Butchers – Review

Written by Adrian langley

Directed by Adrian Langley & Daniel Weissenberger

Canada/2021/94mins

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one; four teens breakdown in the sticks of nowhere, one pair search for a phone as the others wait behind. In the overgrowth, something watches, something cruel, archaic and hungry. Butchers sharpens itself on the skeletons of horror movies past and sees four young adults desperately trying to return home whilst overcoming love-triangles, hormones and blood-hungry cannibalistic locals. Adrian Langley’s film finds plenty to trudge through from the gallery of horror but cobbling together the finer cuts of better films doesn’t make for a delicious meal, it makes for an unsavoury taste.

And amidst the mess, there’s plenty of prime chuck to work with, particularly in the performances of Simon Philips and Julie Mainville. The pair conjure most of the film’s sense of dread, Mainville keeping an admirable balance of emotion and distress without descending into irritation or disengaging. As too does Anne Carolyne-Binette, effortlessly bringing the moxie for the film’s heroics. The performances are the film’s best asset, let down by a weak script from Langley and Daniel Weissenberger’s limited direction. Much of the cast is wasted, spending a great deal of the film tied-up, chopped up or underutilised.

Securing the most component of the film, Philips twists the outdated dynamic of the redneck killer, altering perceptions of the country bumpkin into a conniving and cunning slaughterer. There’s a delightful manipulation of other characters to unveil new angles of depth, sharing a delight in the bloodshed as his on-screen brother Michael Swatton, but tempering enough to reduce the outlandish overplaying other cast members suffer.

Competing to inflate a flat script, much of the direction pushes the cast to exaggerate (even for horror) and devalue much of the tension. Nihilism is a popular choice for the genre, but this extinguishing of hope is a difficult one to master, and Butchers is so devoid of hope that it smothers itself. There isn’t a single ounce of surprise as the stakes grow in favour of the killers, save for a single moment of suspense that is quickly dusted away. When all is said and down, and the blood swept from the ground, what was the point of it all?

The confusion comes in what the film seeks to communicate other than violence, extending to its slapdash inclusion of sexual violence with zero value or connection to the overall narrative. There are glints at traditional expectations within the genre; cheating teens, cannibals, moral punishments – but none come to fruition. Punishments are handed unevenly to the young heroes, and the woman tortured and sexually assaulted in the opening of the film serves no other purpose than a body count.

With so much wasted, it’s pleasant to see Langley bring thought to the sense of scale and isolation with the cinematography. There’s little question to Butchers depiction of being stranded, with the wide-open shots spanning endless over-growth and back-land America. Langley’s framing works best when outdoors, with space to utilise, but somehow manages to lose the anxiety once we go indoors – peculiar given the potential claustrophobic nature of the pens and grotty workshops, it all just seems a bit too staged to be believable.

The resulting tripe is a bloody offal mess of the sinew, tissue and gristle which more successful horror films left by the wayside. Langley’s film borrows far too heavily from game-changing cinematic creations but never expands upon the initial ingredients. A pinch of Texas Chainsaw Massacre here, a dash of Jeepers Creepers and a hefty helping of Wrong Turn, Butchers makes a pig’s ear of the potentials it calls upon. What works isn’t enough to overcome the shortfalls and leaves Butchers with a dull edge and a competent cast unsure of where to turn.

Butcher will be available on all major digital stores from 22nd February and coinciding with National Butchers Week, available on DVD from 8th March

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