The two best friends with Down Syndrome, who caused a sensation four years ago when they made their own bloody zombie movie, are back, this time in a documentary promoted by a Hollywood light.
“Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie,” released Tuesday on ple TV, follows Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt on their tenacious ten-year quest for screenplay, script, production, cast and star in the 2016 Spring Break Zombie Massacre comedy slasher film with severed heads and gushing arteries.
The original film gained national attention and appearance in Conan O’Brien’s show for two Rhode Island natives.
Suchmann and Zufelt, both 25, loved attention then – and now they love it again.
“I’ve always been shy,” Suchmann said. “Now I’m experiencing what great kids are experiencing.”
But talk to everyone who knows them, and it’s not overcoming the disability that makes their story remarkable – it’s the absolute commitment they’ve shown in making the film.
“It’s a whirlwind of energy and power,” said Peter Farrelly, a Rhode Islander colleague and executive producer of the documentary, in a Los Angeles telephone interview. “These men are really sharp and they knew what they wanted.” Our job was to help them, but not stand in their way. “
Farrell, the producer of the Oscar-winning “Green Paper,” and his brother Bobby have been casting actors with disabilities in their films for years, and are pushing for other Hollywood powerbrokers to do the same. Their 2005 film, The Ringer, about someone pretending to be disabled and competing in the Special Olympics, had about 150 extras with Down Syndrome.
The Farrells have been named recipients of the Morton E. Ruderman Prize for Inclusion by 2020, awarded by the Ruderman Family Foundation in Boston for demonstrating excellence in disability inclusion.
The documentary doesn’t even mention Down Syndrome, said Sam’s brother Jesse Suchmann, who, along with his friend Robert Carnevale, directed the original film and made friends in the field to help them with their time, expertise and equipment.
We hope the film inspires others to take care of the neurodivergent minds, such as Sam and Mattie, instead of simply writing them into a screenplay called inclusion, said Jesse Suchmann.
Suchmann of Providence and Zufelt of Bristol were best friends because they met in Special Olympics during elementary school. They found out that they have a mutual love for horror movies.
“We’ve always been in horror and zombie movies,” Zufelt said. “Saw and Purge have always been my favorites.”
They thought they could give something as good as what they saw coming out of Hollywood. The result was “Spring Break Zombie Massacre,” a 45-minute film starring brothers who save the world from a zombie ocalypse created by the devil himself.
Farrelly, who became the couple’s mentor and friend, said he had watched it maybe 10 times – and never made him laugh.
“It’s what everyone in life has to do to make a movie, or do something in life that’s hard to do,” he said. “People shouldn’t see their movie because two children with Down syndrome did it.” They should see it, because it’s a damn good movie. “
Zufelt and Suchmann don’t end either: They plan to continue.
Suchmann promises that it will be “epic”.