Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Massacre (1989)

Original title: Massacro

A serial killer is roaming the city, hacking prostitutes to pieces. Walter (Gino Concari), the police inspector responsible, is at a complete loss when it comes to catching his perp. It might also be he's a mite distracted by his girlfriend Jennifer (Patrizia Falcone), who is playing the lead role in some sort of horror movie; at least, Walter's hanging around the set more often than he's working.

The director of Jennifer's film wants his horror movie to be more authentic, so he invites a real medium (Anna Maria Placido) to hold a séance for the core crew and main actors that's supposed to give them "insight into the spiritual world". However, the séance doesn't go too well: instead of the medium's spirit guide, she accidentally conjures up a malevolent entity called Jack, who does some mild spooking before disappearing via floating POV camera somewhere in the bar of the tennis club where the séance takes place.

It can hardly be an accident that afterwards, crew and actors are killed off one by one. For inexplicable reasons, the police assumes these new killings to be the work of the same killer who's offing the prostitutes. Not that the prostitute murders and the new killings have anything in common apart from ending with dead bodies, but hey, it's the movie police, so what do you expect?

Soon enough, the police captures the prostitute killer, and now pretends to have solved the film crew killings too. Not surprisingly, the murders continue soon enough. It seems as if this killer has grown very fond of Jennifer and has chosen the actress as his final victim. Will anyone solve the mystery of his very obvious identity before it's too late for the young actress? Will the film's ending care?

Given that Massacre was directed and written by Italian sleaze expert Andrea Bianchi (also responsible for house favourite Malabimba and the venerable Burial Ground), I expected it to be somewhat more exciting than it turned out to be. Sure, the film's first half sets up a lot of sleazy melodramatics around the wild, wild sexual life in showbiz with the usual assortment of decadent producers who use their wives as their private pimps, bisexual actors looking for some quality casting couch time, lesbian production assistants in lust with the main actress, and middle-aged gay transvestites, but nothing much comes of it all, except for some leering shots of breasts and thighs and a bit of nude gyrating, all of which is just very mild by Italian exploitation standards in general and Bianchi's in specific.

Frankly, Bianchi seems bored with all that flesh and supposed decadence, and is not the least bit interested in doing anything interesting with it, like trying to make his film actually sexy, or shocking, or anything that could keep an audience awake. It's all just there to pad out the running time between murders, or so I must assume.

Not that the horror and gore parts of the film are any more accomplished. The film starts out well enough with a bit of ridiculous, yet nasty, gore (later to be recycled in Lucio Fulci's - who produced Bianchi's film - Cat in the Brain) and human body parts that seem to detach from a body at the slightest provocation, as if they were made of rubber, but after that it's a long slog through boring sleaze that only leads to some more murders that are just as boring and again staged with total disinterest.

I liked the séance quite a bit, though, for Anna Maria Placido's great grimacing and enthusiastic shouting. Her performance is like a breath of lilac-scented air in comparison with the apathetic staring and mumbling found everywhere else in this thing. But apart from the séance, and the mild bit of fun one can have with trying to puzzle out the plot of the movie the crew is filming (something about witchcraft that also includes a burlesque actor?), there's nothing else to recommend about Massacre.


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