As a proud Canadian (at least when it comes to the world of cinema), I always find myself interested in horror coming from the ‘great north’. As Cinephiles from the region will be quick to tell you, there are certain nuances that often point to something being Can-con that would go over the heads of most viewers. Whether it be familiar faces, locations or general politeness (semi-joking), there are some key components that do lend itself to being unique to the region. With that said, I was excited to get dirty with Butchers from director Adrian Langley and see how the gritty slasher stood up, not just as a horror film but a production from the land of maple syrup and Mounties (no more references to Canada to follow, I promise).
What is it About?
“A family of sadistic butchers has dug into the backcountry and, from the deep freeze of winter to the dog days of summer, anyone who crosses their path is dead meat.” Set in the mid 90’s, the film follows a group of young tourists falling pray to a family of sadistic butchers.
What Did I Like About it?
Firstly, it is important to state that butchers is an acquired taste (pun intended). The slasher dwells in misery and filth with touches of extremism – those with sensitive dispositions will probably want to overlook this one. The film is bleak and (arguably) nihilistic, resonating general grit as it presents the dregs of humanity from serial killer culture – tonally resting somewhere between of Henry Portrait of A Serial Killer and Wolf Creek. To put it simply, this film does not mess around which will either evoke intrigue or disgust based on the viewer.
Within extreme cinema, Butchers is well executed in both shock value and characters. Yes the kids are insufferable and the backwoods sex deviants are anything but original, but there are good reasons given to despise everyone to allow all sorts of nasty chaos to rain down on. Essentially, Adrian Langley flex’s his writing chops to construct ugly personas ripe for the violence and depravity to follow.
There are also some great sequences, that despite predictability, still mange to come across as upsetting – what did you expect giving that poor pregnant abused slave a knife?. In keeping to this tone, Butchers culminates in a nice ‘f*** you’ ending that is wonderfully deranged.
The depictions of violence work well in that they feel more routed in realism – quick and horrific. Consequently, while many sequences in the film are certainly disturbing/shocking, at no point does it come across as feeble attempts to shock the viewer into a reaction with long drawn out gore sequences. Essentially, Langely shows a needed reserve to make the story just as interesting as the bloodshed.
What Did I Not Like About It?
Visually, I was on the fence on this but in general the muddied pallet feels overdone and an unnecessary distraction. Granted, the actual cinematography and the few POV shots (presented as old tech from the 90’s) works surprisingly well, presenting a nice flow. The sound design, however, also feels rather muddy and budgeted – it is not a pretty film. Arguably, this approach does help capture a grindhouse/exploitation vibe, but it still did not work for me overall.
Assessing the characters, one could stretch it out to say that there is one likable protagonist that is worth rooting for. Given the role of final girl thrust on this actor, the film may have benefited from giving her more depth. Furthermore, with everyone being generally deplorable or unlikable, it is hard to feel a connection to each actor as a performer – “you are here to die and I am here to watch” does not play well for longevity or greater recognition.
Where Can I Find It?
You can pick up a physical release of the film through the good folks at Sharp Teeth Films. Otherwise, the film is available VOD on most major platforms in Canada and the UK.
It is easy to make a film off of the intent just to shock people, where the true craft and skill comes in is execution. As a relief, Butchers dwells in depravity and filth, delivered in such a way that should appease fans of extreme cinema and slashers in general.
On a side note, I did not get my fill of Can-con on this but for some reason the general greasiness of the villains and their careers as Butchers did summon up images of the Robert Pickton farm murders – whether this was an influence on the film or not I cannot really say.
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