Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie (2021) | Directed by Jesse Suchmann, Robert Carnevale
Colour | 106 Minutes
Written by Jesse Suchmann | Starring Sam Suchmann, Mattie Zufelt, Peter Farrelly
In 2016, Spring Break Zombie Massacre was unleashed upon audiences across the United States; the DIY brainchild of both Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt. Sam and Mattie have been best friends since they were 10 years old, forging an unbreakable bond fueled by their passion for movies, so it was inevitable that they would eventually make their own. Indeed, with the assistance of Sam’s dad, Chris, both Sam and Mattie would record themselves, experimenting with various ideas, but it wasn’t until they convinced Sam’s older brother Jesse to get involved that work would begin on what would become “the greatest movie ever!”
So, what happens when two best friends with Down Syndrome, Sam’s brother Jessie, his filmmaking friends, and their hometown of Providence work together to create a zombie movie? Jesse Suchmann and Robert Carnevale’s documentary, Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie, captures this inspiring story and the end result; Sam and Mattie’s punk rock spirited, horror extravaganza!
Which leads us to the rules of production: #1 was to have fun, but #2 was that Sam and Mattie were in charge, and had the final say on all creative decisions. Their original artistic vision must remain intact with no compromises! Well, maybe one…
Sam Suchmann “Our zombie movie is epic! It has action, sex…”
Chris Suchmann (aka Sam’s dad): “No, no, no. No… No sex. PG-13, no sex.”
And thus begins Sam and Mattie’s journey to create their awesome teen zombie movie; from storyboarding/scripting their ideas, and raising close to $70,000 on a Kickstarter campaign that went viral, to budget concerns (their ideas are wild!), shooting during an insanely hot Rhode Island summer, and finally premiering Spring Break Zombie Massacre in their hometown! Every high and low of filmmaking is documented by Jesse and Bobby (aka Bobby) to ensure Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie accurately represents the Sam and Mattie ethos: “Rock on, go wild!”
Broken down into two halves, the first part of this documentary focuses on Sam and Mattie’s friendship, and the movie-making process itself; narrated by Jesse. Jesse, Bobby, and the crew would take the storyboards Sam and Mattie had created, and script their ideas into approximately 45-minutes of zombie mayhem; with Sam and Mattie making additional suggestions along the way. Sam and Mattie themselves would play the lead characters, also named Sam and Mattie; two brothers forced to fight zombies, demons, and zombie demons! Why? Because their father insulted the devil, during the birth of Sam and Mattie to two separate moms. Enraged, the devil vows revenge! “No one tells me to grow up!” Remember, no compromises? I told you their ideas were wild!
The first real low occurs when the crew discusses their budget with friend and producer Suzy Beck, realising that they can’t afford to shoot a lot of the ideas Sam and Mattie had envisioned for Spring Break Zombie Massacre. But again, no compromises, right? Instead, the crew search for free locations, cast actors willing to work for free, do their own stunt work, and beg the help of some special effects legends; including Tony Gardner (Army of Darkness, Seed of Chucky) and Shane Morton (Rob Zombie’s Halloween II)! Need fire whenever the devil appears onscreen, but can’t afford pyrotechnics? No problem! Instead, use cardboard cutouts to simulate fire. Genius!
With the shoot complete, Sam and Mattie’s zombie movie is ready for its first screening. This is when we get to the second part of the documentary; the opportunity to watch Spring Break Zombie Massacre in its entirety! Directed by Bobby Carnevale on behalf of Sam and Mattie, Spring Break Zombie Massacre itself is a tour-de-force of blood and guts, and not the PG-13 monster movie Sam’s dad was expecting!
Spring Break Zombie Massacre itself is interspersed with behind-the-scenes breakdowns; Jesse interrupting the movie to show how, or why a particular scene was created. This is another opportunity to showcase Sam and Mattie’s endearing personalities; for example, a zombie prom massacre was written into the script after Sam’s own prom experience, whilst Mattie would get the opportunity to meet his idol, DJ Pauly D (Jersey Shore), who kindly visited the set for the finale.
Spring Break Zombie Massacre may not have gotten screened at any of the major film festivals, like Sundance, but for Sam and Mattie, it doesn’t really matter. They had accomplished what they had set out to do: to make a zombie movie! Throughout their experience, the duo has received valuable feedback from other filmmakers, including Peter Farrelly (Dumb and Dumber). They had the opportunity to take Spring Break Zombie Massacre on tour across the United States. And were invited to discuss their movie with late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien. But more importantly, Sam and Mattie got to hang out with their family and friends.
Sam: “They say that the journey is more important than the destination.”
So, will we get a sequel to Spring Break Zombie Massacre?
Sam: The critics don’t want more of Sam and Mattie, but the fans do!
Mattie: “The critics? Yeah, come to my house… French kiss my ass!”
There is that punk rock spirit again! I sincerely hope Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie introduces a whole new audience to Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt. Their infectious personalities in this documentary – a true underdog story – are both inspiring and heartwarming to watch; captured with honesty and respect by Jesse Suchmann and Bobby Carnevale.
Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie is available now on VOD and Digital HD from Gravitas Ventures.