The Long Island Cannibal Massacre (1980)
Director: Nathan Schiff
Writers: Nathan Schiff
Starring: John Smihula, Fred Borges, and Michael Siegal

The Plot: After a series of dead bodies start to pop up in Long Island, inspector James Cameron (John Smihula) begins to feel many regrets about his job. The law is starting to feel like a burden that holds him back from discovering just who is responsible for these brutal killings. These murders are absolutely heinous, and Cameron would do just about anything to bring in the man responsible. Unknown to Cameron, the fiend responsible for these crimes is a local beach owner named Jack (Fred Borges) who has been killing innocent women so that he can feed their body parts to his father and his friends. You see, Jack’s father returned home from Vietnam with a very serious version of leprosy that… well, causes him to desire human flesh… for some reason. Anyway, Jack has been paying two bikers to help him gather the bodies necessary to feed these hungry veterans, but with Cameron snooping around his beaches it becomes a waiting game to see how long this little charade can continue.

The Review
I have a very unfortunate addiction, I must confess. This addiction is pretty unique and doesn’t have a twelve step program. You see, I have an unfortunate addiction to very cheap splatter movies. The cheaper the better, shot on video if available, and featuring acting that is below substandard, this is how I prefer these low budget affairs. However, despite this stemming from a love for “bad” movies, I do have standards when it comes to picking out favorites. If the movie is intentionally bad, then my interest begins to dwindle. It’s easy to hide behind the “our movie is so bad, it is good!” blanket of critical deflection, and this often prevents a movie from being anything remotely honest. Using Cannibal Campout as an example, the movie may have been bad, but it certainly had its own personality. It wasn’t trying to be anything “fake” and the filmmakers were being earnest when making their movie. I appreciate that. Movies like Video Violence and the original films of Andreas Schnaas (legendary German splatter director) were very similar. Sometimes the movies were legitimately good, other times they were not, but each movie stood out as unique and was made with a great deal of love and care. When I saw the gorgeous cover art for Long Island Cannibal Massacre, I knew that the movie wasn’t going to be particularly good, but the experience was going to be worth searching it out. After sitting down to watch the movie, I believe that my assessment was spot on.

How utterly ridiculous does a movie have to be to start off by showcasing a woman being killed with a lawnmower? Honestly, that is a hard way to start any horror movie. When you open with such a disturbing slice of gore, the audience will probably expect more of the same. So, how does a filmmaker look to keep his audience? Director Nathan Schiff tries to grab the attention of his audience through various means, but for the most part the gore becomes the central focus as the movie presses along. Featuring some nasty death scenes, including one grotesque disembowelment, the movie does a decent job of holding up to the necessary gore. Yet, for viewers who are interested in searching the movie out, I would advise them not to pursue this film in search of gore, because they may be left rather disappointed. Instead, The Long Island Cannibal Massacre attempts to be a fair blend of gory horror along with some thriller elements along the way. While the story can at times seem a bit tedious, I do not expect audiences will find it to be very boring.

Although it was shot with no budget at all, The Long Island Cannibal Massacre doesn’t really look THAT bad. Not from a technical standpoint at least. Shot on 8mm instead of video, the movie actually looks like a “real” product. Sure, the footage has degraded quite a bit and it’s still obviously extra low budget, but it actually has a legitimate “look” that other similar films did not have. Director Schiff actually crafted his film with a relatively steady hand and he frames his shots fairly well while also telling an intricate plot that belies the campy nature of this movie. Schiff, who begins his movie with a woman having her head cut to bits by a lawnmower, quickly tries to lure his audience into a very dark and mature thriller. With several scenes of talking heads sitting around chatting about the dangers that await our main characters, one could see how an immature filmmaker might fear he was boring his audience. However, I give Schiff credit for sticking his neck out there in order to try and make a “real” movie. Granted, the film does teeter on the brink of boredom on more than a few occasions, but these lulls are brief and Schiff inevitably finds ways to keep his audience entertained.

There are a few different aspects of the movie that make it a title that is still worthy of being discussed all of these years later. Being shot on 8mm, the movie does have a very rough edge to it that isn’t seen in cinema (independent or otherwise) anymore. Looking quite similar to Last House on Dead End Street, the movie is a very well produced and finely polished little horror title that still has the grain and dirt found in very low budget horror titles from this period. The movie also features several intriguing characters. Amongst these is the leather jacket wearing “Zed,” and the masked psychopath known only as “Bruce.” These two, who merely have supporting roles, are ferocious whenever they are onscreen. Whether it is simply the gimmicky nature of their costumes/attitudes, or whether these two actors stand out as better examples of the acting found in this movie, these two manage to stick out when watching the finished product. Truly, most of the acting is on the amateurish side, but the film manages to make up for it in most regards. So, this ultimately turns out to be a give and take situation. With scenes that are shot well, a script that is actually fairly intelligent (with a twist ending to boot!), and all of the genre earmarkings that horror fans love and expect, the acting becomes easy to forgive.

The Conclusion
There are some conflicting pace issues throughout the movie, I can’t deny this fact. Although this didn’t turn out to be the cheese fest that I expected, The Long Island Cannibal Massacre is an intriguing watch. It isn’t great, and it is arguable whether it is legitimately “good” or not, but I had a fun time while watching. It’s worth a shot for fans of cheap and dirty horror cinema. For folks who try to avoid “back yard classics,” steer clear of this one. For audiences who are a bit more forgiving, this one might be something worth checking out eventually. I give it a three out of five.