Brothers and aspiring actors Dresden and Dominic Winters (Joey Kern and Luke Edwards) have one last chance to launch their Hollywood careers. Failure would see the both of them return home without any money, and with a pair of bruised egos. A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff may not be pioneering new territory with its simple premise, but it’s not long before it spirals into entertaining chaos, providing gasps and laughs along the way.
Dresden, the older of the two brothers, decides that they are going to enter a horror film contest with a grand prize of $250,000 and the chance to connect with industry contacts that they’ve always longed for. All they need is an actress to play the victim in their found footage flick. However, sometimes getting the best performance out of an actor is tough – so they decide the best option is to abduct her for real. Their hope is that once they win the money and the actress sees her success, all will be forgotten. It is often said that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, and the Winters brothers seem to be taking this truism to extremes.
During a casting call for the lead, we meet Jennifer (Bree Williamson). Dominic takes a liking to Jennifer and her fierce attitude towards Dresden. The casting call not only introduces us to the abductee but also does a great job of showing the main difference between the brothers. Dominic is a nice guy, but is clearly influenced easily by his brother. Dresden, on the other hand, is confident, determined and slightly unhinged. He is incredibly rude to everybody during the casting call, but Jennifer remains unrattled by his approach.
The casting call sequence showcases the strongest aspect of the film: the chemistry between the brothers. When sharing the screen, Dominic and Dresden have a brilliant dynamic. Both performances are charismatic and charming. This is only heightened once Bree Williamson’s character is introduced, and she is just as captivating as her co-stars. This pitch-perfect casting pays dividends later in the film. When the pacing begins to feel a bit off and rushed, the strong cast carry the film through to the end.
Once the casting call is done, and with a little convincing from Dresden, the brothers set out to kidnap their actress (or victim; the roles are quite interchangeable) and take her to their landlord’s warehouse to shoot the film. Up until this point, there has been mention of a mysterious killer who has been castrating and murdering men, and there are no prizes for guessing where this is going…
It’s only when they have Jennifer tied up that it becomes clear just how far Dresden is willing to go — he is fully committed to torturing this woman even though Dominic is less than enthused about the idea. In theory, it should be very uncomfortable watching an ‘innocent’ woman be tortured. However, the film does a good job at getting through these scenes with as little wincing as possible. It’s abundantly clear that Jennifer can handle herself, and this combined with Dominic’s resistance to the plan allows the comedy to flow expertly with the horror. Neither stand in each other’s way. Both horror and humour are successfully intertwined within the scenes and complement one another – a feat that is often difficult to pull off, especially so seamlessly.
Once the torturing of Jennifer begins, the film really starts running at a borderline breakneck speed. It’s only so noticeable because the pacing started off so well considered, whereas now there’s barely a moment to think. Unfortunately, this does take away some of the sheen and causes the more comedic beats to be rushed, when they could have done with some breathing space. Despite rocketing to the finish line, A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff still finds time for some entertaining moments from the main cast, and even squeezes in a couple of twists before the end.
A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff may not hold its landing, but thanks to stellar performances from the three main cast members, it’s still an enjoyable journey. Regardless of its pacing issues late on, along with some of its unexplored plot-lines (Dresden’s mental health is the most obvious of these), it is nonetheless an exciting watch.