Anybody not to notice the similarity of the title to the classic ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ would have to be some what of a simpleton, something that writer/director Júlíus Kemp obviously must think we are if he expected us to watch this movie without realising that it is in fact not just titled similar, but is in fact, from almost every perspective a complete rip off from it. Scratch that, more a cheap imitation of it.
Set in the recently bankrupted country of Iceland, the plot of the whale watching massacre is essentially that of TCM, but set out at sea. In an unfortunate and non feasible turn of events a group of mixed race tourists are taken hostage by a family of nationalist cannibals and must fight to survive if they wish to keep alive. I really wasn’t exaggerating, its an identical idea.
I will not spend the remainder of the review complaining and highlighting further similarities between both movies, however, let it be said now that taken out of this comparison the RWWM doesn’t really fare any better.
The plot, as run of the mill as it is, isn’t really where the movie fails, its biggest flaw is in the assortment of characters with whom we are supposed to empathise with. None of them are likable, not just because they are poorly acted, but because in all honesty they are possibly the biggest assortment of twats you could ever get on a boat; the same sort of personalities which wouldn’t be out of place in the big brother household (and those people who know me know how passionately I feel about those bunch of fuckwits). We have a Japanese couple and their maid who somehow have even less personality than they have lines in the script, a couple of young girls, one of whom is a fundamentalist Christian, a gay black guy and a rapist. And I’m supposed to relate to these?
The enemies themselves are not free from this extremist selection. Not happy with them being cannibals, these guys are as far right as they could get without falling off the boat, with racial slurs being common part of their dialogue.
With the characters in place in an introductory sequence which seems to last forever, the story gets underway. The majority of the movie is set at sea and as such the locations used are pretty much all on one boat or another. It’s difficult to criticise this aspect of the movie too much from the basis that a boat is a boat, however no real effort was made to make the locations feel particularly standout and with most of the movie shot in the day and no real atmosphere was created at any point. Far from the obvious ‘harsh open sea’ feeling of isolation which comes intrinsically to any movie shot there, not even the cannibals boat was made up to look particularly sinister. Perhaps there was the intention of making it seem more realistic, but to be honest it felt more drab than anything else.
Things to begin to look up at the 30 minute mark where we see our first bit of gore where the captain (indecently played by Leather face himself ‘Gunnar Hanssen’) is impaled in a similar fashion to the priest in ‘the Omen’. The blood looks good here, and whilst the shot wasn’t particularly gratuitous it looked promising. Throughout actually, to the films credit, the scenes with gore in them looked pretty good and there is some attempt at some imaginative deaths which make this pretty much the only element of the movie I actually enjoyed.
However, overall it wasn’t enough to turn this movie from a standard run of the mill affair to one which bordered on being plain boring. With dull indistinguishable locations and a host of characters whose deaths couldn’t come quickly enough, and none of the charm of low budget US slashers, this Icelandic entrance into the genre falls flatter than their countries GNP.