There is so much — and yet, somehow, so little — to say about Dude Bro Party Massacre III, so I’ll offer up both a short and lengthy review.
Short review: the movie, sadly, is a mess – both tonally and stylistically – and that’s a real bummer because the trailer looked promising, and my hopes were high. Whether intentional or not, the movie ended up being confusing, distracting, and (unfortunately) just plain unfunny. I kept checking to see how much longer until it was over, and that’s not a great reaction to have when watching a movie.
There, that’s the succinct review and I already feel like a jerk. If you’re interested in the details, read on.
Perhaps the biggest sign that Dude Bro Party Massacre III was doomed from the start is the fact that it was made by the people at 5-Second Films. Now, I have nothing against 5-Seconds Films; I love their stuff. In fact, if you aren’t familiar with their work, do yourself a favor and go check them out right now — their videos are hilarious, bizarre, and creative (this one is my personal fave of their shorts.) However, the micro format is clearly their strong suit, and attempting to stretch that out into a full length film unfortunately just doesn’t work. It makes this 90 minute movie feel like you’re actually watching 1,080 of their shorts back to back; a very exhausting feeling. Another unfortunate side-effect of cramming a joke in every 5 seconds is that almost of all of them fall painfully flat.
The central plot is fairly straightforward: a college kid joins a frat that his dead brother was once a member of in order to solve/avenge said dead brother’s mysterious murder. There is a bizarre (and completely unnecessary) subplot involving a couple of bumbling cops (and a cult leader? And oranges?), but their involvement in the basic story is too confusing to explain. Interstitial bits and pieces of bad tracking, blunt cuts, and fake commercials are thrown in the mix, making even the most basic storyline that much more impossible to follow.
That’s another issue I have with the movie: it tries to cash in on the current very popular trend of making something look like it was shot on VHS tape. Films, Youtube videos, TV shows — they all want to achieve this ‘look’ without adhering to the restrictions that would actually result in an analog recording being shot on magnetic tape. (One of the greatest offenders of this rule is V/H/S, a horror anthology which inexplicably dedicates an entire segment to computer video chats [a digital medium], not to mention several other anachronisms such as a pair of glasses outfitted with a hidden camera [yet another digital medium.]) Let’s put it this way: if the movie Super 8 featured a kid lugging one of these RCA shoulder-mounted consumer camcorders around instead, people would cry foul. Dude Bro Party Massacre III commits similar bothersome acts.
Animated words pop up onscreen, goofy sound effects occur, weird out of place transitions and obvious green screen effects abound. None of it makes sense in the context of things. The recently released Kung Fury — another VHS-style throwback — also commits these same acts, but the difference is that Kung Fury so obviously takes place within its own imaginary landscape, one that feels more videogame than actual movie, that it’s pretty much able to do whatever it wants and get away with it. DBPM3 wants you to feel like you’re watching an 80s horror movie taped off TV (it even tells you so with an opening crawl), but yet it doesn’t want to play by its own rules. (It also helped that Kung Fury was only 30 minutes long.)
Lastly, one final impediment: contradictory as it may sound, Dude Bro includes far too many references which end up hurting it doubly. The movie is loaded with 80s cliches, silly commercials, cheesy gore (the best part of the movie, actually) vapid characters, etc. DBPM3 is its own worst enemy because it fails to find a balance. Had it been played perhaps a little more straight-forward (and cut out about 2/3 of the jokes), it might have played a little better.
There is a crossroads — a junction where satire, homage, parody, and pastiche all intersect — that, if handled carelessly, can create confusion, blur the point, and distract the viewer. Ultimately, that’s what happens in Dude Bro Party Massacre III.
There are a few things that almost work — a montage where the bros clean up a dirty frat house to a dorky 80s song (ala Revenge of the Nerds) and a brief scene where a guy (Greg Sestero!) gets freaked out by several gardening implements in a tool shed (shot in a very Raimi way) — but those moments are quickly buried as the film eagerly jumps to the next weird joke/setting/character/edit/effect.
It has a great premise, a great title, and I do love the worn out videotape look, but there’s just too much going on. If you want a film that does a good job of spoofing a specific era, look no further than Wet Hot American Summer (a film I feel greatly inspired this one.) Or hell, just rent an actual shot-on-video horror movie like Woodchipper Massacre, Cannibal Campout, or Video Violence. Those movies are just as cheesy and silly as DBPM3, but are far less likely to induce seizures. If a 90-minute Tim and Eric sketch on speed is what you’re looking for, you will love this film. Otherwise, you may find yourself feeling a bit let down.