Directed by Duane Graves and Justin Meeks
If The Texas Chain Saw Massacre proved that the country was just as dangerous as the city, Butcher Boys creates a world that drives home the fact that the city is more dangerous than ever. Loosely based on Jonathan Swift’s cannibal tale “A Modest Proposal,” writer Kim Henkel and directors Duane Graves and Justin Meeks (Wildman of the Navidad) invent a pulp-inspired town that serves as a playing field for the desperate and the wicked to feed on the rich for spiritual and monetary gain.
Feeding on the presumption that most of the wealthy will indulge in anything so long as it’s presented within a superficial environment that they connect with, four friends leave their familiar surroundings after a birthday dinner celebration at a supposedly fancy restaurant and proceed to go on a joyride that quickly turns their evening into an all-out pursuit with the lower rungs of society. The restaurant they began the evening at becomes their prison once the story comes full circle and these spoiled kids find out just what they’ve been dining on all along.
After a late night altercation at a convenience store (we’ve all been there) and an unfortunate road encounter with a lowly mutt that runs into the middle of the street, our not-so-likable leads are suddenly chased by a faceless gang of miscreants from the wrong side of the tracks. Luckily, most of them quickly die off and the portion of the film that feels like a cross between The Warriors and Sometimes They Come Back quickly comes to an end.
Now, for the second half of the film, writer Kim Henkel combines his screenplay for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with his leading man, Sonny Carl Davis, from Last Night at the Alamo to weave a finale that depicts a family dynamic just as disturbing as the one found in Chainsaw with an unlikely elderly hero that might be as insane as the family he’s trying to escape from.
Brief cameos from Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Teri McMinn, and Bill Johnson from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 are superfluous, but the framework at the end of Butcher Boys plays out almost exactly like the ending of the original film, with just a sprinkle of the deranged house of horrors found in the second installment; the mania of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (directed by Henkel) is also on display in spades.
It’s a hodgepodge of what’s come before, and somewhat lazy in its execution, and even though Butcher Boys finally does find itself in familiar territory, the rest of the film doesn’t really care how it actually gets there in the end. In a film that doesn’t share a title with the Chainsaw legacy, Butcher Boys tries to distance itself from the original in an attempt at social commentary, but at the same time it wants to pay homage to what came before.
If Butcher Boys would have made up its mind as to what it was actually saying and what kind of horror movie it really wanted to be, it might have had a chance to elevate itself from being just another retread of a classic storyline. Regardless, Kim Henkel is a legend, but maybe he should take the advice of George Lucas when he told Simon Pegg to not keep making the same film you made thirty years ago.
Phase 4 is distributing Butcher Boys in limited theatrical release September 6, but it will be available on VOD October 8.
2 out of 5