Naked Massacre (aka Die Hinrichtung)
1976, Dir. Denis Héroux
Reviewed By David Sodergren
Well, this one was a shocker. I went in with low expectations, expecting a typical sleazy low-budget 70s serial killer flick, and I was left shaken and disturbed, which is high praise indeed. Based on the story of Richard Speck, who in 1966 murdered eight nurses over the course of one night, Naked Massacre belies its exploitative title by fully committing to its unrelenting grimness.
It doesn’t seem that way at first. The film relocates the action from Chicago to Belfast, and introduces this idea with a hysterical black and white title card of ye olde Belfast, which is a bizarre choice to say the least. Luckily, Naked Massacre is not a period piece, and we are quickly introduced to Cain, a Vietnam vet arriving in Belfast at the height of The Troubles.
The early footage of the war-torn city, the military roaming the streets, makes for a truly unique horror film setting, the frequent bombing and armed violence juxtaposed with the calm ruthlessness of Cain as he goes about his business. Cain is brilliantly played by Mathieu Carriére, who, like most of the cast, is no stranger to appearing in bizarre Euro-schlock, having appeared in Malpertuis and Bluebeard.
Cain is an emotionally disturbed man with serious mother issues, and his PTSD is not helped by the violence that surrounds him. In fact, this is one of the few horror films I’ve seen that tackles PTSD, and the director handles the subject as sensitively as the material will allow.
These early sequences are shot, as is much of the film, with a handheld camera, creating the requisite gritty documentary feel, often indistinguishable from the real-life news footage we see the characters watching.
Of course, lest this all get a bit heavy, Héroux is always ready to remind you we’re talking about an exploitation movie here. Hence our introduction to the doomed nurses comes in the form of a lesbian shower scene.
The nurses are played by a bevvy of Euro starlets, including familiar faces like the appealing Ely Galleani from Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Five Dolls For an August Moon, and Leonora Fani from the similarly sleazy (but far less successful Giallo a Venizia). Quite how we ended up with such an unusual cast is testament to the film’s production history, a German/Italian co-production shot in Ireland by a French-Canadian.
Oh yes, just in case you forgot the film is set in Ireland, our nurses spend a good five minutes dancing an Irish jig in their living room, as all Irish girls do, all the time.
Again, it feels like the film is setting you up for some goofy, laugh-out-loud antics, and then things get dark. Really, really dark.
Barely forty minutes into the movie, Cain breaks into the house, and there begins the long night of terror. The silly stuff is over, and things begin to feel unbearably…real. There are no heroic escape attempts, no Hollywood emoting. One-by-one Cain takes the girls into a different room, and one-by-one he murders them. The score here is a doom-laden masterpiece, and for the rest of the movie it feels like you’re watching Rambo: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
There’s a truly distressing scene with two girls that makes explicit what Last House on the Left only hinted at, and a shocking moment of suicide that damn-near broke my heart. The suspense builds and builds as Cain runs out of victims, with one girl left hiding under the bed in one of the tensest moments in exploitation movie history. Honestly, I was breaking out in a fucking sweat.
I don’t want to say anymore. Rather, I urge those amongst you with a taste for the stronger stuff to seek out Naked Massacre. There appears to be several versions out there, with the version I saw being a composite, most of the footage looking in reasonable quality, but the truly outrageous scenes clearly inserted from a very poor quality VHS source.
Not only that, but the dialogue jumps back and forth between English and German, depending on which source is being used for each scene. But so what? It didn’t spoil my appreciation for the film. It’s an unremittingly grim, foul piece of work that would have been right up there with I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left on the Video Nasties list, had it ever made it to VHS in Britain.
Now, we can all cross our fingers and hope that one day, some enterprising label will put this out on Blu-ray.
I won’t hold my breath.
David Sodergren lives in Scotland with his wife Heather and his best friend, Boris the Pug. Growing up, he was the kind of kid who collected rubber skeletons and lived for horror movies.
Not much has changed since then.
His first novel, The Forgotten Island, was published on October 1st 2018 to critical acclaim. Up next is Night Shoot, a brutal throwback to the early 80s slasher movie cycle has just recently been released.
He has several more books in various stages of development.
You can follow David on Twitter @paperbacksnpugs
To find out more about David please visit his official website www.paperbacksandpugs.wordpress.com
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