Think you've seen the goriest, most violent horror flicks ever made? Have you seen The Summer of Massacre? Then you are missing one, for The Summer of Massacre is now the Guinness World Record holder for "Highest Body Count in a Slasher Film." But behind all the gore and violence, there is a movie there. The Summer of Massacre is an anthology written and directed by Joe Castro, which he describes as "a cornucopia of everything we love about slasher films." We chatted with Joe about Guinness, social commentary, and the unique look he achieved with the film - one you have never seen.
Anthologies may have different tales, but they all have a central theme. What is the theme of The Summer of Massacre?
Justifiable revenge. Those who don't get justice. For example, there is a man who was wrongly imprisoned. He was [exonerated] and released, but ended up back in jail because he owed back child support from the time he was wrongly imprisoned - but he couldn't earn a living because he was in prison for a crime he didn't commit. It is about society treats people in such a way [that they feel they have no other recourse] but murder. I grew up on a beautiful, serene piece of land in Texas, and there were things I witnessed there that no 12 year old should ever see. No 18 year old should ever see, for that matter, and no adult should partake in.
So it is pretty heavy on the social commentary?
There are personal details I have written in my stories that I felt I needed to express. At the same time, I feel rather gluttonous speaking about things that people are taking the time to witness.
I related to the Lump character growing up. In "Rampage," he is hallucinating, so the innocent victims become the villains. He is the good guy. Even though he is killing people, he is the good guy, hiding in that monster. That's me in a nutshell. As humans we cope with it, abide by laws, don't go around killing people. Hopefully my film can safely entertain those that entertain those ideas.
Let's talk about this world record. You hold the "Highest Body Count in a Slasher Film." Did you set out specifically to capture that title, or was that just a byproduct?
We are the film that creates the most on-screen kills for a slasher film. Specifically, this is defined as a film where a person or people are stalked, then murdered, and at least their face appears on camera to identify the individual. The final body count was 155. A lot of people [complain], saying, "You did it in the computer." But each [actor] was photographed first with makeup - physical, rubber makeup. Then it was put into the shot. Most don't stop to consider that; they just see that they are put into a computer-generated environment, or there was a computer-generated filter put over it. I personally feel the computer is a tool that we can all use, as filmmakers, to take our ideas one step further into the stylized world that most filmmakers live in in their mind.
We wanted to break a record from the beginning, but it wasn't specifically the highest body count. I wanted to go for something like "The Most Blood" but how do you calculate that? At one point we were actually going to dig a huge trench or pool or river that was just blood and body parts, and have a majority of the film take place in this thing. But I could see it just sinking and falling apart, and all the mess it would make - that we'd have to clean up - so we put it aside, and just focused on making the motion picture. Part of it was making something truly original. A slasher film that was an anthology was truly original - that had never been done before. Once production wrapped and we began putting together the computer-generated shots, I realized we had something going for us with the highest body count. Guinness actually suggested we move towards that, so that is what we did.
The Summer of Massacre has a very unique, distinct look that I have never seen before. Can you describe the look and how it is achieved?
The look is a graphic novel, kind of Creepshow meets Spartacus [the TV series]. It's animated, action, brightly-colored, with a little bit of Terror Toons sprinkled in there. It's an odd thing - it's me. I like my horror brightly colored. So you get this downright grotesque horror film, then you sprinkle in all these candy colors and it is appealing to the eye. The film has to have a comfortable, candy-apple fun added to the top of all this blood and gore, in order to be appetizing to an audience. I think I captured that.
My mother doesn't like anything that I do. Personally, artistically, she does not like it: the killing, the gore, the monsters. She always tried to compliment me, in the best way she knew how, even though she wanted nothing to do with what I was doing. She once told me, "Son, even though your work is so horrific, there is something there that is beautiful, that is appealing to everyone's eye." I took that, from someone who hates what I am doing, and took the time to compliment me, and I looked at that.
I went to college during pre-production and production. When I finished college, that is when post began. I went to college to learn computer-generated effects, at Video Symphony in Burbank, California. I was literally acquiring the knowledge to make this film as I was shooting it. I took a motion graphics class, which specifically focused on fonts and text that would more often be associated with credits, and applied those techniques to the film.
You started your career as a special effects artist, working on projects like Blood Feast 2, Night of the Demons 3, Wishmaster 3, and Uncle Sam. Was directing always the ultimate goal, or was it just the natural progression of your career?
I started doing both at the same time. In San Antonio, Texas, I was known by many as "The Kid Who Makes Rubber Monsters." I was actually making them at age seven, but I made my first rubber mask at age 12. Someone hired me to old-age makeup on a 17 year old. When I was 12! It was my first check: $50. My parents bought me my first video camera that year - it was 1982, the first year a video camera was [commercially] available. I would video tape the special effects I created and put them in small stories. When I was a freshman in high school I made my first feature - it was about 65 minutes, and took me two or three years. I have always wanted to create imagery, produce them, put them in motion pictures. When I was 7, my father introduced me to Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster and it was at that moment I knew I wanted to make special effects and shoot them and film them.
What are your favorite horror films?
These are my top ten, in order.
- David Cronenberg's Rabid.
- Gates of Hell
- Return to Paradise - but it's not a horror film at all. Or is it? It is so disturbing and sick and morbid.
- Blood Feast
- Session 9
- The Exorcist
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre
- Friday the 13th
- The original Halloween
What is your inspiration?
Reality. Reality is bizarre. I try not to do anything that is fictional. Fiction is not moving unless it is based on reality. Everything I create I based on reality. There are actual dead bodies in The Summer of Massacre.
The Summer of Massacre is now available on blu-ray and DVD.