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Horror-comedy 'A Beginner's Guide to Snuff' aspires to entertain, not exploit

Horror-comedy 'A Beginner's Guide to Snuff' aspires to entertain, not exploit
Joey Kern, left, and Luke Edwards in the movie "A Beginner's Guide to Snuff." (Indican Pictures)

The horror-comedy "A Beginner's Guide to Snuff" explores the "lighter" side of guerrilla underground filmmaking, following two bumblers who kidnap and pretend to torture a woman. Thanks to three lively lead performances and smart storytelling choices, what could have been a distasteful premise becomes surprisingly entertaining.

Writer-director Mitchell Altieri and producer Phil Flores previously made the modern B-movie faves "The Hamiltons" and "The Violent Kind" under the nickname the Butcher Brothers. They wink at themselves here, telling a story about desperate showbiz wannabes taking a last-ditch shot at stardom.

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Joey Kern and Luke Edwards play odd-couple brothers — one sweet, one jerky — who plan to enter an amateur horror contest with a found-footage project designed to resemble a real snuff film. Bree Williamson plays Jennifer, an actress the brothers abduct without her consent so that her performance will be more "real."

If the brothers meant Jennifer harm, or if they weren't utterly hapless, "Beginner's Guide" wouldn't work. But thanks to the cast playing the material as farce — plus a few sick twists — the film's more fun than appalling.

The filmmakers try too hard to comment on Hollywood's sexist, dehumanizing nature, and a preponderance of old movie quotes crosses a line from clever to cutesy. But at no point is this brainless, sleazy exploitation. Altieri's always aiming for something more. Sometimes he gets there.

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'A Beginner's Guide to Snuff'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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