The Mercury (Pottstown, PA)

New film follows 2 zombie moviemaker­s with Down syndrome

- By Mark Pratt

Two best friends with Down syndrome who caused a sensation four years ago when they created their own gory zombie movie are back, this time in a documentar­y championed by a Hollywood luminary.

“Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie,” released Tuesday on Apple TV, follows Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt on their tenacious 10-year quest to storyboard, script, produce, cast and star in 2016 s “Spring Break Zombie Massacre,” a comedy slasher movie complete with severed heads and spurting arteries.

The original movie earned national attention and an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s show for the two Rhode Island natives.

Suchmann and Zufelt, both 25, loved the attention then — and they’re loving it again now.

“I’ve always been the shy guy,” Suchmann said. “Now I’m experienci­ng what the cool kids are experienci­ng.”

But talk to anyone who knows them, and it’s not overcoming a disability that makes their story remarkable — it’s the sheer determinat­ion they showed in getting the movie made.

“They’re a whirlwind of energy and happiness,” Peter Farrelly, a fellow Rhode Islander and executive producer of the documentar­y, said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “These guys are really sharp and they knew what they wanted. Our job was to help them but not get in their way.”

Farrelly, producer of the Oscar-winning film “Green Book,” and his brother, Bobby, have for years cast actors with disabiliti­es in their movies and pushed for other Hollywood powerbroke­rs to do the same. Their 2005 movie “The Ringer,” about someone pretending to have a disability and competing in the Special Olympics, had about 150 extras with Down syndrome.

The Farrellys were named the 2020 recipients of the Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion, given by the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation for demonstrat­ing outstandin­g accomplish­ment in the field of disability inclusion.

The documentar­y doesn’t even mention Down syndrome, said Sam’s brother, Jesse Suchmann, who along with friend Robert Carnevale codirected the original movie, enlisting friends in the industry to help out with their time, expertise and equipment.

The hope is that the film inspires others to put neurodiver­gent minds in charge of the creative process, like Sam and Mattie were, instead of simply writing them into a script in the name of inclusion, Jesse Suchmann said.

Suchmann, of Providence, and Zufelt, of Bristol, have been best friends since they met participat­ing in the Special Olympics during elementary school. They found they had a mutual love of horror movies.

“We’ve always been into horror movie and zombie movies,” Zufelt said. “‘Saw’ and ‘Purge’ were always my favorites.”

They thought they could put something together as good as what they saw coming out of Hollywood. The result was “Spring Break Zombie Massacre,” a 45-minute film in which they play brothers who save the world from a zombie apocalypse spawned by the devil himself.

 ?? ELISE AMENDOLA, FILE - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? In this July 12, 2016, file photo, Sam Suchmann, left, and Mattie Zufelt pose with ghoulish figures at Sam’s home in Providence, R.I. The two young men who caused a sensation four years ago when they created their own gory zombie movie are back, this time in a documentar­y championed by a Hollywood luminary that chronicles their tenacious, years-long effort to see their silver screen dream come to fruition. “Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie,” was released Tuesday, April 6, 2021, on Apple TV.
ELISE AMENDOLA, FILE - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS In this July 12, 2016, file photo, Sam Suchmann, left, and Mattie Zufelt pose with ghoulish figures at Sam’s home in Providence, R.I. The two young men who caused a sensation four years ago when they created their own gory zombie movie are back, this time in a documentar­y championed by a Hollywood luminary that chronicles their tenacious, years-long effort to see their silver screen dream come to fruition. “Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie,” was released Tuesday, April 6, 2021, on Apple TV.

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