Butchers review – plays around with backwood tropes but achieves nothing new

January 8, 2021
Alix Turner 0
Film, Film Reviews
2

Summary

One to watch if you really, really wish there were more hillbilly horror films, or if you have a bingo card of horror tropes handy. Otherwise, not.

2

Summary

One to watch if you really, really wish there were more hillbilly horror films, or if you have a bingo card of horror tropes handy. Otherwise, not.

One word film titles can be tricky: the word really needs to sum up either the subject or the mood of the film. I expected that a horror film called Butchers would do its best to put me off my pot roast (Okja had tried and failed). As it happens, I saw more butchery in Hunter Hunter than I did in Butchers. I did see some blood and guts, mind you.

Butchers is essentially a redneck or “hillbilly horror” film, this time from Canada. As in Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a group of young city people stumble upon a sadistic family; primarily a pair of messed up brothers in grubby overalls, one who thinks he’s an intellectual, one who definitely isn’t. The girlfriends are chained to barn rafters and the boyfriends are knocked out of action. If you think this sounds like something you’ve seen before, well yeah: me too.

There is one excellent actor who brings proper villainous presence to his role: Simon Phillips as the senior sibling, Owen. He reminded me of John Jarratt’s Mick in Wolf Creek, in the way he tormented his captives, and lay down his law to them. He was last seen as Santa in The Nights Before Christmas, which – like Butchers – also had its UK premiere at FrightFest 2020, and several other cast members were alumni from that film too. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else to say about them. I can tell you the names of the actors who played victims/captives (such as Julie Mainville, Anne-Carolyne Binette, James Hicks, and Samantha De Benedet); but the male captives were pretty much nondescript, and there was little to tell the female ones apart (except that one wore a dress and was expecting). All the effort in character writing was given to the baddies.

Directed, written (with Daniel Weissenberger), filmed, and edited by Adrian Langley, Butchers is an odd film. Many tropes and clichés are used, and a couple are upended, but I struggled to tell if Langley wanted to deliver a homage to a horror subgenre, or simply (lazily?) made a film out of familiar elements from many other films. I mean when I first saw the car carrying four people with the word “victim” virtually painted on their backs break down in the middle of nowhere, I groaned but kept looking for the wit. I thought it was there at one point when Owen spoke as though he knew he was following a formula, but the moment passed and nothing was made of it. I’m a big fan of Cabin in the Woods, so maybe I set standards too high.

There was no cheesy humor, no moral message, no heroes to root for, no victory to cheer. There was plenty of misogyny (though interestingly, no gratuitous boobs), a massive meat cleaver, some decent escape attempts, and a good old never-guess-who-survives ending. Nothing wrong with the production or acting, but for me, I want imagination, excitement, and a little intelligence in my entertainment, and I don’t recall seeing those here. Nor any butchery.

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