Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Abattoir (2016)

Real estate reporter Julia’s (Jessica Lowndes) sister and her sister’s family are murdered by a random violent killer. The house where the deaths took place is sold off too quickly going by Julia’s expertise, suggesting to her that something nefarious might be going on beyond the slaughter of her relatives. A look inside the building shows that the whole interior of the room where the family was murdered has been removed.

Further investigations reveal some very curious facts: it looks like a man named Jebediah Crone (Dayton Callie) has been buying up houses in which people suffered a violent death for decades, removing the rooms where the deaths happened and selling the rest of the houses off again, as if he were trying to build the most haunted house of all times out of the pieces he collects. Julia’s shocked and confused, of course. A combination of the obligatory sinister hints from mysterious sources and her own research suggests that Crone brings the house parts to a town with the decidedly lame name of New English (not located in New England, one assumes) to do something with the ghosts he collects with them.

As it happens, New English is also the town where Julia and her sister were born and lived before their mother gave them up for adoption elsewhere. One might think some sort of horrible doom once postponed is waiting for our heroine – and her cop sort-of boyfriend Grady (Joe Anderson) who’ll tag along – in that quaint little town.

Given that he’s directed  Saw number 2 through 4, I am not exactly the president of the fan club of Abattoir’s director Darren Lynn Bousman. Those non-Saw films in his filmography I have seen generally start out promising enough, demonstrating an admirable willingness to begin their plots strange and get ever stranger from there. Alas, they also tend to fall apart somewhere around the hour mark.

Which is exactly what happens with Abattoir too – the film’s basic idea is rather wonderful, and for quite some time it expresses some really silly concepts with a straight face, repeatedly doubling down on being strange in everything, using stilted and absurd dialogue – there’s not a single sentence Grady says that isn’t a gruffly-toned cliché of the highest order for example – in a way that feels like a purposeful attempt at confusing the viewer with artificiality rather then incompetence, and presenting most of the story in the slightly off tones of a peculiar dream. That last impression grows even stronger thanks to weird (in all the good ways) lighting choices, tight yet sometimes unconventional editing, and Bousman’s somewhat Italian 70s/80s horror idea of style. In other words, the first hour or so of the film is the sort of thing that friends of believable and logical narratives in their horror movies will loathe with all of their might but that makes me rather happy with all its consciously non-naturalistic dreaminess.

Alas, the last half hour or so of Abattoir treats its horrors as a pretty boring carnival ride, with a big bad that lacks all charisma and menace (even more so when he gets a pretty stupid horror movie villain bass voice post-processed on), too much exposition that still manages not to explain anything and an ending that aims for an emotional impact the film hasn’t properly prepared and its director can’t deliver. In fact, the last half hour is so bad I’m not  sure the first hour isn’t as interesting as it is by chance.

No comments: