I don't feel hugely nostalgic about the VHS era, mostly because I was immediately ready to abandon the format as soon as I had an option that didn't require rewinding. One thing I do miss, though, are the lurid video covers I remember from my youth. I would spend entire visits to the video store gazing longingly at titles whose artwork had captured my eye. I wasn't allowed to hire those movies until I was much older, and usually I was disappointed when I finally did see them, but some of those covers are still fresh in my mind. One of the box art long stayers is undoubtedly Slaughterhouse, which sported a cover so mesmerising I still feel compelled to reinvestigate the movie every decade or so. The time for a revisit came up recently, and luckily for me the film was about to make its HD debut.
|Director: Rick Roessler
Starring: Joe Barton, Don Barrett, Sherry Leigh, Bill Brinsfield, Jason Collier
Screenplay: Rick Roessler
Slaughterhouse is the quaint tale of a slaughterhouse that has been shut down. The owner is bitter about the situation he's in, and his son Buddy, who relates more to pigs than people, compounds the problem by killing two youths that were messing with his porcine pals. Where a saner man might've seen murder as a reason to re-evaluate his circumstances, Buddy's dad decides that Buddy had the right idea, he just went after the wrong targets. The father and son decide to exact revenge on those they think wronged them, and in the midst of the killing spree some friends of the initial victims decide to trespass at the slaughterhouse. Turns out the only thing someone could do to Buddy and his Pa that's worse than shutting down their slaughterhouse is trespass, so more sanguine stains the slaughterhouse's floor.
This was probably my fourth time watching Slaughterhouse. I still don't think it lives up to its iconic cover art, and I think I've finally worked out why. The tagline is "Buddy has an axe to grind. A big axe." These powerful words were a huge part of what captivated me when I first discovered the VHS cover, and they conjured up a storyline I couldn't wait to see. The problem is that Buddy doesn't have an axe, he has a cleaver. It's even identified as a bone cruncher cleaver in the film. I guess "cleaver to grind" isn't a standard colloquialism, but this is still dishonest marketing, and I'm convinced this is what led to my initial disappointment.
Despite being underwhelmed the first time I saw the movie Slaughterhouse had an impact on me, making a lasting impression just like the big franchise titles. As we've gotten further away from cinema's greatest decade 80s slashers have raised in my estimation, and Slaughterhouse is no exception. Revisiting it a decade after my last viewing I really enjoyed it, and was able to have more fun with the film's playful tone. There is no denying that Slaughterhouse owes a large debt to a certain film about chain saw massacres in Texas, because the feel of the movie is obviously modelled after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre…2, which had been released the previous year.
The silliness of Slaughterhouse is readily apparent when the film begins, and the movie does take some unique steps to set itself apart from its peers. One unique element is the happy-go-lucky attitude taken to scoring the movie, which helps prep the viewer for the hammy acting. Buddy's father is hypnotically bad as a low rent version of The Cook, and the genre requisite youths, who appear to be playing characters 10 years younger than their actual ages, aren't much better. The guy playing Buddy certainly looks the part, giving the film a griminess it might've lacked otherwise, but since the only acting he does is make pig noises it's hard to assess his talents as a thespian.
When I first saw Slaughterhouse I thought it was stupid, and I laughed at its more ridiculous sections, like the shooting of an inconceivably poor quality horror movie that the future lambs to the slaughter(house) are making. I get now that some of the humour was intentional, but there's still no escaping that Slaughterhouse is a cheap clone of TCM 2. Even though it's not hugely original, Slaughterhouse is a worthy entry in the 80s slasher pantheon, the greatest subgenre of film the world has ever known. Squeamish viewers beware, the movie does live up to its title and features slaughterhouse footage in the opening credits, including live animal stunning.