Massacre (1989)

a.k.a. - Massacro (ITA)

Lucio Fulci "presents" Andrea Bianchi's sleep inducingly dull slasher film. Dutch EC R0 DVD.

The Film

A prostitute is brutally killed by the road side by a maniancal killer. Nearby a horror film is being produced but the director is worried that the script is too passé for a modern audience and so he plans to include a séance scene - he hires a real medium to carry out a ceremony with the cast and crew to help inspire the script but she is attacked by an evil spirit. Meanwhile members of the cast are being picked off one by one and police detective Walter is desperate to stop his girlfriend, the lead actress Jennifer, becoming the next victim...

The late 1980s were not a good time for Italian horror, although producing some of the best gothic horror films in the '60s and leading the way in exploitation and gore through the '70s, American productions were starting to catch up and by the middle of the '80s, slick American slasher films like A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) were easily outperforming their Italian cousins in the box-office and their adoption of sex and gore left the Roman producers without even the sleazy unique selling-point for their films. There was a saving grace however in the shape of home video - across Europe independent distributors brought up the cheap rights to Italian genre films and released them in their droves - the result was the rediscovery of directors like Lucio Fulci (The Beyond (1981)) who gained a new cult following.

To try and capitalise on this new market, in 1989, producers Antonio Lucidi and Luigi Nannerini got Fulci to agree to put his name to a series of low budget horror films they were releasing, including Umberto Lenzi's Le porte dell'inferno (1989) and Andrea Bianchi's Massacre. Quite what Bianchi, a nearly twenty year veteran, thought of having to be marketed in this way is not recorded but it certainly can not have done his reputation any more harm than the film itself. Rather unwisely, the director takes full credit for the storyline which manages to fail as both a coherent horror movie or even just a watchable exploitation film. The soporific script drags along throughout most of the film at less than snail's pace - endlessly long dialogue scenes are briefly punctuated by a few murders, but amazingly these take place largely off-screen denying us the gory highlights promised by the film's title. It is hard to believe the man behind Nude per l'assassino (1975) could write a script in which a woman's sapphic sexual advanances are completely turned down by the other woman and nudity is limited to a couple of brief and completely gratuitous scenes - a single line reference to necrophilia is as sleazy as the film gets and it is never referred to again.

The setting, during the filming of an Italian horror film, does suggest a potential gold mine of in-jokes and industry exposés, but Bianchi simply does nothing with it, aside from a giving us a couple of brief scenes showing filming in progress (which seem to consist of a disturbing number of scenes of a gay man in drag), it certainly plays no part in the main storyline and the characters could easily have been any randomly assorted mix of hotel guests. The identity of the knifeman is the only interesting component of the whole film but the script manages to all but kill interest in this during the opening scene when we clearly see the murderer, giving the impression that this is a routine maniac-slasher film, it is only later after sitting through the endless middle section of the film, which mostly consists of dull police proceedurals and dialogue among the film crew, that it becomes clear that the identity of the killer is supposed to be a mystery, with the result that the film does suddenly become tense and interesting towards the climax (although this might only be in relative terms after what has come before) and it builds up to a neat (even though completely inexplicable) ending but with a rather unnecessary epilogue.

Behind the camera, Bianchi does a decent if rather workmanlike job. For most of its runtime the film clearly shows its low-budget roots with the action taking place on a series of bland sets but like the storyline it does pick up slightly for a well filmed climax. The gory effects that should have been the film's highlights are nothing exciting at all with none of the anatomical gore that you would expect in a Lucio Fulci film and they appear far too sparingly. The soundtrack, from Bruno Mattei regular Luigi Ceccarelli (Strike Commando (1987)) has an overused cheesy TV-show theme but the indicental music provides a good backing for the film.

The low budget strikes again on the cast list with no-name actors filling the main roles and providing at best middling performances and at worse utter bland-ness (Gino Concari who plays Walter is one of the worst offenders here). Fortunately, two veteran Euro-cult actors do lend their names and talent - Maurice Poli (Cani arrabbiati (1974)) plays the film's director, while Jess Franco regular Paul Muller (Sie tötete in Ekstase (1971)) appears as the police chief.

If Massacre was supposed to be a rival to the American slasher films, it shows just how out of touch the Italian filmmakers were with the productions that were out-selling them - all we get is a tiresome script with a bare minimum of on-screen killing that forgets to let you know that it is trying to keep the killer's identity a secret, combined with a bunch of terrible actors who all look far too old to appeal to the money-spending teenage demographic and some bland sets and direction. Even as a sleaze film it falls down completely with the reliable exploitation director Bianchi going coy, leaving only a couple of brief topless shots and lesbianism that never progresses beyond the dialogue. Not recommendable.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Maurice Poli - a Euro-cult regular who appeared in a wide variety of films, including Papaya dei Caraibi (1978)
Paul Muller - a Swiss actor who appeared in a number of films for Jess Franco, including Venus in Furs (1969)
Directed by anyone interesting? Andrea Bianchi - often ranked as one of the least of the Italian horror directors he was responsible for the gory zombie film Le notti del terrore (1981) and sleazy giallo Nude per l'assassino (1975)
Any gore or violence ? Some bloody killings, but not half as strong as many other films from the era.
Any sex or nudity? A couple of topless shots.
Who is it for? Of interest to Andrea Bianchi completists only.
Visuals 1.33:1 fullscreen. Colour
The print is clearly VHS sourced and has a general lack of detail throughout. There is also some print damage from the original transfer with frequent speckling.
The fullscreen print seems to be correct, with no evident cropping, plenty of head-room suggests it could have been mattable for cinema release.
Audio Italian mono - dialogue is somewhat muffled, but generally fine.
Subtitles English, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish and French subtitles
These are generally okay, but one two occasions they do seem to 'stick' on random lines of dialogue until you cycle the subtitle tracks (this was on an Oppo DVD player).
Danish subtitles are listed on the packaging but are not included.
Extras This disc includes:
  • Andrea Bianchi filmography - an on-screen text listing of Bianchi's films, in English.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Availability Dutch release - title Massacre.
Other regions? Not available elsewhere.
Cuts? Listed as 'uncut version' and with no obvious cuts. Print language is Italian, although the opening titles seem to be from a different source to the rest of the film.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 5th February 2011.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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