NOVEMBER 24, 2011
If gratuitous nudity in a slasher film is more important to you than good kills, a memorable killer, or anything resembling an actual plot, then Butchered should shoot straight to the top of your Netflix queue. It's not a terrible film, but I couldn't help but wonder if the director would rather be making softcore porn at times, as there are still scenes of our attractive cast going off to fool around in the final 15 minutes of the film!
It also begins with a rather unnecessary torture-y scene of a naked woman who is chained up and being cut (including on the breast) by who I assume is our killer, but it doesn't fit with the way the guy operates in the rest of the movie. He's no torture maven, and he doesn't even seem to care for knives - he uses an axe for every kill (he makes do with a large rock at one point, but that girl survives, only to be killed later... via axe). Nor does he string anyone up or anything of that sort - coming up from behind and swinging his axe for an instant kill is his MO.
And the director's MO is to cut away from every impact. While there's some gore and a few shots of people with axes embedded into their torso, none of the kill shoots actually occur in camera - there's always a cut to another angle right before the axe lands home, allowing the production to save time/creativity on old-school prosthetics. Nothing out of the ordinary for a modern slasher - most of them are just as lazy. But this one is specifically aiming to recreate those old early 80s slashers, with the thin story (escaped killer targets our teens for no real reason), the sex = death "moral", the laughable sequel setup... the whole nine yards, really. By siding so closely with those films of yore, all they're doing is reminding us how much effort guys like Tom Savini used to put into this stuff to deliver what the die-hards came to see.
Not sure if the island setting was the best idea, either. Not that it can't work for a slasher movie, but I think it needs someone who is visually gifted (and probably operating with a higher budget) in order to make something out of all those similar looking sandy/sparsely populated with trees areas. Also, if you think of all the great slasher films, they almost all have one thing in common: interior structures. Even the Friday the 13th films (this one's closest cinematic cousin) didn't spend too much time in the actual woods or lake area - they'd be in the cabins or houses that kept popping up within walking distance of the lake. As with a lot of cheapo horror movies, the geography of the location is hard to picture as a whole. Some might think it's scarier to not know how far everyone is from one another, but I don't subscribe to that logic. To me, knowing EXACTLY how everyone relates to each other in physical space adds immensely to the experience. If the killer can just randomly appear at any moment, it just feels like cheating to me.
Ironically, the film's best scare DOES take place in a house, early on (and largely unconnected to the rest of the movie). However I can't really give it too much credit, because it's a very obvious swipe of the famous nurse kill in Exorcist III, right down to the sudden zoom in when the killer finally appears. When your most effective bit is something you took frame for frame from another film, it's not really the most promising sign of your film's quality overall.
But the target audience probably won't care much. The pacing can be a bit slow, but it hits all the marks it's supposed to, and again, the generous nudity (nearly every female cast member disrobes or at least wears a very tiny bikini). It's also fairly well directed other than the lack of impact shots, and that's probably due to not hiring a decent FX man more than anything else. I don't know who to credit for that though; there are three directors credited, which must be a record for a non-anthology film (speaking of which: buy Chillerama on Tuesday!). I assume one of them shot the pointless torture sequence, and maybe one of the others tackled the largely inconsequential scenes with the girl who "stars" in the Exorcist 3 bit, leaving the third to handle the actual movie part of the movie? It's only 70 minutes long with slow credits, so I'm guessing the first cut ran short and this other stuff was commissioned to pad it out to (barely) feature length. It's a modern day The Terror!
In the spirit of the movie I'll go off on a minor tangent here that adds nothing but time to the review - this is actually available in a four pack from Echo Bridge called "Backwoods Butchers". Now, I have paid for other similar collections from the Bridge, such as "Dark Forces" (supernatural horror) and "Midnight Horror" (zombies), and this movie was better than just about anything I've endured on those things, with the exception of... Backwoods Bloodbath? Why isn't that movie on the "Backwoods Butchers" set instead of the Dark Forces one? Were they worried that the title would be too self-explanatory? Whatever, Echo Bridge.
What say you?