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By Eric Campos | March 28, 2008

Dem Brookens Boys is back! After introducing the festival world to the legendary Skunk Ape with their short loosely based on the stinky beast, Matt and Greg Brookens give us their first feature film. If you are unfamiliar with the brothers’ work, let me assure you that this is a cause for celebration. Written and directed by Matt Brookens and starring brother Greg, this feature length outing is jam packed with genre geek droolworthiness – zombies, ninjas, comic books, Lloyd Kaufman talking about sticking drugs up his butt, nerd vengeance and a vicious dark comic streak reminiscent of teen suicide comedy “Heathers.” “The Art of Pain” has cult classic written all over it.

Jack is an ar-teest. A painter. Well, he would be if he could pick up his paint brush again and get to work. Instead, he’s content with his dull gig working at a movie theater along with his aspiring actress girlfriend, Sharon, and his aspiring comic book writer buddy, Nick, played by Greg Brookens. Life is rather pointless and uninspiring hustling popcorn and movie tickets until Marcus is hired at the theater. Marcus is a bad-a*s, leather jacket clad ninja in training who is unable to meet his sensei’s high expectations, thus keeping him from earning his black belt. Marcus sees himself as a failure, so he devises a fiendish little project, something that he believes he can finally see through. His project is Jack and the lesson he will teach him is that “great art comes from great pain.” So Marcus commences toying with Jack’s life, starting with little things like turning his parents against him and stealing his girlfriend. It’s enough to stir the master artist within Jack and he begins painting once again, this new pain inspired work held in the utmost regard and awe by anyone that sees it. But Marcus isn’t satisfied. He needs to push this project further. And so things get homicidal.

“The Art of Pain” pushes all the right buttons almost immediately. What really makes you spread your legs so quickly to happily receive this film is that only seconds after meeting the main characters, you like them, really like them and you’re instantly sold. Lovably quirky performances are what draw you to these people as does the overall sharp comedic tone of the film that is oftentimes off-beat and unpredictable, but always hilarious – so much so that you’re still laughing when the film turns dark, violent and brutal. Again, much like “Heathers,” “The Art of Pain” blends sociopathic behavior with comedy perfectly in that it never pulls more to one side or the other. Both elements compliment each other and make for an entertainingly uncomfortable watch.

With his first feature Matt Brookens has arrived. He clearly understands what it takes to entertain an audience, so if you know what’s good for you, you’ll let him entertain you someday. You are strongly encouraged to feel “The Art of Pain.”

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