Canadian independent horror movie Butchers follows a group of four friends in their mid 20's, who become the victims of a family of sadistic butchers. A raw and sickening experience from start to finish, writer and director Adrian Langley doesn't hold back with gruesome gore or gritty violence. Shot well, acted well and it has the makings of an effective body horror, but when it's not trying to spook the audience it unfortunately loses its way.
Written by Becca Johnson
Though heavily reliant on jump scares, Butchers is definitely at it's strongest during its tortuous scenes. The special effects work a treat, and Simon Phillips gives a menacing performance as our lead villain Owen. His simple yet sadistic accomplice, played by Michael Swatton, was an equally menacing character who manages to send shivers down your spine every time he appears on screen. There's blood, guts, guns, axes and a spine-chilling score; it has the elements that a gore-fest needs to create an uncomfortable experience. Butchers is an example of how simplicity can have a big effect and can actually work fairly well.
It's hard to judge a film harshly for being full to the brim with tropes when it shows an obvious amount of love for the genre and it's predecessors. Wrong Turn-esque in its delivery, featuring everything you'd expect from a broken down car full of young adults to a tongue on a chopping block and a blood-splattered wooden shed. It is also self-aware, the script itself even claiming that the villains being cannibals would be a 'cliché'. No matter how much the movie knows it's not unique and doesn't attempt to be, that doesn't mean it gets a free pass.
For a horror to be 100% effective, the audience needs to get behind the protagonists and root for them. Butchers unfortunately offers four extremely bland characters, who are supposedly in their mid-20's but act like they're in their mid teens. They make bad decisions, they're moody with little personality, and they bicker about topics that are uninteresting, forcing the movie to meander. If the script offered a small amount of back-story or context, the characters may have been more likeable, but this isn't the case. The relationship drama's between the group just weren’t needed and therefore ineffective.
Speaking of elements that are not needed, Butchers is set in the late 90's, yet the only nod we have to this is a two minute long camcorder shot near the start of the movie. It could've been set during any time period and it would've had the same outcome. Furthermore, the entire run-time hints at an even more terrifying and threatening villain, that spends 90 minutes growling behind a locked door to build tension. However, the hidden monster doesn't get nearly enough screen-time to warrant this or make the wait worthwhile, giving us merely thirty seconds of action. This ultimately leads to a short climax that deserves to be longer, that could've offered a lot more blood-shed and outright craziness.
At a glance, Butchers is a fun and disgusting horror that solely focuses on gore to create a sadistic tale of violence that the horror audience knows and loves. If you're looking for some honest, old-fashioned, run of the mill, lost-in-a-forest-and-cut-in-half horror, there is obvious enjoyment to be had. However, Butchers doesn't do anything else aside from causing a queasy stomach, and for many will just be another slow and anti-climactic gory flick with boring protagonists and one dimensional villains.