The Pizzagate Massacre [Grimmfest Review]: Sex, Lizards and Pizza?
The internet sure does love conspiracy theories. Whether it’s the search for cryptids and UFO’s, a list of celebrities entwined with the Illuminati or the ‘truth’ behind the Moon landing there’s bound to be numerous articles, videos and forums discussing these beliefs. One of the most baffling of these was the Pizzagate conspiracy that went viral in 2016. Based around alleged human trafficking and child sex rings that were pinpointed to be happening in the basement of a pizzeria, it is a wildly absurd theory. Combine this with another outlandish conspiracy, the Lizard People theory that claims shape-shifting reptilian aliens control the planet under a human guise, and you’ve got not only a whole pot of crazy but also the premise for Grindhouse Horror satire film The Pizzagate Massacre.
Beginning us on this journey down a dark rabbit hole is a well dressed white man who informs the audience of what is to come, much like a narrator on shows like Beyond Belief or The Conspiracy Files, he gives us all the keywords for what we are about to witness. Gun massacres, lizard Illuminati, sex rings and pizza shop basements. It would feel like a bit of a spoiler in any other film, but considering this darkly comical piece was inspired by a real-life scandal, and well-documented conspiracy theory, it’s safe to assume audiences are already aware of the film’s destination. The journey, however, is where the fun really is.
Karen Black (Alexandria Payne), a character name so intrinsically perfect for the message of this film, is working her first day as an intern for a local news show that, just like its emphatic host Terri Lee (Lee Eddy), is pure right-wing lunacy that the ‘mainstream media’ refuses to talk about because they want to keep their dark truths hidden. Karen ends up being fired pretty quickly from the show, but she was there just long enough to cling to what Terri was selling, a conspiracy about Tootz Pizza and a child sex trafficking ring happening in their basement. As an amateur journalist, Karen can’t help but want to investigate this atrocity, but she’ll need help.
“Everything culminates in an explosive finale that savages the sensationalist media and lands its message as a socio-political satire.”
Enter Duncan (Tinus Seaux), a slightly unstable far-right militia member who is the orphaned son of a crazed cult leader and the owner of not one, but two, confederate flag number plates and some extremely questionable tattoos. The bearded, long-haired Texan is set up as the ultimate embodiment of ‘lone gunman’, even demonstrating his impressive skills in a game of paintball and showing his van full of firearms, but he is not one dimensional at all. His love-hate relationship with Terri Lee, and his want to find a connection are what pushes him to join Karen’s mission. Even when he doesn’t believe the conspiracy himself.
The film soon becomes a Road Movie of escalating events that get further and further out of control. An attempted hijacking by a zimmer frame wielding madman is quickly followed by an interruption from power-hungry Pete (John Valley), code-named Side Thorn but only by himself, who wants to take over and isn’t afraid of violence as a means to do so, all send this ‘simple’ mission spiralling out of control. Everything culminates in an explosive finale that savages the sensationalist media and lands its message as a socio-political satire.
First-time feature director, John Valley, makes some brilliant decisions in this film and, as the writer also, his script is thought-provoking, witty and mines depth from characters who could have been seen as caricatures. Valley’s involvement in the film is vast, he edited it, co-wrote the music and even takes on the role of macho militia man Pete, proving he is a multi-talented creator.
Splicing together absolutely ludicrous events that seem over the top and yet completely feasible within modern society, The Pizzagate Massacre treads a thin tonal line. It mines humour from its alt-right militia group and the believers of these insane theories but also explores the grisly outcomes of people taking these beliefs too far and how easy it is to slip into the web of these stories. It comments on the dangers of misinformation and manages to avoid feeling too exploitative of the real-life gun attack that Pizzagate led to. It’s definitely a film that needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, don’t get too bogged down in it and instead enjoy the insanity and grim humour as it jabs and pokes at modern media whilst still getting across an important warning.