“Das Missen Massker” aka “The Swiss Miss Massacre”, is a Swiss made Horror/Comedy film from 2012, directed by Michael Steiner. I stumbled across the film online while searching for some other new independent titles. There aren’t many films coming out of Switzerland so this one naturally jumped out at me. In fact the last one I watched was a genre film called “American Burger” *see review*. The Swiss Miss Massacre is set in the world of European beauty pageants. Jasmin (played by the beautiful Meryl Valerie), is a young girl aspiring to go to college, hoping to be something more than just beautiful. The problem is she can’t afford it, not without prize money from competing. Her mother won several crowns in her day, but has since been driven insane by the competition and now resides in a psychiatric facility. After a young contestant in the local competition is mysteriously decapitated, promoter and boss Pino Falk (Mike Muller), decides it would be wise to move the rest of the beautiful young women to an island in Thailand, in order to finish the competition. There, Jasmin meets Serge (Patrick Rapold), a young man trying to woo her. At the same time she has to deal with Ashley, the token stuck up one of the group (played by Lisa Maria Barenbold), and of course survive a masked maniac whose hell-bent on killing the rest of the competition. The film also stars Alexandra Merle, Nomi Fernandes, Jennifer Hurschler, Martin Rapold and Nadine Vinzens. The estimated budget for the film is 3 million Swiss Francs.
Please forgive me if any of the information above is wrong, and bear with me as I go about reviewing this one. Unfortunately I was unable to find a version with any hard-coded English subtitles, the spoken language is German. Of course if you’re like me and you don’t speak German, you’re going to be in for a tough time (haha). Normally I wouldn’t bother watching a film that wasn’t in English or didn’t have subtitles (what’s the point). In this case though, I was pretty keen to watch the film and the fact that it’s a horror/comedy, the dialogue doesn’t take precedence quite the same as it usually would. If after this review you decide to check it out, just don’t say I didn’t warn you. How many films do we see coming out of Switzerland? Not many, so there’s one reason straight away to support a film like this (although they make it difficult when they don’t aim for the appropriate target audience). Both the camera work and the audio levels were solid here, not to mention there was a lot of pretty clever editing throughout, in particular the first half. The music was a mixed bag, but a lot of the electronic and house music fit the tone nicely. A fair portion of this was shot during the day, which is rare for a Horror film. About 30 minutes in, the film shifts locations to the resort in Thailand and it gives things a fresh feeling. It reminded me of “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” in that way. The crew opted to light scenes using a lot of red’s and green’s, I thought that was subtle and effective.
The two most important things when it comes to Horror are usually the characters/acting, and of course the deaths/body-count. Firstly, all of the girls look great. I couldn’t understand a god damn word they were saying, but that was irrelevant (haha). In all seriousness though, they were lovely and they played their respective roles with the appropriate amount of camp. I had to make up passages of dialogue in my head though, trying to do so close to what I imagine was being said. A little frustrating, but a fun way to watch a film like this. Meryl playing the lead character, probably gives the best performance. Not only is she stunning but she carries that air of confidence and makes the smart choices as well. It’s blatantly obvious from the film’s first act Halloween throwback, that this thing is going to nod either directly or indirectly to everything under the sun (haha). There were a couple of decent kills scattered throughout the film, but I won’t spoil them for you encase you decide to watch it. The mysterious killer uses various masks from multiple horror franchises, including “Nightmare On Elm St” and “Friday The 13th”, along with a couple of obscure ones you definitely won’t expect to see. Truth be told, that aspect was probably my favorite part of the film.
The big bad here is obviously the fact Das Missen Massaker doesn’t have English subtitles. Therefore people who don’t speak German are unable to understand the film in its entirety. I read somewhere that the filmmakers never aimed to market the film towards English-speaking audiences. If that’s true, I’m not sure why. Maybe they thought it wouldn’t appeal to those not familiar with European culture? Either way, they have squandered an opportunity to expose the film to a much wider audience. Clearly I can’t judge the comedic aspect of the film nor any of the dialogue. There may have been several really funny gags in there, but I wouldn’t know. The characteristics so important to a film like this don’t quite hit the spot and that’s a problem. The background information or development of any of the girls seemed non-existent. Now I don’t know that for a fact, but as a rule I’m not to bad at judging body language or getting the gist of what’s being said. Based on what I was seeing, it seemed as though a majority of the characters were extremely conceited or fake and that was the limit of their arc. Sure, there are always going to be characters you hate and their the ones you want to see taken out. However, you still need a few core characters the audience can care about and get behind, aside from Jasmin I didn’t care about anyone.
I enjoyed a few of the scenes that were shot POV (point of view) through the various masks of the killer. It was fun to see the different homages to some of my favorite films. During one scene, the killer is laying out five or six different weapons and ends up reaching for the chainsaw cut (pardon the pun). I literally mean cut. The scene cuts and the next time we pick up with the killer they are holding something different, it wasn’t the only continuity issue but one worth mentioning. Like I said, I’m not sure how much of the comedy I would have found funny anyway, but I guess we’ll never know. Saying that, what I didn’t find funny just awkward and forced, was an impromptu sex scene between a middle-aged woman and one of the male assistants. She forces him to act out a multitude of animal noises while she thrusts him (haha eek), I’m all for a bit of foreplay but this isn’t 50 Shades Of Grey… The most crucial dilemma in this genre is how much action to include, How much is too much? Who do you kill off? How do you kill them off? The action in this one is scarce and when it does hit it’s fairly unimpressive. I can be difficult to please and maybe it’s just because I’ve seen some truly brutal European films, but this one feels notably lack-luster. I was hoping for more of a German splatter film. I’m not necessarily talking about making a disturbing macabre art film simply for shock value. I’m saying fun lighthearted slasher films that nobody takes seriously can be gory, and rightfully should be. They can be there just often not, as is the case here. My advice would be to write some more inventive kills, and use a bigger chunk of that budget to craft more creative gags. As a student of the genre that’s what we want to see.
Das Missen Massaker has the tropic feel of “Survival Island” meets “Club Dread” with the slashing goodness of “Girls Gone Dead” and “Prom Night”. Sadly It’s a bit of everything without solidifying a place within the genre. From the shot choices and location, to the beautiful Central European women, It’s all very aesthetically appealing. What’s not pleasing, is not understanding a bloody word anyone says, the labored pacing and the complete lack of suspense. Combine those with mostly generic kills and a lack of prosthetics and you have a rather mediocre 90 minutes. As a one watch on a rainy day, The Swiss Miss Massacre is worth a look I just anticipated something much messier but in all the right ways.
My rating for “Das Missen Massaker” is 5/10