18th Oct2021

Grimmfest 2021: ‘The Pizzagate Massacre’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Tinus Seaux, Alexandria Payne, Lee Eddy, John Valley, Derek Babb, Zachary T. Scott | Written and Directed by John Valley

The Pizzagate Massacre (originally titled Duncan) opens with a monologue, to camera, from a reporter (Derek Babb) who informs the audience about what we are about to see. A story, told in flashback, of a mass murder in Austin, Texas which is linked to the conspiratorial ramblings of a TV news reporter about the infamous Pizzagate! Yes, inspired by that recently revived conspiracy theory, The Pizzagate Massacre follows an amateur journalist and a far-right militiaman team up to expose the ugly truth behind rumours involving sex cults, a pizza place and lizard people.

Those rumours are put out by local news reader Terri Lee who, for all intents and purposes, epitomises the kind of right-wing loony that the left always warn about – chasing ridiculous conspiracy theories, stirring up controversy in order to generate views… All the while claiming they know the truth and everyone else, usually with common sense, is trying to hide the truth, marginalising them because THEY know the truth!

Unfortunately our heroine here, intern Karen Black, who is fired on her first day working on Terri Lee’s show falls for Terri’s bullsh*t hook, line and sinker. Note the name though. Karen Black. Many would say that it’s a nod to the horror movie actress of the same name but… isn’t it more indicative of her character? She believes in the conspiracies, she feels marginalised and she’s black. She’s literally a Black “Karen”. It’s the first sign that The Pizzagate Massacre has a wicked sense of humour. A dark, satirical, sense of humour that continues throughout the film.

Hell the humour even comes through in the films location of Waco, Texas. Setting The Pizzagate Massacre in Waco, Texas evokes historical references to the Waco massacre, the 1993 standoff between the Branch Davidians and the Feds which culminated in a fiery end with cult leader David Koresh and his followers dead. The film even overtly references said events, with Duncan (the character for which this film was originally named) the actual son of David Koresh and the only survivor of the Waco massacre! The location also adds an extra layer to proceedings, going a long way to explaining why Karen, Duncan, and the militia he is a part of, are so open to conspiracy theories and the idea of a hidden deep-state government – the town has been through this before and it, at least in their eyes, turned out to be true.

Interestingly though Duncan, despite his volatile nature (he is, on screen, the epitome of the “lone gunman” stereotype) isn’t actually that believing of conspiracy theories – even going as far as investigating Tootz Pizza, the location of the lizard people who are having their wicked way with innocent kids in the basement, and discovering it DOESN’T have a basement… Yet he still goes along with Karen Black’s ridiculous mission, as if he needs it to be true to give his life purpose and he goes along with Karen just to have a friend. It doesn’t hurt that, as his militia nemesis Philip (played by director John Valley) states, that Duncan is infatuated with newsreader Terri Lee; even if he thinks her audience, her fans, are a bunch of conspiracy theory believing idiots!

When the film eventually gets to Tootz Pizza, so-called home of the lizard illuminati, the sh*t hits the fan as Philip, disgruntled militia member and aforementioned nemesis of Duncan, tears the place apart, causing the death of the stores pizza chef. As is the satirical nature of the film, that invasion of the pizza joint, a well-meaning, yet deeply unfounded (and utterly idiotic) “mission” of Duncan’s is twisted into a racially-motivated attack on an immigrant-owned pizza joint. Proving that, as is always the case with the media reporting of events, perception is everything. Even Terri Lee spins the murders at the pizzeria as a crime against her, as if Duncan’s fandom is another deep-state conspiracy theory against her, trying to shut down her reporting of the “facts” the mainstream media won’t reveal!

Ultimately the film explodes into a cacophony of gun violence as the more human element of the story, the internal conflict within the militia Duncan is a part of and his rivalry with Philip, leads to the murder of the entire militia at the hands of Duncan, as he tries to save Karen from Philip; ultimately turning him into the very stereotype – that of crazed racially-motivated lone gunman – he has tried so hard NOT to be. Eventually twisting the story from lizard illuminati at a pizza joint to the more cliched, more mainstream media friendly, lunatic killer on a gun-toting rampage.

A brilliant look at the current socio-political climate and a damning indictment of the media (and by extension making money off sensationalism), The Pizzagate Massacre is so much more than the exploitative title implies. In fact it’s probably one of the most important genre films of the year.

***** 5/5

The Pizzagate Massacre screened as part of this years Grimmfest.


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