Massacre begins with a daylight driving shot of a man sporting a hoodie, mirrored sunglasses, mustache, and gloves. He eyes a beautiful prostitute and stops the car to accost her. Soon he pulls a knife, and with the cheapest special effects and editing, he chops the hand and head from the woman. Cut to a film set located near a resort hotel where Jennifer (Patrizia Falcone) is the star of a horror film entitled, “Dirty Blood.” The director, Frank (Maurice Poli), is determined to make as realistic as possible a horror film for modern audiences. To exact this plan he has hired a genuine medium, Irene Ulrich (Anna Maria Placido) to host a séance with the cast and crew. Experiencing a séance, Frank believes, will simulate the atmosphere and mood of his film for the benefit of his colleagues. The séance does not go well: while attempting to channel a familiar spirit, Madame Ulrich struggles to fend off an evil spirit attempting to invade her body and those in the immediate area of the séance. Not long after, Lisa (Silvia Conti), the producer’s wife is found murdered near the crew’s hotel. Walter (Gino Concari), a police consultant to the production and paramour of leading lady, Jennifer, investigates the case. Bodies start piling up…
I popped Massacre into the DVD player with intention of watching a movie where I could shut my brain off. I must have shut my brain off too early, because I thought that I was going to watch The Murder Secret (Non Aver paura della zia Marta) (1988), another “Lucio Fulci presents” film. When the opening sequence appeared, I immediately recognized the film, remembered that I thought the film was shitty, but was too lazy to get off the couch to change discs. The main problem with Massacre is that it is woefully cheap and low budget (and not in a good way). Often, when a low budget is a problem for the film, an enthusiastic film crew overreaches with their material abilities. Often the enthusiasm of the performers, crew, and the energy driving the script overcomes such budget limitations. Massacre feels like a cheap production that kept its costs as low as possible to reap the most financial benefits from an audience curious to see a film that “Lucio Fulci presents.” Andrea Bianchi is an interesting director. For example, my favorite Exorcist rip-off is Malabimba (1979): almost a total exercise in sleaze focusing solely on the sensational elements of William Peter Blatty’s story. Bianchi pens the script of Massacre, centered upon a film crew, located in a singular location, whose personalities are conflicting at even the most base level. The murder mystery is haphazard (and very mechanical): Bianchi is going to pull a little bit at a supernatural angle and a grounded, police-procedural angle as well. An adept screenwriter could pull off such a stunt, but that feat was not accomplished today.
No character is central, and Massacre floats between conversations. For example, Walter, the police officer, is chastised by his commissioner, played by Paul Muller (the best actor in Massacre in a small role), for having no leads in a murder investigation where four murders have occurred. Walter blows him off, but Muller has merit: I would be pissed, too, as a member of the general public where a killer was loose and the lead officer in the investigation was fucking the beautiful leading actress, working as a consultant for a film production, and having double whiskies while waiting for séances to finish. Later Walter blames Muller for pulling officers off of surveillance as the cause for a recent death! In an early scene, beautiful Lisa, the producer’s wife, gives a steamy striptease to the writer of “Dirty Blood.” The producer, Robert (Pier Maria Cecchini), interrupts her. He calls Lisa a slut and a whore, smacks her, and reminds her that he found her “in the gutter.” Seemingly as penance, Robert demands that she set up a threesome with Mira, the production assistant. (I’m not bullshitting.) Is Bianchi proffering this scene to show a voluptuous lady performing a striptease, show a man hit and degrade a woman, or show Robert to be an asshole (and having a violent temper as a motive for a killer)? I’m guessing number two. When Bianchi is not being sensational or offensive, Massacre is filled with boring pedestrian scenes of characters engaging in conversation a little above filler.
Producers Luigi Nannerini and Antonini Lucidi asked Lucio Fulci to endorse a series of films that they were releasing of which Massacre was one.* The duo had produced Fulci’s Touch of Death and Sodoma’s Ghost (both 1988).* Later, scenes from Massacre would be included in Fulci’s Nightmare Concert (1990).* It is more than likely most people would know Massacre from clips from Fulci’s later film; and any legacy this film has comes from there. The only sin that Bianchi committed with Massacre was being boring. There were plenty of other sins he could have indulged.
(*) Thrower, Stephen. Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci. FAB Press. Surrey, England, U.K.: 1999. P. 243