Joe Bob's Drive-In: Farmhouse Massacre

By JOE BOB BRIGGS, Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, Texas  |  Nov. 27, 2002 at 5:58 PM
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"Farmhouse Massacre," the movie, is about "the human spirit." What else? We learn this in the very first scene of "B-Movie: The Shooting of Farmhouse Massacre," latest in the series of fake-film-within-a-fake-film pseudo-documentaries, a la "Spinal Tap," that began with the hysterical "And God Created ... "

"It's about the human spirit," says "Farmhouse Massacre" frat-boy producer Marcus Epstein, who then proceeds to deny rumors that the two lead actresses in the film beat him up when he grabbed one of them on the butt. (Of course, his denial is followed by the actual documentary footage.)

The problem with this type of film is, the creators of "This Is Spinal Tap" made a darn near perfect movie, and one that's never been equaled again -- even by them.

There have been "Spinal Tap" clones about rap music, country music, independent filmmaking, community theater and other spoofable showbiz topics, to the point that the very style of these films -- the earnest self-involved straight-to-the-camera interview, intercut with hand-held camera scenes from "real life" -- identifies it right away as a Tap Clone. I suppose we should just go ahead and proclaim it to be a genre: Mockumentary. (The word was coined, of course, by Rob Reiner in "This Is Spinal Tap.")

If you're gonna make one of these, the acting has to be so crisp and precise, the send up references so spot-on, that we buy into the reality of the non-existent film, concert tour or show. But in this case, Tampa filmmakers Vito Trabucco and Mark Terry went for a sort of broad comedy style that doesn't have enough structure to carry it off.

Trabucco plays the clueless director, Vito Anselmi, who has made a dozen films with "Massacre" in the title but more recently has been mowing lawns for a living. Terry plays the idle-rich loser Marcus Epstein, who goes into movie producing as a way to meet babes. These two characters are on screen for about half the 67-minute running time, spouting idiocies about their "art" and making pathetic attempts to cover up the ineptitude of their production. (It has a two-day shooting schedule and includes two child molesters on the crew.)

It does have its comic moments -- trying to coax two actresses into a gratuitous farmhouse-Jacuzzi lesbian scene, but finally being forced to use a fat crew member with flabby breasts as a body double. But for the most part the comedy is too straight-ahead, too on the nose, to really deliver that subtle "Spinal Tap" aura of massive navel-dwelling self-deception.

"Farmhouse Massacre" is a horror film, of course, although you wouldn't know it from the scenes shown. The opportunities to send up special-effects makeup guys, Method scream queens and the like are pretty much passed up for slapstick. The sole exception is the cameo by Debbie Rochon, a real-life scream queen, who's totally convincing as a prima donna who refuses the director's lame offer of what amounts to a series of porno scenes.

In other words, it's a great idea for a movie in search of the script that would have made it the lampoon of B movies it's so desperately trying to be. Instead it's a series of sketches -- some of them chuckleworthy, but none of them adding up to a true satire.

Okay, let's take a look at those drive-in totals. We have: One dead body. Four breasts. One hair-pulling catfight. Lesbo canoodling. Kung Fu. Bimbo Fu.

Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Joe D. Casey, the cameraman who believes himself to be the illegitimate son of Elvis, who dons a fake beard to play the farmer; Suzi Shareaux, the actress who protests against her hot tub scene by saying "It has no bearing on the rest of the movie" then does it anyway, for her two enormous talents; Mark Terry, the producer (in real life and in the movie), for talking about "the quintessential massacre movie;" Debbie Rochon, as herself, for nailing the menace in the line "I was really floored by this script;" Vito Trabucci, the director (in real life and in the movie) and co-writer, for saying "We're doing the lesbian vampire scene!"

One and a half stars.

Joe Bob says check it out.

"Farmhouse Massacre" Web site:

(To reach Joe Bob, go to or email him at Snail-mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, Texas 75221.)

Topics: Rob Reiner
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