Butcher House (2006)

Butcher House reviewStarring Jay Costelo, Maggie Colburn

Directed byChristopher Hutson

Butcher House is everything a horror movie should not be wrapped within a thin shell that makes you think it’s everything you ever wanted. It promises blood, brutality, and scares. It tries to deliver on this promise like a three year old child tries to clean their room; there’s a lot of noise, a lot of things happen, but in the end you realize that this was the absolute wrong person for the job.

Please, I beg you, listen to me. This is a slick piece of marketing aimed at getting one or two people to say that it is the bee’s knees. The producers will then take that praise and use it to get some sort of buzz generated on the internet. By the time Butcher House goes to DVD it has all the gears set to have fans salivating for its promised gore-gore galore! When in reality it’s a cliché ridden bore. Do not fall for this. You’re intelligent, discerning fans. You can see and smell cinematic feces from a mile away. Trust me, this is a dung heap you do not want to even approach, let alone get pushed into.

The story concerns a group of teens that are hired to go into an abandoned butcher house and catalogue all of the items within it for the new owner. Inside the butcher house, the kids inadvertently release the demonic ghost of a butcher who went mad and killed everyone in the place years ago. One by one the kids get killed off, and in the end those who did not die have to put everything back they way they found it in order to leave. In this group of kids we get the usual boy/girl mix; a few punks, Goths, and skaters. This must have been a conscious decision on the producers part to make it appealing to the demographics they were told were the most likely to watch the film.

Add into this mess a subplot about the man whose family previously owned the property and a father who inexplicably becomes concerned for his son’s welfare just as the movie looks to end. Both of these stories are set up in the beginning moments of the film, but then disappear for 60 minutes. They resurface so much later in the film that one can easily hear their brain crack in half from the narrative disruption it creates.

Why is a group of rag tag kids sent in to do such a job? They’re not professionals, and even if they have done this before, as it is alluded to, why is there no discernable modus operandi to their workings within the structure? They just seem to bumble about, accidentally remove a large butcher knife from a wall inscribed in blood, and then die as per the script. There is nothing in the story to tell any audience member that these kids have any right to be doing this.

Case in point: The power in the building. One would think/hope/believe that if these kids were going to embark on this job that they would have a schematic of the building (available at any hall of records) and by using this schematic they would first locate the power grid to the building and see if they could get it to work. The kids do happen to stumble onto the grid, but how they approach it is so asinine it reaches into realms of annoyance that could make any quasi intelligent movie viewer hate their own existence for being duped into watching it.

Remember the breaker box from Jurassic Park? It was a wall of switches, and in that movie when it came time to power the whole complex back up Laura Dern’s character just clicked them all back on. She inadvertently fried a kid, but it did create a small semblance of order in the midst of rampaging chaos. The lights were on, and that one tiny thing was one tiny thing less to worry about. I mean it is pretty important to BE ABLE TO SEE WHERE THE FUCK YOU ARE GOING.

The kids in Butcher House must live off a strict carrot diet. When it comes time to power up the building, they decide to switch on just a few of the dozen breaker switches in front of them. This must be because the beta carotene levels in their system have given them extraordinary night time vision. Even when it is imperative that they get the power grid turned on, they switch on and off the grid in a willy-nilly fashion that makes no sense to anyone. Completing my annoyance with this tiresome tirade is an added plot device where the elevator that will save them runs off the same circuit board. Yay, now they have to find TWO switches!

Logic completely disappears when we get down to the heroic final few who have to end all of the killing by completing a certain task. All this one girl has to do is put the fucking knife back in the wall. You know, the wall I talked about before, with the big warning on it, written in what appears to be blood? The wall no one would ever have removed a large implement of death from? Yea. That one. This simple act is explained to her, but for some reason when a “sudden” attack is launched on her and the other survivor; she just stands there screaming “What do I do?” Everyone in the audience knows what she should do, even the ones who walked out an hour ago. It was painfully obvious from the get go. But this brainless bitch cannot seem to get it straight in her head, and she is the one in mortal danger.

Placing the biggest “fuck you” to the intellects of the audience is hero girl’s final showdown with the Butcher. It takes place about six inches in front of the hole where she needs to put the knife. All I can figure out is that this character must have fallen in love with the Butcher at some point in the running time up to this. She waves the knife at the Butcher at least three hundred times, in a series of cuts that drags the scene out for what seems to be at least 20 minutes. Was she that sorry to see him go? Was there some reason she wanted to do this pointless dance with him for a painfully long period of time? It must be love. The logic used in the film up to this point allows me to only come to this conclusion.

The film looks professional, but is shot by caffeinated monkeys. This primate film crew has been making all of the rounds in Hollywood Horror; Most recently they were used in Liebesman’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel. I know I’m not alone in asking that these poor animals be released from their slave labor bondage, as they are ruining horror today. The problem lies in the general nature of primates themselves: When something exciting happens they cannot sit still. Thus when a kill is committed in a film, the monkey’s running the camera begin to jump and shake. This gives the viewer a sense that they are watching the events unfold from the deck of the Enterprise as it is hit by torpedoes. Producers like this look as it implies energy and chaos. Personally, I think it makes the film look cheap. An unflinching eye is the way to really get under the skin. Watch Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre for a great example of this.

Butcher House is a stain on horror. It’ll creep its way into the populace soon; you’ll hear about it. You will be tempted, but stay away. It is horror by committee. It is made by people who do not love the genre, but see the potential to make a quick dollar. Do not let that dollar be yours. Ignore Butcher House. Let it fade away into the Wal-Mart bargain bin and beyond. Only then will my work here be done and brother, our world will be a much better place.

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