Salem Horror Fest: Sam and Mattie Make A Zombie Movie (2021)

Director: Robert Carnevale, Jesse Suchmann

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Starring: Sam Suchmann, Mattie Zufelt, Peter Farrelly, Conan O'Brien, Paul DelVecchio, Tyler Schnabel, Madeline Brumby

It seems like a dream come true when best friends Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt appear on Conan O'Brien's talk-show, where they're gifted with a much-desired chocolate fountain. Their appearance is regarding how these best friends with Downs syndrome rallied their entire town, to help realize their dream of making an extremely violent flick entitled ‘Spring Break Zombie Massacre.’

Offering an intimate look into this filmmaking experience, directors Robert Carnevale and Jesse Suchmann (Sam's brother) integrate a welcome narration and videos of Sam and Mattie's home-made movies. There's a clear enthusiasm these friends channel into making this film, and it easily gets viewers invested in seeing their dream become a reality.

Two rules are established from early on; to have fun, and that Sam and Mattie have final say on their film. The pairing have no intention in compromising their vision, so intend to find practical ways to work around any set-backs. Upon discovering how expensive fire-safety insurance would be, the boys decide to save costs elsewhere by finding places they can film for free and learning how to do stunts themselves.

With such compelling ambition, they get help from film stalwarts such as director Peter Farrelly and effects legend Tony Gardener. While elements like these add to the feel-good nature, the documentary doesn't shy away from tougher moments and how overwhelming this can all be. Inclusions like these prevent it from falling into similar traps as more one-note attempts to be "inspirational."

Queued up alongside the triumphant premiere, this documentary showcases the full film so audiences can witness the fruits of an entire towns labours. The result is as playful as it is grisly, and one can easily imagine such massive grins on the creatives faces as these ideas were formed. Specific moments are paused to give background information, such as how two scenes transformed a heartbreaking prom date and an underwhelming college experience into pieces of wish fulfillment.

Despite not setting the world alight, the boys consider their film worthwhile for how much closer it brought together these friends and their family. That's the perfect way to describe this documentary, as the beating heart and evident passions are more important than the results. What's left is a testament to realizing ones dreams, and a love-letter to community.

Sam and Mattie Make a Zombie Movie played at Salem Horror Fest