Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Evan Lee/Keith Burns.
Starring Christopher Lee, Larry Austin, Doug Senior, James Habif, Woody Wise, Paul Kelleher.
Horror, USA, 85 mins, cert 18.


Released in the UK on Blu-ray via 101 Films on 23rd October 2023


Anyone who has seen 101 Films’ release of the AGFA HORROR TRAILER SHOW Blu-ray will have spotted one trailer that sticks out, mainly because it featured horror legend Christopher Lee. That trailer was for MEATCLEAVER MASSACRE, and although Lee was a bona fide genre star, he was also very picky about the types of movies he agreed to appear in, famously not being a fan of ‘modern’ horror movies (i.e. gratuitously gory, violent or sexual), and so his appearance in the trailer for a what appears to be a grind house slasher made for the drive-in market feels a little at odds with what was being presented.

Of course, Lee was coerced into reading some occult gobbledygook as a bookend for what he no doubt thought was some serious dissection of the black arts, and if only that were true because, despite pretences of being something more highbrow thanks to Mr Lee’s contribution, MEATCLEAVER MASSACRE is nothing of the sort. Hell, it doesn’t even feature a meat cleaver or a massacre.


What it does feature, however, is four students who are clearly nearer forty than they are twenty, and after their demonology-obsessed tutor, Professor Cantrell (James Habif) admonishes one of them outside of class, they all take it upon themselves to give him a scare by breaking into his house and roughing him up a bit. Said student Mason (Larry Austin) is a little more serious than the others and takes things too far by smashing the professor in the head, causing brain damage and paralysis, which naturally encourages the others to murder Cantrell’s wife and son.


Now bedridden in hospital, Professor Cantrell uses his knowledge of the occult to summon a demon by the name of Borak to get revenge for him by taking out the four baddies and thus restoring balance and no doubt providing the idea for PUMPKINHEAD a decade later.


If you really stretch the definition, you could call the murder of two innocent people and four criminals a massacre, but quite where the meat cleaver comes from is a mystery, although there was a movie about a massacre in Texas with a chainsaw a few years before this was released (around the time it went into production, actually). In all seriousness, MEATCLEAVER MASSACRE – or HOLLYWOOD MEATCLEAVER MASSACRE, depending on which cut you watch – is a movie designed to cash in on the success of Tobe Hooper’s classic, despite the fact that it bears no resemblance in plot or execution to that movie whatsoever, more or less proving the producers and marketing teams correct that some people will watch any old guff if it is packaged up correctly.


So, despite MEATCLEAVER MASSACRE – with its lack of sharpened kitchen implements but featuring a Christopher Lee intro and outro – not really having much ons creen carnage, it also doesn’t feature anything else as a substitute. The acting is mostly atrocious, the pace pedestrian and what kills there are have little impact whatsoever.


The most intriguing aspect, apart from the fact that a movie called MEATCLEAVER MASSACRE features neither of those things, is that there is a post-Manson Family quality to Professor Cantrell’s home invasion that never really gets above the idea of evil hippies going against the establishment, and the psychedelic dream sequence that follows the assault to indicate one participant’s guilt, just feels like a tacked-on idea to pad out the running time but what it really does is slow down an already plodding narrative.


However, a movie such as this can only have an interesting back story and the extras do deliver as we get interviews with writer/director (sort of) Keith Burns and actors Paul Kelleher and Doug Senior, who all have fascinating stories to tell about how the movie came to fruition. Also included are the non-Christopher Lee-starring original cut that runs at a brisk 77 minutes (which still doesn’t improve things) and two booklets featuring writings on the movie, including a copy of Keith Burns’ original script.


So overall, MEATCLEAVER MASSACRE is not a great movie; it isn’t even a particularly good one, but for grind house aficionados and collectors, this set is probably worth picking up just for the detailed history of how it came to be. The disc also features the trailer that stars Christopher Lee unsuspectingly reading more nonsense into the camera coupled with the best bits of the movie, so to get the most enjoyment out of MEATCLEAVER MASSACRE watch the trailer and then the extras.


Chris Ward.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans