A decent homage to the well worn hill billy films. Butchers has the potential to be far more better than it ends up being floundering by being just too predictable with its story and plentiful clichés.
After their car breaks down, four young adults find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere. Little did this group know that they are have broken down at the wrong place at the wrong time. They soon fall captive to the Watson family; sadistic butchers keep their ‘fresh meat’ tied up in a wooden outhouse.
A minor thing, but what is quite refreshing is that Butchers has no intention of making our four luckless victims into college kids. Right out of the bat, we learn that they are 25 or so and thus, not some clueless group of kids. That said, this isn’t a story that is reinventing the wheel when it comes to the middle of nowhere; family like to kill and, for some, eat lost strangers whenever they can. Butchers try to present itself as something a bit more than the usual fare by taking us more into the lives of these brothers to varying level of success.
By giving us more time with the brothers and their world, we learn more about them than we do with our victims. This development in the characters allows us to view their world (what happens when it rains wherever they live, I will never know due to the state of that house). We see Owen trying his best to quell his brother’s boiling point temper. While at the same time, we see Oswald is attempting to read as he wasn’t taught himself. Although fractured due to the death of the matriarch of the family months prior, they have a great dynamic.
Simon Phillips feels wasted here as Owen. He has a great personality that, in truth, deserves his film; you become interested in him as he converses with the kidnapped group. He has a motive and ideas of what he wants, and he brings something more to the picture than you would expect.
There are easy situations throughout the film that we could nit-pick, but there would be little point. Things such as the likelihood of two cars within a year breaking down near this family are slim to none, but it happens and guess what? We wouldn’t have a film if it didn’t. After all, we are not hearing for a heavy dose of reality, considering what we see in the finale. But where Butchers does need looking into is the story itself. As mentioned previously, this is a film that doesn’t reinvent the wheel, yet it is also very willing to take premises and moments from other horror movies and utilise them as best it can.
The classic getaway early in the film, only to be brought back to where you came from cliché is ready and waiting for these lost men and women. We, as an audience, know it is going to happen. We watch a character act nicely, but deep down, we all know what will happen. The point isn’t to get annoyed at this than to slink in comfier into your seat and let the film take you on the ride. Also, we have a lead character who ALSO knows horror films; it seems as she gives dubious glances at all times to decisions made by characters. She is trying to figure out how to escape with her life.
This predictability does hamper Butchers a tad, though. We know, for example, Oxford is going to get out of his “room” and cause carnage. Yet, we don’t know what he looks like, and we actively want to see him. So when we do for such a brief amount of time, it seems a waste, not only for the film but also for the make up department who put him together. The film wastes precious moments and ideas by rushing itself.
By not giving the audience a message other than don’t have a birthday party somewhere where you have to drive to the middle of nowhere to get to. There aren’t anything Butchers seems like it is trying to say. It feels more like a homage to films gone by. Which, of course, is fine, but a shame as it could give us a message instead of the odd shock and awe treatment. We know the formula, and with little surprises from those formulas, we are more left hoping to be wrong than right.
Butchers, if anything, is a very well shot movie. Yes, we see some good gore, but Langley has managed to utilise great shots (as we suspected in the trailer). We do not need to see everything happening, and in times like this, the audience should imagine what they saw than to give us something that looks poor. It is smart filmmaking and when shot so wonderfully in this wild overgrown land. It eventually works to the film’s benefit.
With our cast, the main four of Simon Phillips, Michael Swatton, Julie Mainville, and Anne-Carolyne Binette are great in their roles. They give solid performances, with Phillips and Mainville being the better of the four. The remaining characters are given little development, virtually just being lambs to the slaughter. This is a shame as they should be able to give us more than they do, but their decisions are terrible, and what little care we had for them soon evaporates the longer they are on screen.
With Butchers, we have a solid horror that tries its best but at times gets muddled within itself when its characters make the dumbest of decisions. A handy horror nonetheless.
Butchers 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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