John Bowman as John Cutter
Eric Broome as Samuel/Ezekiel Childers
Courtney Burke as Machete Girl
Jimmy Grant as Doc Reynolds
Jim Hale as Jim Powers
John Cutter (Bowman) is the sheriff in a small town in East Tennessee. Sheriff Cutter likes to shoot guns and wears a ball cap emblazoned with the Confederate flag. May seem a bit cliched to some, but those who live in the sticks (as I do) will recognize that stereotypes become so because there is some truth to them. John is a good ole’ boy who speaks softly, yet carries a big… ability… to put a halt to any shenanigans transpiring in his town.
Every so often someone disappears without a trace in the vicinity, but when a famous climber is reported missing an investigation must follow with visibility in the Mayor’s office and beyond. When the unspeakable happens, the disappearance of a child, things get personal and Sheriff Cutter vows to find the culprits, dead of alive.
Massacre was made for an incredibly paltry amount of money. Internet Movie Database (IMDb) reports an estimated budget of $4k, but it could be less than that. Considering the low money intake this film has surprising cinematic quality and sound. The acting isn’t stellar, but does feature performers who give the project their all rather than just showing up and giving a low budget performance. Writer/ Director/ Editor/ Producer John Bowman does particularly well as the redneck lawman, and after meeting him at a convention in Nashville in May 2011 I suspect he had quite a bit of life experience to draw from. No nonsense salt of the earth folks reside in E. Tennessee and Bowman played it to a T.
The good points about Massacre are also the film’s downfall; This is a fine film for such a micro budget with passable gore and great location filming. There, then, lies the rub… Massacre plays like a micro-budget and is at times just too simple to stand on it’s own as a feature. At 68 minutes runtime it is pretty much a short anyway. The biggest casualty is character development – The most developed character is the Sheriff himself, but all we really know about him is that he’s a redneck with a heart of gold, likes to shoot guns, wears hats that would cause a riot in Atlanta and gets pretty pissed off when children are harmed. There are a couple of characters and even victims who had me asking myself “who is that?” It was a bit difficult to really care about any of them, making the great kill scenes less impactful.
A combined positive and negative arises in Massacre regarding the general tone and happenings on the screen as well. Many horror freaks that do not live in the Tennessee foothills will question some of the choices made and may see certain scenes as holes in the plot. For example, is it really possible that regular disappearances in a rural county are not investigated until the roster of the missing includes a famous rock climber and a child? Well, yes actually, I can see that. Speaking for my rural county it is more likely people would take up their own search or head to the Baptist church to pray than call in the FBI. Would a sheriff really venture out to find suspected killers alone with no backup other than his shotgun and a resolve that if he finds anything he won’t bring them to justice, he’ll simply kill them? Absolutely… people out in the country handle things themselves because typically the buck stops with them.
I see Massacre as a bit of a demo reel for John Bowman that could lead to bigger projects with bigger budgets. Most of the elements are there, and I suspect the next presentation by Bowman will have most of the kinks worked out.