Butcher, The (DVD)

The Butcher DVDStarring Catherine Wreford, Tom Nagel, Myiea Coy, Alan Ritchson, Ashley Hawkins, Annie MacKay, Bill Jacobson

Directed by Edward Gorsuch

Distributed by Lionsgate

Stop me if you’ve heard this plot before. A bunch of horny, dope smoking friends head off to Las Vegas to celebrate graduation. After taking what they think will be a backroads shortcut, they end up getting a flat tire in the middle of nowhere after running over barb-wire intentionally placed in the road by someone. They change tires and continue on their way only to get run off the road by someone driving a huge, scary-looking truck. Then they come across an emotionally traumatized girl wandering about and a creepy farmhouse that turns out to be the home of a homicidal maniac and his equally homicidal family. Does any of this sound familiar?

You actually have to admire an obvious Texas Chainsaw Massacre rip-off that manages to also rip-off Wrong Turn, Jeepers Creepers, Monster Man, and I Know What You Did Last Summer all within the first ten minutes alone. That’s quite an achievement.

Originally entitled The Harvest, Lionsgate realized that was just too generic and changed it to the almost nearly as generic The Butcher. Considering the film doesn’t seem to have an original idea in its body or any intention of even trying to come up with an original idea or the ability to do anything even remotely creative with its recycled material, a more fitting title would have been The Nevada Wrong Turn Massacre.

So let’s meet our victims: the perpetually yelling blonde guy, his midriff-baring blonde girlfriend, the generic dark-haired guy, the token minority chick who might as well have “victim” tattooed on her forehead, and the lipstick lesbian potheads that might as well have just committed suicide and saved themselves some agony.

My favorite was the blonde guy because much of his dialogue comes out in the form of Reb Brown-style girly screams. Sadly, he’ll also be one of the first to go. At least he provided me with my favorite moment as he repeatedly screams “Please don’t kill me!” even after he’s already been impaled to a door with a pitchfork through the abdomen. By that point one should be pretty much resolved that their time on this earth is done. Still, he keeps begging and the butcher feels the need to go get a chainsaw to finish the job.

Another choice moment comes when one lesbian refuses to leave behind her lover’s severed torso and drags the upper half into the car to console it. That’s the sort of committed relationship that could be used as a prime example as to why gay marriage should be legalized.

And remember everyone, playing strip poker while driving kills!

I admit I was quite amused in the very early going just because of how blatantly the film was copying stuff from other horror films to such a ridiculous degree, but once they reach the madman’s cottage and we get an extended tour of the place without much of anything happening, the novelty wore off and a combination of apathy and annoyance set in. Before it’s all over we’ll get a really muddled explanation as to why all of this is happening and more scenes and situations that bring to mind other films. I even detected a little People Under The Stairs vibe coming from the third act. And let’s not forget the twist ending that pretty much negates much of what had already happened and reeks of the filmmakers flipping the bird to the audience as our reward for sitting all the way through this dreck.

As for our resident backwoods maniac, he looks like a less husky version of “The Butcher” from Hostel (I find myself wondering if that’s how Lionsgate came up with the title) but with an unexplained half melted face that left me to speculate as to whether he once did something to really piss off Vic Mackey and got an extra special helping of the hot stove treatment for doing so. If any of you watch The Shield, then you know what I mean. If not, then imagine Bob Hoskins with facial deformities that look like he tried to backyard barbecue the right side of his face. I must say that I expected someone of his nature to have far worse living conditions than he does. His house has a few modern touches and isn’t nearly as rundown as one would expect. It could definitely use a 24-hour maid service and a marathon scrubbing session, but this particular slasher, while he and his family might be slobs and not much into hygiene, certainly doesn’t live in complete squalor. Heck, there’s even a mailbox out front with the family members’ names on it for goodness sakes. I found myself more interested in imagining what sort of mail this guy would get. Doing so was far more entertaining than paying attention to all the non-happenings taking place on the screen.

Not only does The Butcher not have a single original moment flowing through its veins, it doesn’t even have a single scary moment. Despite a title like The Butcher, gorehounds (and you know who you are!) will be disappointed considering what little blood you do see often looks more like red-orange fingerpaint and most of the carnage either happens off-camera or is virtually bloodless. One victim is killed after being drowned in a bathtub full of what I believe was Kaopectate.

The Butcher‘s director has a resume that consists mostly of screenwriting Cinemax After Dark programming such as episodes of Bedtime Stories and films with titles like Carnal Sins, Illicit Sins, and Sinful Desires. The man sure loves his sinning. He has one shining moment here: a well staged shot with the title maniac and one of his last remaining victims as they stare each other down from across the room. It’s the only moment in the entire production that even comes close to resembling suspense.

The actual screenwriting credit, however, goes to Michael Hurst (here using the alias “Ellis Walker” unless the IMDB is lying to me yet again), who made the recent House of the Dead 2 and is currently writing and directing the next Pumpkinhead for the Sci-Fi Channel. He also wrote Mansquito so I cannot say anything that bad about him, although if I ever met him in person I’d go “So you wrote The Butcher?”, and he’d reply, “Yeah”, and then I’d kick him in the shin really hard.

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1 1/2 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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