A newscaster reports live from the streets of America, excitedly revealing how this summer has seen an unprecedented number of savage killings in the local neighbourhood. The introduction ends with the newscaster receiving a bullet through his head.

From there, THE SUMMER OF MASSACRE is split into four "chapters". Each one forms part of what is being sold as the world�s first slasher anthology.

In the first segment, a late-night jogger is beaten by a trio of muggers and left for dead after having his face severely slashed. When a woman finds him the following morning on the pavement, she begins to phone for an ambulance ... but the jogger wakes up and smashes her head to a pulp.

With his right eye hanging out of its socket, the jogger proceeds to embark on a killing spree of staggering proportions before finally catching up with his attackers, who are mid-robbery at the time.

What it�s all about is anyone�s guess, but it certainly is the goriest opening 15 minutes to a film that I�ve seen in years. The jogger�s victims are chopped, hacked, sliced, decapitated, impaled, eviscerated � you name it, it all happens here.

Chapter two introduces us to Kimberley (Lisa M Garcia), who lives with a trailer trash family who look like they�ve just walked off the set of a 1970s John Waters film. Kimberley is the only seemingly semi-normal one of the bunch, and despairs of having to tend to the needs of her slobbering, malformed brother/sister Lump.

This one has a seedier atmosphere and clearer narrative than its predecessor, backing off on the gore somewhat until its OTT finale. Echoes of the original MOTHER�S DAY help this story stand out.

"Son of the Boogieman" is next up, kicking off with a couple celebrating their first anniversary of being together. The woman is ready to move their relationship on to the next level; the guy feels compelled to tell her about his murderous father first.

Dark, brooding and more than a little ridiculous, this chapter does at least benefit from stylish flashbacks and a heavier emphasis on dialogue (the better segments in this set are blessed with ample scripts).

Of course, it all degenerates swiftly into another bloodbath.

THE SUMMER OF MASSACRE continues on this course unabated for the rest of its 97-minute running time. The last offering, "Burn", seems to be a more conventional take on the �kids in the woods� slasher cycle, but soon becomes just as manic and insane as the preceding three yarns.

Each chapter is separated by bogus black-and-white footage of serial killers apparently revealing their motives to off-screen interviewers. The performances let each one of these segments down.

The film apparently holds the record for the highest body count in a single horror film, and it�s easy to see how this would be possible.

Written and directed by prolific FX artist and Herschell Gordon Lewis prot�g� Joe Castro, MASSACRE also boasts stylish HD photography and nicely lit production design. It�s polished, and very efficiently edited.

It�s also hard to knock the film�s ambition, not only due to its unlimited source of creative kills, but the many locations and endless cast members brought into play throughout the four chapters and their linking segments.

However, the film suffers from too many flaws to come recommended.

The first segment is almost entirely dialogue-free, instead relying on a nauseating industrial beat to accompany its non-stop barrage of gore. The other episodes are slightly less rushed in feel, but equally devoid of dramatic involvement or characters that the audience can identify with.

I realise these are hardly required ingredients for a splatter film, but without them Castro�s occasional attempts at tension fall decidedly flat.

Worst of all is the gore. It�s mostly of the CGI variety and is thoroughly unconvincing. For a film that seems to take itself so seriously, that�s a major handicap.

In short, THE SUMMER OF MASSACRE seems to go on forever and soon becomes tiresome. Hats off to Castro for attempting something of this scope, but the end result is a good-looking but amateurish (in terms of acting, writing and FX) exercise.

This screener disc from Breaking Glass Pictures contained only the film, in a sharp and vividly colourful 16x9 transfer.

The English 2.0 audio was every bit as impressive as the solid picture.

Although unavailable for review purposes, I understand the retail version of the disc will also include a commentary track from Castro, a video diary, an interview with co-star Brinke Stevens, cast audition footage and a short film by Castro.

Also available on blu-ray.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Breaking Glass Pictures, Vicious Circle Films
Region 1 NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review