previous two movies. Basically, the carefree Dude Bros of Delta Bi (“The coolest frat in Chico”) are once again being stalked by Motherface (Olivia Taylor Dudley), a vengeful killer hellbent on punishing the lads for their recklessly sinful ways. This time out, she’s after Brent Chirino (Owen), the identical twin brother of the first two films’ Brock Chirino. Brent’s enrolled at Chino to investigate Brock’s murder, which requires him to earn the trust of the surviving Delta Bi fraternity brothers. All is going according to plan until Brent and his wheelchair-bound buddy Nedry, (Salmon), botch a hazing prank, which results in a mid-air commercial jet collision that kills hundreds. Though mildly disastrous compared to the fraternity’s most infamous prank (the flooding of Parchtown, which left thousands dead), it’s enough to draw the ire of Motherface, who tracks the Delta Bi brothers down at, where else, a cabin in the woods.
Once the Dude Bros get settled at the cabin (after a fix-up montage that references everything from REVENGE OF THE NERDS to, inexplicably, DIE HARD 2), the film generally follows the trajectory of your typical slasher flick: there’s safety in numbers, and brutal death should you venture off on your own (which, of course, everyone ultimately does). One of the joys of DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III is how, despite its satirical intent, the 5-Second Films gang honors the genre’s tradition of elaborate kills. They clearly had a good time dreaming up new and inventive ways to dispatch their crew of debauched dipshits, and the practical makeup f/x are actually quite effective. There’s a particularly memorable death involving a keg tap that I’ll leave for you to discover on your own.
Though the visual quality of the film is intentionally dodgy, the directors have approached the film with the giddy compositional sense of a young Sam Raimi. Sometimes they go way too far, but it’s refreshing to see filmmakers thinking this deeply about camera placement. Most impressive is an out-of-left-field miniature sequence that brings the Dude Bros face-to-face with the victims of their deadliest prank. It’s this kind of cleverness that gets you past the bits that don’t work; a few narrative lulls are easily excused when you’ve got a pledge running around the woods in a “Beef Box” (and kudos to Jimmy Wong for giving a legitimately great “cardboard” performance).
Owen’s script even manages to get away with a seemingly extraneous subplot involving a police investigation headed up by the mentally damaged Officer Sminkle (Brian Firenzi). At times it feels like it’s one bug-fuck idea too many, but stick with it. The payoff is more than worth it. The same goes for the film as a whole; there’s a unique comedic sensibility at work here, one that knows how to blend extreme juvenilia with piercing social commentary. There’s a need for movies like this. Hopefully, there’s a commercial demand, too.
DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III is currently available on iTunes and VHX. There will also be a free screening at the San Diego Comic Con on Friday, July 10th. Hit up the movie’s official website for more info.