'A Beginner's Guide to Snuff': Film Review
Two brothers try an unconventional path to filmmaking notoriety in Mitchell Altieri's semicomic thriller.
Two aspiring filmmakers pick the wrong scream queen in Mitchell Altieri's riff on torture porn and hunger for fame, A Beginner's Guide to Snuff. Kidnapping an actress on the theory that her performance in a fabricated snuff flick will be more believable if she thinks it's real, they get more than a little confused themselves, soon bumbling into real peril. Though less clever than it thinks it is, the movie has a light enough attitude to please some genre fans once it slides into its afterlife on home-vid.
Joey Kern and Luke Edwards play Dresden and Dominic Winters, brothers on the verge of abandoning their dream of acting careers in L.A. Mustachioed Dresden, the more daring of the two, decides they should make their own movie, a low-rent thriller for a local horror-film contest. But he's so sleazy in their casting sessions that nearly every auditioning actress turns down the gig.
The boys take a shine to nervy Jennifer (Bree Williamson), and somehow Dresden convinces nice-guy Dominic they should try to get a more convincing performance by really kidnapping her, taking her to a warehouse and tormenting her as in a snuff film. Dominic doesn't think to ask how they're going to fake a woman's torture and death without letting her in on the joke; evidently, he's accustomed to being talked into things by his big brother.
Altieri and his screenwriters are clearly shooting for a Coen-esque energy in the ensuing scenes, where Jennifer proves harder to kidnap than expected and tough-guy posturing gets de-fanged by bickering between the brothers. The action falls far short of that mark, but is lively enough to keep us engaged until Jennifer is tied up in the warehouse: There, Dresden (wearing a bondage mask and S&M gear to play her tormentor) soon takes things far enough that Dom starts to question his sanity.
Having borrowed a big industrial space from their landlord (whose accent and swishiness are egregious, whether they're meant to be comic or not) and stocked it with a variety of slice-you-up devices, Dresden should really have taken more care to keep his horrified victim tied up. Jennifer escapes, arms herself, and soon proves willing to do to the boys what they pretended to want to do to her. "I'm done playing the victim," she declares, going on to deliver an entry-level critique of the way women are objectified in genre movies.
Jennifer is a lot better at cat-and-mouse terror than the Winters boys, but really the most interesting thing about the movie's final third is the suspicion that there's another "just kidding!" twist waiting at the end. Either way, somebody's walking away with enough blood-streaked video to foist yet another found-footage movie on the world.
Production company: North Fork, Butcher Brothers, Indie Entertainment
Distributor: Indican Pictures
Cast: Joey Kern, Luke Edwards, Bree Williamson, Perry Laylon Ojeda
Director: Mitchell Altieri
Screenwriters: Cory Knauf, Adam Weis, Mitchell Altieri
Producers: Adam Blake Carver, Luke Edwards, Cory Knauf
Executive producers: Jeffrey Allard, Phil Flores
Director of photography: Amanda Treyz
Production designer: Micah Embry
Costume designer: Chelsey Hemstreet
Music: Kevin Kerrigan
Casting: Paul Ruddy