"Movie Theater Massacre" (2023) [Another Hole in the Head Film Festival]

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s Ian Courtney’s horror-comedy Movie Theater Massacre.

Jake, Wily, Rachel, Val, & Dan are working their last week at a movie theater that is going out of business when a mysterious figure begins to murder people.  Will they live to see another movie?

The Good
Joseph: Props to writer/director/editor Ian Courtney for having a vision and seeing it through to completion. Movie Theater Massacre is an example of the cinematic version of “Let’s put on a show!”, which in this case combines some good ideas with execution that sometimes lacks proficiency.

Mike: The idea of a killer picking off employees and patrons while in the confines of a movie theater is nothing new, but its also ripe for some great commentary on films and meta references and humor, so mining old and familiar territory isn’t always a bad thing.  In fact, one of the biggest takeaways from Movie Theater Massacre is that physical media - be it a personal collection of discs and/or tapes or a theater that shows movies on reels of film are something we shouldn’t take for granted lest we see them disappear.
LeJon Woods is the standout as Wily, getting most of the best one-liners and delivering the most endearing performance. Everyone else is a bit too full of themselves, but Wily just wants to work this job he loves, smoke a little weed, and just enjoy himself.  To paraphrase the early days of The Walking Dead fandom; If Wily dies, we riot.

The Bad
Joseph: One issue with independent writer/directors early in their careers is when they also serve as editor and they don’t have someone suggesting that, for example here, viewers don’t need to walk the entire length of a building outside to show a character heading to their car, nor inside the length of a theater to show that they are going to eventually go downstairs. Sound issues abound, including one scene that is so silent I couldn’t help but think it was a deliberate, if strange, choice. The dialogue sounds preachy at times, mostly when it comes to name dropping when discussing cinema history but also occasionally regarding social issues. The masked killer has no motivation that I could discern, nor selection method to his victims and — skip the rest of this paragraph to avoid spoilers, which I rarely give but Movie Theater Massacre warrants discussion in this department — his denouement and the reaction of the witnesses to it borders on the ridiculous. Also, there is a feel-good ending that totally ignores the fact that a criminal investigation should follow, two criminals come through as heroes in an absurd turn, and the legality of changing ownership is simplified to a ludicrous degree.

Mike:  There’s so many directions I could go with how disappointed I was with this.  The logline and poster sounded and looked cool, making me think this might be a Big Deal, but the execution was bad. Like, cringeworthy bad.
Here are some thoughts I had and shared with Joe as I watched Movie Theater Massacre.
  • A scene with bad sound follows a scene about sound recording. For real?
  • This dialogue is horrible
  • We mention little factoids to show how hip and cool we are.
  • Dear Mike - never, EVER, judge a movie by its poster [again].
  • Do we need to follow Valerie for every step between point A and point B?!?
  • MONTAGE!!!
  • Love the arbitrary wearing of masks
  • Now they had a It's a Wonderful Life moment
  • No cops after the "massacre"?!?
  • I'm done picking movies, man.  You are the official GBV Media Procurement Officer
If you can take those snippets of conversation and arrive at a coherent conclusion about this film, congratulations - you did a better job than the film itself.

The Verdict
Joseph: Courtney definitely poured his heart and soul into Movie Theater Massacre, wanting to show his love of films in general and the sadness moviegoers feel when a beloved older cinema closes for good. Although those points come across, the execution hinders their delivery. Again, I want to emphasize that I appreciate the hard work and team effort by Courtney and his cast and crew, but the final product is a rough go at times, and some of that has to do with budget limitations. With this first feature under his belt, Courtney has the experience to learn what worked and what didn’t from the making of Movie Theater Massacre for his next offering. 

Mike:  It’s sad and a bit frustrating when movies that have potential to make a mark fail to deliver because of correctable and avoidable mistakes like bad dialogue and editing shortcomings.  While Movie Theater Massacre had potential to be a witty, meta-experience with a nice, pro-physical media message, it instead is just another example of why just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  It would be easy to just dismiss the film altogether, but there’s no doubt Ian Courtney and company put their all into the film and they at least deserve some kudos and views for that fact alone.

Movie Theater Massacre
, from Ian Courtney, is currently playing as part of the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival which runs from December 1st–25th.  For more information visit https://www.ahith.com/

Movie Theater Massacre
Directed By: Ian Courtney
Written By: Ian Courtney
Starring: Jalen Wilson-Nelem, Adam DeFilippi, Caitlin Cavannaugh
Run Time: 1h 15m
Rating: NR
Release Date: 2023

There was no trailer available at the time of this review