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.