Cleveland International Film Festival } April 7 – April 18, 2021 } Playhouse Square

A Horror Veteran's Guide to Comedy

April 09, 2016   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers


When “A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff” director Mitchell Altieri first became part of the Butcher Brothers, the name was half a gag and half self-protection.

He and his production partner, Phil Flores, had been developing portfolios of drama and comedy, and were a little worried that their first foray into hardcore horror would flop and damage their reputations. They coined the tongue-in-cheek pseudonym, only to have their film, “The Hamiltons” (2006), turn into a phenomenon and that name become hard currency.

A decade later, though, Altieri wanted to mix things up a little. When Cory Knauf initially approached him to direct a movie about two would-be filmmakers who kidnap an actress to star in their cinéma vérité horror film, he declined.

“The original concept was kind of a hardcore horror film about desperation,” he recalls. “I just didn’t want to do anything that was too mean-spirited, that was kind of torture porn.”

He and Flores had already begun to return to a dramatic vein with “Holy Ghost People” (2013), and while he didn’t have an aversion to hardcore horror, he wanted to stretch out.

Knauf came back to him again, asking him what it would take to get him to direct the film.

“I told him, ‘I want it to be a comedy, and I want the lead actress to kick ass,’” he explains. “The ultimate goal was to see the female character win.”

He didn’t want the heroine to be just another Final Girl, a common enough trope in horror films. He wanted to turn things completely on their heads.

“The gratuitous scenes,” he reveals, “are always toward the guys.” He recalls his actors asking him why they had to be scantily clad so much, while the actresses snickered in the background at the role reversal.

The crew, itself, had an even balance of men and women on it, something that he recalls helped keep the story from becoming too heavy-handed or veering from comic to preachy. It was also one of the most light-hearted shoots he had ever done. “We would just laugh from the moment we got there to the moment we went home,” he says.

His Friday screening at the CIFF, at 1:40 p.m., was new territory for him, too. “Usually we play late at night,” he observes. The audiences are normally younger, and less sober, than the crowd that gathered in the theater. But the film still scored. “They went nuts for it! It was one of the best screenings we’ve had.”

Altieri will be in town until Monday, and is relishing his stay and looking forward to his next screenings. “This is my first time at the CIFF, and I want to take it all in.”

Lara Klaber

PDF  Download Related PDF [6.1 MB]

Related Screenings:
04/08/16 @ 1:40 PM – A Beginner's Guide to Snuff
04/09/16 @ 11:20 PM – A Beginner's Guide to Snuff
04/10/16 @ 4:00 PM – A Beginner's Guide to Snuff

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