Sam and Mattie are typical American teens. They like to skateboard and play video games. They chase girls. They have cybernetic implants coveted by the devil and his army of zombies, demons, and zombie-demons. The usual stuff.
SPRING BREAK ZOMBIE MASSACRE is an unexpected title for a heartwarming, feel-good picture. The real-world Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt hail from Rhode Island, inseparable best friends who became fixated on the idea of making a violent, gory zombie film starring themselves, an idea that may have seemed easy for their friends and family to dismiss before the boys revealed the elaborate storyboards they’d been building in their spare time. Director Robert Carnevale helped them launch a Kickstarter, thinking that a few bucks might allow them to put a film together. Sam and Mattie’s story, however, struck a nerve, went viral, and became a runaway crowdsourcing success story. The boys became stars of the mainstream press, and their project attracted talent from across the country, including Atlanta actors Madeline Brumby (Kool Kat here) and Allison Maier, and local special effects maven Shane Morton (Kool Kat here).
Now, Sam and Mattie’s dream film is very real, and happily delivers more than just its great backstory. The Sam and Mattie of the film are the coolest, most interesting teens at their school, the kind of kids who tend to the needs of their knockout girlfriends before humiliating the local bullies with their sick skateboarding skills. Sam is the sensitive type and Mattie is his aggro best pal. They’ve literally known each other since birth, the moment made memorable when Satan appeared in the delivery room and murdered both of their moms—one of the downsides of having an epic destiny.
Now that they’re teens the Devil is back to finish the job, calling on all the bullies who hate Sam and Mattie’s unbridled awesomeness to join his undead army. The boys respond by unlocking their full superhuman potential, partying at Spring Break, and learning valuable lessons about the dangers of buying drugs. Also, Mattie has jet packs.
The project resembles less of a coherent narrative than a series of isolated vignettes strung together by the boys’ needs to kill zombies and have their hero moments. The emotional weight of the zombie outbreak is high in some scenes, while in others the monsters resemble irritating pests that have sprung up on Mattie’s lawn. What the film really provides is a bright and imaginative window into the way that Sam and Mattie see the world. Their script—every word of which Sam and Mattie wrote on their own, with Carnevale’s helpful translation—allows them to play out power fantasies and express their take on right and wrong. Sure, it’s a kick to watch Mattie shotgun zombies in the head (he has a surprising presence in the action scenes), but it’s hard to see the occasional quiet moment, such as the pivotal bit where Mattie and Sam stare into mirrors and remind themselves how valuable and special they are, and not think of the artists behind them. This thing is destined for endless cult screenings at midnight festivals and Halloween parties.
SPRING BREAK ZOMBIE MASSACRE may be a vanity project, but it finds its own heartwarming moments amidst its Michel Gondry-inspired cardboard hellfire. The word is that Sam and Mattie are hard at work on a sequel. That’s good. The movie screen is always hungry for real heroes.
SPRING BREAK ZOMBIE MASSACRE screened at the Atlanta Film Festival on March 25. For more information on the film, visit the official site.