“The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre” premiers in theaters and streaming on September 10, from a team that includes movie stars like Max Martini, MMA legends like Randy Couture and Bas Rutten, and a pair of zombie-bashing professional wrestlers in Mike Carey and Chris Margetis.
Watch the trailer here and read on below to find out how the team behind “The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre” included more veterans than you’re likely to find at your local VFW, and just may offer a glimpse into a shift in how Hollywood both sees and represents the veteran community.
Actor and director Max Martini’s new film, “The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre,” has been scoring rave reviews as it heads toward its Sept. 10 premiere, but what some viewers may not realize is that the movie features tons of veterans both in front and behind the camera.
This comedic zombie-fest isn’t the usual fare we’ve come to expect from Martini, who’s known among many service members for his roles in some of the most beloved war films of all time. In fact, you could argue that Hollywood has made Martini its go-to guy when a movie needs a hero who can handle a rifle as well as he can deliver an emotionally poignant performance. That pivot wasn’t unintentional. When Martini saw the script for “The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre,” he saw an opportunity to do something a little different.
For years now, Martini has been a champion for veteran causes, drawing from his experiences filming and training alongside real service members, many of whom represent the most elite special operations units in the world.
Last year, Martini made his directorial debut with the emotionally powerful film, “Sgt. Will Gardner,” about a struggling Iraq War veteran piecing his life back together. The movie scored an impressive 88% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and Martini committed to donating 30% of all profits the film makes to veteran charities.
“For those in your audience who are familiar with me, I’m very passionate about veterans and my veteran charities. So, this was a much-needed break from a very taxing emotional journey in making ‘Sgt. Will Gardner.’ When Mike and Chris brought me the script, I was like, God, this could be so much fun,” he told me.
Knowing that about the “Manson Brothers” director, it might come as little surprise that he’d opt to direct a movie co-written by a Marine that puts real veterans in the gore-covered and side-splitting spotlight.
Making a movie that puts veterans front and center
As Martini was nearing the end of filming the upcoming George Clooney-helmed “The Tender Bar” alongside actors like Ben Affleck and Christopher Lloyd, he was also exchanging e-mails with writers, actors, and former professional wrestlers, Mike Carey and Chris Margetis. The duo was developing an idea for an off-the-wall zombie movie in the classic sense: combining horror and humor to create an escape from the real-world stresses that have been compounding in recent years.
The finished product was such an entertaining script that Martini agreed to come on to direct, giving the project the push it needed to start snowballing into the movie it would become.
“When we started telling people we going to make this movie, the first thing out of their mouth was, ‘it’s never gonna happen. You guys will never do it,'” Marine veteran and “Manson Brothers” co-writer Mike Carey told me.
“And we were like, oh yeah? Let’s roll up our sleeves and get it done.”
While both Carey and Margetis are quick to credit Martini for turning their script into the wild ride of a movie it is, Margetis also points to Carey’s tenacity in helping to bring their movie dream to fruition.
“The one thing I know about Mike Carey, and I’ve always called him this, is he’s the ultimate force of nature and I’m 99.9% sure that 99.9% of that has to do with him being a Marine,” said Margetis, who not only co-wrote the film, but also plays one of the two titular Manson Brothers alongside Carey.
it wasn’t long before the trio had assembled their crew, locked on their filming locations, and put together a cast that could assault a fortified enemy position as readily as they could make a hit movie. As you hear them talk about it, it quickly becomes clear that veterans were not only welcome on Carey, Margetis, and Martini’s team–at times, they even outnumbered the folks on set who didn’t have a DD-214 folded up in their wallet.
“We have four veterans in lead roles on camera, and then we have a ton of veterans that worked in the crew and behind the camera. So there was a big military presences on set every day,” Martini explained.
Those veterans in lead roles include co-writer and Marine veteran Mike Carey as one of the two Manson Brothers, alongside former MMA champ and U.S. Army veteran Randy Couture, former Navy SEAL David Meadows, and Army veteran Luis Bordonada, who starred in “Sgt. Will Gardner” alongside Martini. There were also a number of veterans in the crew, including many of the stunt performers.
And as anyone who’s spent some time with vets can attest, that led to some pretty entertaining workdays.
“You know, that just upped the level of buffoonery,” Martini laughed.
From the outside looking in, there’s a serious distinction between the way veterans participated in the making of “The Manson Brothers” and many other movies and TV shows that feature vets. With Martini, it’s not about having veterans on set for the optics. Martini isn’t doing these veterans “a favor” by hiring them, nor is he pandering to the vet community. He’s hiring vets because of the skills they bring to the table, their work ethic, and as a part of his effort to make the best motion picture he can.
This movie from Martini, Margetis, and Carey doesn’t use veterans as props, nor is their presence accompanied by a patronizing wink-and-nod. Instead, this project had veterans involved every step of the way, from writing it to bringing it to life, because they were the right people for the job.
“Just like after World War II, there were so many guys in the Golden Age of Hollywood in the ’40s and ’50s that were former military. You’re going to start to see a swath of guys who are going to be A-list players that are former military,” Carey explained.
“A few years ago, there was a wave, an influx of military guys and women that came into Hollywood as tech advisers or they’d be in the background, but they’re stepping into bigger roles now. Look at Dave Meadows,” Martini added about one of the veterans in the film.
“This guy is a high speed Navy SEAL operator who got out and studied acting. So, not only can he grab an M4 and know what he’s doing, but he also has the chops as an actor.”
As Martini and Carey pointed out, veterans are legitimately becoming a presence in Hollywood, and Martini’s gory zombie-fest might just be a portent of things to come.
Forget your troubles with “The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre”
“The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre” isn’t the sort of movie you’ll hear whispered about at the Academy Awards, and that’s really by design. While Martini often brings gut-wrenching dramatic performances to the screen, his goal in directing “The Manson Brothers” matched Margetis’ and Carey’s goals in writing it: to give the world a break from the stresses of real life.
“It’s not meant to do anything outside of entertainment,” Martini said. “The comedy is really broad, the zombie attacks are really gory, and there’s a lot of great action.”
If Margetis and Carey set out to write a movie that people could have a good time losing themselves in for a few hours, the reviews suggest that they succeeded. The popular movie news outlet JoBlo recently gave the movie an impressive rating of 8/10, calling it “a bodyslam of a good time.”
“That was the goal, let’s just make a really entertaining movie. Let’s make something that people are going to have fun watching.”
Carey likens it to the sort of movies he used to watch on a Saturday night with his buddies in the barracks when he was a part of VMAQ-2 out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. These days, Carey is a writer and actor, but he certainly hasn’t forgotten his roots in Uncle Sam’s favorite gun club.
“I love being a Marine. I think probably next to father, it’s the title that I’m most proud of,” Carey said.
“The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre” premiers in theaters and streaming on August 10.
You can follow Max Martini to keep up on news about this and his other projects on Instagram here.
Want to read more about Max Martini’s incredible career, military roles, and how he supports the veteran community? Read our interview with him from last year here.