Grindhouse Classics : “Meatcleaver Massacre”

Posted: February 9, 2014 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Meatcleaver_Massacre_1977

Did you know that horror icon Christopher Lee appeared in a cut-rate 1977 production known, variously, as Meatcleaver MassacreMorakEvil Force, and, best of all, Hollywood Meat Cleaver Massacre?

If not, you’re in good company, because when this flick came out, apparently nobody was more surprised to see his name atop the credits than Mr. Lee himself! He’s only in there for a couple of minutes, mind you, as our story’s Rod Serling-esque presenter, giving a little canned lecture about the history of summoning occult spirits, both good and bad, to do one’s bidding. It’s pretty innocuous stuff, set in a suitably book-lined study, and could just as well serve as the front-end narration for any of literally hundreds of different supernatural-themed horror flicks.

In fact, it apparently was shot for one of these “hundreds” of other films altogether, but when that project never materialized, its producers simply sold the footage of Britain’s favorite Count Dracula to the one-and-done producers of this bizarre little fiasco who cooked up a quick little script that at least had some tenuous relation to  the type of shit that Lee was talking about and rolled with it.  Lord Summerisle apparently wasn’t too pleased about “starring” in a film he’d never even heard of, much less actually participated in, and initiated legal proceedings to have his material excised from it and his name dropped from all related advertising, but he gave the idea up because, well, the cat was already out of the bag and it would have involved a lot of time and hassle. Can’t say I blame him for that, especially since he didn’t exactly need any of the extra cash that suing these guys would possibly have netted him, and so it goes that some variation of “Christopher Lee presents” hangs over the various titles of this cheapie to this day.

meatcleaver massacre vhs front & back

Definitely a product of its time, Meatcleaver Massacre (we’ll go with the default title its listed under on the IMDB as its “official” moniker) draws upon Manson Family-style “hippie cult murders” and the slaughter of the family of Dr. Jefrrey MacDonald as laid out in the best-selling book Fatal Vision as its primary sources of exploitation/inspiration, throws in a heavy dose of wanna-be psychedlia, and ends up, well, not making a whole lot of sense. Which is no crime around these parts, to be sure.

After Lee’s  intro, we’re introduced to a professor of occult studies (does any university actually have an “occult studies” department?) based in that noted hotbed of all things academic, Hollywood, named Cantrell (I might be wrong about this but I don’t think he’s ever given an actual first name — he’s played by James Habif, though, if that matters to you) who publicly embarrasses a loud-mouthed kid named Mason Harrue (Larry Justin) who won’t shut up during one of his lectures. Mason takes it pretty hard and sneaks into the prof’s home with a group of his friends while the family is sleeping with the intention of “putting a scare into them.” Things go bad, though — as they always seem to — and Mrs. Cantrell and the kiddies are killed, with the professor himself ending up in a coma.

So, yeah, you can probably tell by now that there’s no actual “meatcleaver massacre” here to speak of. In fact, no one even brandishes a meat cleaver. But that’s all beside the point, What does happen is that a comatose Cantrell manages to mentally summon forth an ancient Gaelic demon spirit known as Morok to take revenge upon all the ruffians who butchered his family, and sure enough, they all end up dying — sometimes in strange ways, like the kid who gets killed by a film projector.

meatcleaver massacre

Several of the revenge-murders are presented in a rather surreal and even dreamlike fashion by only-time director Evan Lee (no relation, obviously, to Chris), but beyond that this is pretty standard ’70s supernatural fare, with nothing particularly to recommend for it apart from its rather aggressively languid (there’s a contradiction for you) pacing. In fact, rather than wondering what’s going to happen next, it’s not uncommon for viewers of Meatcleaver Massacre to wonder if anything’s going to happen at all.

Curiously, though, I didn’t find myself bored with the flick, even though I probably should have been. Maybe it’s the hammy over-acting that kept me glued, or the trance-like state the film accidentally induces due to its sheer lethargy, or perhaps I’m just a sucker for fly-by-night productions with shoddy (if any) ethics, but I kinda liked this thing, even though there’s no real reason to. You can catch it used on VHS for cheap (it’s never been released on DVD), or watch in its entirety on YouTube courtesy of a rather prolific poster named horrorfan185 , at the link below and see whether or not you agree with me.

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