Editor’s Note: About a month ago, I went down to LA for the cast and crew screening of Dude Bro Party Massacre III, a slasher parody from the gang at 5-Second Films. You’ve probably noticed by now, but they’re long-time friends of the site. I interviewed them for a Frotcast, they’ve made videos for us, and I even did a stand-up set (badly) for a YouTube live-stream event when they were raising money for it. We go back YEARS.
I’ve never exactly been a strict adherent to the blue blazered rules of old journalism, but it didn’t seem right to write a glowing review of friends’ movies after I’d drunk their beer and worn the t-shirt. Even if other sites had called it “a twisted masterpiece” and “a mix of absurd toilet humor, genuine cleverness, and true horror spirit.” So I sent it to Heather to review instead. Wouldn’t you know it, she didn’t really like it. Let it never be said FilmDrunk is without integrity. Fruitless, self-defeating integrity.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Dude Bro Party Massacre III, which is depressing. There are so many other, more important things to think about in this world—global warming, mass poverty, small dogs in adorable casts. Still, the story stuck. Maybe it’s because enthusiasm for Dude Bro has reached such a feverish pitch on dork blogs everywhere, with cyborg tweenage critics hailing it a “masterpiece” and predicting it’ll become “the next cult classic.” And it’s entirely possible that this movie—which features dog dicks, naked women getting murdered (LOL), and “hilarious” riffs on child molestation (thank god they broke that taboo!), will go viral. Dude Bro presents itself as a bitingly dark spoof, which it often is, but their comedy is also full of unconscious reverence for the genre it tries to mock. For it every taboo it breaks, it self-congratulates, and while the filmmakers may hate all the creepy dude bros—they also really love them, too.
In order to understand Dude Bro Party Massacre III, you first have to learn the history of Dude Bro Massacre III, which is a sentence I never imagined I’d write. The film is the first feature-length creation of 5-second films, a film/sketch comedy group that’s received some well-deserved critical acclaim in the past few years, and was, for a long time, an Uproxx favorite (sorry Vince if I now destroy your website!). At its heart, Dude Bro intends to be an observant parody of 1980’s slasher films and a witty critique of frat-bro culture. Stylistically, it’s a huge success. It’s been downgraded to look like the old, unmarked VHSes you keep boxed up in your parents’ basement. Between the excessive tracking and strange, violent commercial breaks, you’ll definitely feel a powerful kick of nostalgia: the “I like this [random thing from childhood] solely because I didn’t remember this [random thing from childhood] but now I DO” feeling. Between Teenage Mutant reboot culture and 99 million Buzzfeed lists about Disney Princesses (die Princesses DIE) Dude Bro definitely taps into our culture’s increasing fetishization of “old stuff.”
But what the film has in style it lacks in substance, sometimes humor, also basic common sense. Here’s my guess at the plot: Brock, a handsome frat bro, is murdered, along with many other bros in his house, by a terrifying woman known as Motherface. So Brent, Brock’s twin brother, moves into the frat house and tries to discover who the “real killer” is. Along the way, he meets such lovable characters as Sizzler, a submissive young Asian man who LOVES getting violently paddled—repeatedly, for minutes bordering on eras—by another hazing dude bro. Next to the Asian submissive, there’s a cop who loves talking about how much he loves banging children, women with exposed nipples getting murdered, many dudes gutted like fish, a kindly man in a wheelchair, and a (spoiler alert) therapist-cum-murderer-cum-castrator who needs a nice Neutrogena cleanse.
If you enjoyed reading that sentence, then you’ll really enjoy watching this movie for reasons I’ll never be able to understand. Yes, I get it—Patton Oswalt is here. And Dude Bro is just a joke. Sure, sometimes critics and audiences confuse satire with statements. Often it’s not that the film is endorsing their characters’ actions—they’re just giving them voice so that they can drown them with critique. Dude Bro, for all its molesty-ness, very much intends to satirize hyper-masculine college culture, and often succeeds. The dialogue is shockingly spot-on. I even read that the directors wanted to flip historic movie patterns and have male murder victims and a female sociopath killer, which, while smart and well-intentioned, has to be one of the weirdest interpretations of gender equality I’ve ever seen.
But in order for a story to function as satire, it has to place limits. Sure, Dude Bro might have wanted to critique how male pledges are treated/paddled/sodomized in fraternity culture, and that’s an important point to make. Yet the directors spend so much time forcing us to watch Sizzler getting paddled that you can’t help but think—“What’s the point of watching anymore? Or: “Why the Asian submissive?” Or: “Honestly I don’t care. Where are my milk duds?” Same goes for when Brian Firenzi, playing Officer Sminkle, goes off for minutes on how much he enjoys “banging children.” I guess, on some theoretical level, there’s some critique here of … child molesters? Or maybe just an outrageous attempt to provoke a “..haha” or an “oh, ha.” Either way, these deeply painful issues are treated so casually, so gratuitously, so gleefully, that you can’t help but worry that Dude Bro isn’t really spoofing—it’s celebrating.
There’s a certain genre of comedy, of which Dude Bro is definitely a member, that prides itself on the extent of its absurdity, and the number of taboos it can bust in your face. Headless frat bros. Dead children. President Reagan, cross-dressing as a woman (I don’t know). And while some taboos certainly need to be torn down (Replace business suits with business sweatpants NOW) there’s a reason many were erected in the first place: to protect people from pain. That certainly doesn’t mean you can’t tell a rape joke or a gay joke—but if you do it, do it for a good reason.
Maybe Dude Bro Party Massacre III would have succeeded if it wasn’t so enmeshed in its own absurdity. I, and the three generous/enabling friends I watched it with, grew quickly tired, moving from one illustrious disembowelment to the next. Perhaps if the story had given more space for us to breathe—let the dude-bros go shopping at the supermarket, then chop off all their heads—I would have had more time to sit back and really enjoy all the decapitations. And perhaps if 5-second films had actually kept to it 5-seconds—5 minutes—the spoof would come into full, glorious relief.
Who knows. And maybe—who cares? If there’s one thing Dude Bro Party Massacre III can teach us, it’s—actually there is no one thing. It’s a movie called DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III. Watch it and laugh, or watch it and don’t laugh. Just try to make sure you think about it, and then when you’re ready, forget.
Heather Dockray is a writer and storyteller living in Brooklyn, NY. You can see more of Heather’s work at www.heatherdockray.com, follow her on twitter @Wear_a_helmet, and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you aren’t from Moveon.org.