Jan 15, 2020


For all of the ‘80s and slightly into the ‘90s, John Carpenter’s Halloween was the basis/inspiration for many imitator slasher films. Every holiday not yet exploited at that time soon became so. Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Day, Christmas (again and again), exam time, graduation time, spring break time, leprechaun time. If it had a date on the calendar, something horrific would take place and so many heads would bounce down the stairs.

However, what makes 1987’s Slaughterhouse a somewhat refreshing take on the teens-in-peril craze was its willingness to look to Tobe Hooper’s best film, the Ed-Gein-inspired tale of murder and macabre The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, for its inspiration. (Going a bit full circle, Slaughterhouse also seems to have directly inspired the ending for Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning). Hitting much of the same beats, a mentally rattled slaughterhouse owner and his mongoloid psychotic and mute son prone to wearing masks take their revenge on what they perceive to be the bureaucrats of their town who forcefully evict them from their home following their failing business’s inability to pay their taxes.

Naturally, this leads to violent murder and smashed heads.

Slaughterhouse bills itself as a comedy first and horror next (and I hate '80s horror-comedies), but except for a handful of characters’ none-too-subtle names-- the murderers are surnamed Bacon, while the heroine is named Lizzy Borden -- and one bizarre scene where the murderous Buddy plays dress-up and goes joyriding in a police car, there’s nothing on screen that’s played for obvious comedy. The teens mostly die bloody without much irony.  (Going a bit full circle, Slaughterhouse also seems to have directly inspired the ending for Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning). However, had Slaughterhouse been a throwback experiment made in modern times which was a satire on ‘80s culture, including the horror film, than it would be unfettered brilliance. Slaughterhouse is as a ‘80s as you can get, from the pop music, to the open-top jeep, and to the montage of smiling teens shopping in a drug store trying on gigantic sunglasses and smiling at themselves in the mirror.

Lots of slasher films, in part, come together as a whole to represent what one’s perception of an ‘80s horror film should be. Slaughterhouse takes care of that all by itself. It’s got: not-great acting, frisky teens dying gory deaths, a maniacal murder with a slight back story, hilarious fashions, a slight dependence on winking/nudging humor, terrible pop tunes, a kick-ass synth score, and just the tiniest bit of ingenuity (having teens be the ones to wear masks only to die bloodily was a nice touch). The only segment of the film where it’s entirely unwatchable would be the opening credits, during which cameras were allowed inside a functioning slaughterhouse to film a swine of pigs being slaughtered for real. Unfortunately the end of this chapter stop doesn’t coincide with the end of this sequence, so fast-forwarding (as I did) is your only recuse.

Considering its obvious lineage, it’s something of an honor that Slaughterhouse manages to outdo pretty much every film in the Texas Chain Saw Massacre series not including the original and its remake, but definitely including Hooper’s oddly celebrated sequel. If you’re a fan of the ‘80s slasher, Slaughterhouse is a slice of dumb, easily watchable fun. Blood flies, limbs roll, and Buddy Bacon enjoys every minute. I know I did.

Slaughterhouse is what it is, which is fun, bloody, none-too-serious, and somewhat unoriginal. However, its palpable ‘80s construction and it’s engaging-enough plot make it an easier watch to come out of the slasher craze. Buddy Bacon never earned the franchise that director Roessler had been hoping for, but his one-off is entertaining enough to have deserved it. Don’t miss it, or Buddy Bacon will have an ax to grind haw haw!

No comments:

Post a Comment