No-Budget Nightmares: The Summer of the Massacre (2006)

Well, this is just terrible. A bafflingly misguided “tribute” to the grimy horror films of the 70s – most notably THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE – this British shot-on-video horror film starts out awful before eventually grinding down to reprehensibly boring, lost in a sea of improvised conversations and endless, style-less chase scenes. Not only does director Bryn Hammond have the writing skill of a four year old – ably demonstrated by the multitude of confusing, near-unreadable title cards at the beginning and end – but his direction totally sabotages some very attractive locations, and the editing is about as amateurish as your grandmother’s home movies. This is about as close to a cinematic root-canal as you’re likely to find.

An *actual* title screen!

After a 7 minute (!) run through the woods which introduces us to Hammerhead, a grunting Leatherface rip-off that looks like a cast-off from THE STRANGERS and uses a tiny hammer to murder people for some undefined reason, we’re introduced to our four leads who are making their way back home from school (?) in a particularly crappy old van. We know it’s crappy because the four decide to spend many precious minutes improvising endless amounts of uninteresting dialogue talking about this very fact. The opening text – and, seriously, it’s so badly written it should be the stuff of legend – describes the group as “very young” teenagers, but they are obviously the early-20s cannon fodder you would expect in a movie like this.

Soon we’re on our way, and I would be remiss to not mention that every time the film cuts to another angle there is an audible change in the film’s sound quality, which continues for the rest of the running time and is extremely distracting. The flip-side is that Hammond lets the dialogue scenes go on endlessly without any edits at all, so I guess I shouldn’t complain. We now get the requisite drive through the English countryside – which actually looks quiet pleasant – while superfluous screen title cards tell us how much time has passed. After a brief, painful discussion the group decide to take a shortcut to (ostensibly) save time, despite already running low on gas.

Does their lorry run out of petrol? You bet it does, and soon the entire crew is stranded in some very attractive (and visibly mowed) forest. Despite all four having cell phones, they oddly can’t get any signal (this is 2006, people!) and despite only moments ago seeing plenty of vehicle traffic during a stop at an abandoned gas-station (don’t ask), two of them decide to attempt to walk to get some fuel for the car. There’s plenty more banal, at least semi-improvised dialogue that makes everyone involved seem totally incompetent, while the audience checks their watch to see if Hammerhead will be making an appearance soon.

Let’s talk about the acting for a moment. The characters here are so ill-defined that it would be useless to single any out by name, but despite their necessity to burn up time with awful made-up dialogue they really are not terrible actors. Perhaps the accents are helping their cause, but they all seem to be trying awfully hard against a film that goes to a great effort to make them look totally idiotic. It’s difficult to not feel sorry for them as they are somehow overpowered (and out-run) by some spindly weirdo in a mask, or as they are asked to constantly be tripping over nothing during the monotonous chase scenes. This would also be a good time to mention that one of the characters – Katie – is apparently supposed to be pregnant (a “very young” teenager) though I somehow completely missed this fact until it’s mentioned during the film’s (confusing) closing title card.

Back to the plot. Hammerhead shows up and kills one of the two “teens” who have chosen to stay with the van, hitting him in the head – unconvincingly – with a tiny hammer before saran-wrapping his head to a tree for a reason that still baffles me. I should note that not only is the hammer used by Hammerhead extremely little, it’s also an actual hammer instead of a fake gimmick one, so we never get to see it make any sort of contact with his victims. In fact, he generally misses by several feet with each swing. Katie is also chased for an interminable amount of time before being beaten and tied up in the killer’s filthy shack. Lucky her.

 The two other teens return to the van – apparently unsuccessful in their petrol procurement – only to find Hammerhead rifling through it. Prepare for all of your favorite slasher movie chase clichés, as the two stumble and fall over repeatedly while the killer grunts and runs after them. This is all in broad, harsh daylight amongst some beautiful scenery, which doesn’t exactly help with the tension levels. I’ll skip to the end bit and tell you that – despite stabbing, beating and appearing to easily overpower their lanky tormentor – the two somehow get themselves killed. I give an audible sigh of relief, hoping that perhaps we’ll get a ten minute credits sequence to end things off on a high note, but – no – apparently Katie is still kicking.

Katie manages to untie herself and wander around the shack – which looks to be a legitimate abandoned residence – before one more tiresome chase and fight that ends with the apparent death of Hammerhead. After ten minutes straight of nothing but screaming and grunting on the soundtrack, I have to admit that this was very welcome. The film’s tagline says “The UK’s answer to Jason Voorhees”, so I’m sure everyone involved was hoping for an opportunity to make dozens of sequels with their toothless and derivative character, but sadly it looks like that won’t be happening.

 The ending title cards inform as that Katie lost her baby – which apparently existed – and that the killer is still at large. I can’t really overemphasize how much the text on these cards appear to be written by someone with a very loose grasp on the English language. Spelling and grammar are at pre-school level which makes the fact that director Bryn Hammond actually owned and published his own magazine (called Gorezone) absolutely frightening. Equally amusing is Bryn’s IMDB page, which has perhaps the silliest list of Personal Quotes I’ve ever read. I don’t mean to make this a personal attack, but everything about that profile makes me want to push him down a flight of stairs.

And despite running a magazine (and brand) called Gorezone, this production is notably lacking in any sort of on-screen violence. Sure, there’s a bit of blood and a few severed limbs at the end, but any effects are solely of the “hold this stick against you and pretend to be stabbed” variety. When one character has their hand supposedly nailed to a tree, the brief shot clearly shows the nail sticking out between her fingers, though at least Bryn (with his trademark “beauty spot on his right cheek”) cuts away from it quickly.

Perhaps second only to HIP HOP LOCOS in terms of painful awkwardness, THE SUMMER OF THE MASSACRE seems to do just about every possible thing wrong yet still remains pitifully turgid and humorless. I’ve attempted to show a lot of respect in this column towards young, ambitious filmmakers who have attempted to create something original despite creative and budgetary limitations, but I find Hammond’s lack of attention to his craft personally offensive, and can only hope that he’s vastly improved his efforts since. Frankly, he has nowhere to go but up. Stay far away.


Five Nightmares out of Five

One Nightmare – No-Budget Perfection, Two Nightmares – Shocking Success, Three Nightmares – Shows Potential, Four Nightmares – Not Much Fun, Five Nightmares – Please Kill Me


Join us this week for the latest DAILY GRINDHOUSE PRESENTS: NO-BUDGET NIGHTMARES PODCAST where Moe and Myself will have a chat about THE SUMMER OF THE MASSACRE.







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