On the walls of Mitchell Altieri’s compact second-floor office in downtown Petaluma — directly across the street from Andresen’s bar, where trophies of deceased animals adorn the tavern — hang trophies of a very different kind. They are movie posters, photos, and props, representing many, if not all, of the films Altieri has written and directed over the last fifteen years.
Near the door is the poster for “Lurking in Suburbia,” his breakout film from 2006 — the movie that first captured the attention of Trevor Groth, a programmer at the Sundance Film Institute. The poster shows a young, bedraggled guy in slippers and bathrobe holding a bowl of cereal, and smoking a cigarette. The tagline reads, “A new dark suburban comedy about a writer’s coming of age … into his thirties.”
“That was a significant milestone, in many ways,” Altieri acknowledges. “For one thing, it’s pretty much the one-and-only non-horror comedy I’ve been a part of.”
Hanging next to the “Lurking” poster is a well-weathered skateboard, a prop from his 2014 scare-flick “Raised By Wolves,” filmed with longtime collaborator Phil Flores under the catchy moniker The Butcher Brothers. Other Butcher Brothers films are represented as well: 2010’s “The Violent Kind” — with a proclamation, “From the producers of Halloween and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre” — and the recent horror-comedy “A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff,” currently playing in select theaters in Los Angeles and New York. “Snuff” is about two filmmaking brothers who try to elicit a more realistic performance from their lead actress by fooling her into believing she’s going to killed on camera. It turns out they picked the wrong actress to mess with, and the tables are turned — with outrageous, and messy, results. Reviews have called it a highly entertaining satire that is genuinely funny and scary, while rising above the potential tastelessness of the subject matter.
Altieri co-wrote the script, and directed the film.
“In L.A., they’ve been running the trailer for “Snuff” in theaters where the new “Alien” movie is playing,” says Altieri. “That, I’d have to say, is pretty good validation for a guy who makes horror movies.”
One film that is not represented on these walls is “The Hamiltons,” an eerie 2006 vampire-serial killer film that marked Altieri and Flores’ first movie as The Butcher Brothers. The well-reviewed, cult-hit film opened the doors to a career filled with lots more blood, death, and creepy people — the studio film “April Fools Day,” a remake of the classic 1986 revenge shocker, the suspenseful “Holy Ghost People,” and Altieri’s latest, a killer-clown horror comedy titled “The Watchmen.”
What is indicated by all of this giddily grotesque memorabilia — including the in-the-works script currently displayed on his desk computer — is that Mitch Altieri — after years of hard work and dreaming of making a living in the film business — has become one very busy filmmaker.
“It’s true! I work a lot, I travel a lot,” he says. “I’d say I spend about a third of my year in L.A., or on location somewhere. I’ve been pretty fortunate to shoot about one movie a year, and then, obviously, I’m on set for three or four months. Then I get to leave L.A., or wherever, and come home. It’s nice to have Petaluma to come back to. This is where I get my creative mojo. I just love the energy here.”