Thursday, August 10, 2017

In short: Slaughterhouse (1987)

The oh-so-hilariously named Lester Bacon (Don Barrett) and his son Buddy (Joe Barton) – a guy who communicates via pig noises and likes to spend his valuable free time spooning pigs in the sty – have hit on hard times. Once, Lester owned a giant pig farm and slaughter business, but his unwillingness to lose the personal touch in pig murder via automation killed his pig plant stone dead. Now, a trio of the good people of the town try to get their mitts on the land the dilapidated pig apocalypse house is situated on by rather shady means.

So Lester and and Buddy start murdering their enemies, with the small caveat that Buddy’s really just going to kill everyone he meets, particularly of course your usual group of high school kids played by actors all in the appropriate age to have at least graduated from college. Hilarity/senseless slaughter ensues. Oink.

Usually, I tend to complain about the desperate sameyness of traditional slashers; now Slaughterhouse mostly sees me complaining about the things it does differently than your standard slasher. Clearly, nobody can do anything right for me. The problem of course isn’t so much that the film’s first time and only time director/writer Rick Roessler changes up some standard slasher business, but that he changes it for no good reason and usually for the worse. A particularly obvious flaw are the film’s attempts to mix up Buddy’s standard concentrated teenage slashing with the vengeance plot of his father, breaking the classical dramatic unity of time, place and personage slashers as a whole tend to keep to, seemingly to have more scenes of even more people gabbing some not terribly involving nonsense. Frankly, among the things neither Aristotle nor I need in a slasher, more talk and a plot that’s too drawn out for its own good are right up there with lots and lots of horrible jokes, another unasked for thing Slaughterhouse delivers in shovels of pig shit. You’d think at least having more people for Buddy to kill would be a good thing, but there’s so much bland and boring dialogue surrounding the murders, I found myself unable to enjoy the carnage. Let’s not even start on deeper or more complex feelings a film may want to evoke.

The saddest thing about Slaughterhouse is that Roessler often shows a really good eye for moody, creepy shots of his decrepit locations – certainly helped by Richard Benda’s photography that seems downright classy for this era of the slasher movie – and even makes intelligent use of the whole frame in more than one suspense scene. A handful of scenes here would – taken alone – suggest one of the more capable late 80s slashers but the film’s effective moments are so regularly broken up by the dire humour and a whole lot of nothing, it’s not easy to appreciate the film’s better parts.

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