The 80’s were a glorious time. Synth-pop ruled the radio waves and the slasher was the king of horror. As far as I’m concerned that’s all one needs to be happy so I have a fondness for the decade. I know many a horror fan would agree because that ten year stretch spawned a number of classics. Lost in the shuffle were the not quite classic but still very good horror movies. Luckily we have companies like Vinegar Syndrome making sure these movies never get forgotten again.
That opening paragraph brings me to Slaughterhouse, a late 80’s gem that VS released on Blu-ray earlier this year. If you’re unfamiliar with this film the following trailer offers a taste of what Slaughterhouse is all about.
Slaughterhouse opens with footage of real pigs being slaughtered at a real slaughterhouse. It’s the type of footage one would see at a Morrissey concert and can be a big tough to digest. This opening montage passes quite quickly and we soon meet two young teenagers spending some alone time together out in the middle of the nowhere. If these two had watched more horror movies they would know that alone time together in the middle of nowhere is always a bad idea. It is long before hulking man-child comes by and dices them up.
We soon eventually that this large man is Buddy Bacon (Joe B. Barton) and his father is Lester Bacon (Don Barrett). The two own a closed-down slaughterhouse that is located on property the town they live in desperately want to buy. The Bacons are giving two options — sell your property and make a decent profit or be forced out. Lester has no desire to leave and decides he’ll defend his property at all costs. This is unfortunate for a group of local teens because they’ve recently decided to sneak onto the property to film a horror movie. Uh oh.
Slaughterhouse is a very obvious nod to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The two films have quite a bit in common. In both instances you’re dealing with families that run or used to run a slaughterhouse. Buddy, like Leatherface, is more brawn than brains and is very skilled in the art of slicing up unsuspecting teens. Slaughterhouse doesn’t reach the same level of the Hooper classic, largely due to some tone issues. Slaughterhouse wants to be funny and scary, which you can certainly do, but you have to make sure the laughs and scares are properly aligned. The comedic elements on display don’t always work for me.
What I really love about and why I think it’s a standout you must watch is that it hints at something bigger. Lester and his son are being run-off their property to make way for factoring farming. The old family farmer doesn’t have a place in this new world. Technology has made it so farms can produce more at a faster rate and for a lower price. And ultimately this increases profits and it’s always about profits. It doesn’t matter if the food is less healthy or if the animals are mistreated. If it brings in more profit, it’s better.
When the town is trying to convince Lester to sell he argues this very point. He talks about how the machines and equipment are sloppy and creates bad meat that is 30% fat. Lester would never do that because that’s bad for the arteries. Lester believes he can make a better, healthier product with his hands, knives and a few men.
The opening of the film, with the real slaughterhouse footage, touches on this as well. It’s brief, but unsettling to see the mistreatment of pigs in factory farming. There is a humane way to handle these sort of things.
I would have loved it if the film had ran with this idea and expanding on it more. Instead it throws some hints and takes a few little stabs but the revert to conventional slasher rules. And don’t get me wrong, I love a standard slasher and as such I really enjoy Slaughterhouse, but it could have been something more.
Vinegar Syndrome released their Blu-ray of Slaughterhouse earlier this year and oh my goodness is it glorious. This is one of the most gorgeous looking film presentations I’ve ever seen. It’s right up there with Raw Force, another VS release that has been a personal favorite of mine for years now. There is plenty of depth and detail present and this restoration highlights the film’s cinematography which is actually quite good.
The special features are absurdly overloaded with content. There’s a commentary track by writer/director Rick Roessler where he is joined by producer Jerry Encoe and production designer Michael Scaglione. There’s also an interview with Sherry Leigh, a feature on making a low budget indie, a feature on producing Slaughterhouse, a 30 years later epilogue, some archival interviews from the later 90’s, trailers and radio & TV spots. My favorite bonus on this release is news coverage from the film’s premiere at a San Diego theater in the later 80’s. Apparently a bunch of parents brought their kids to see Snow White and ended up thoroughly confused.
Slaughterhouse is a really fantastic and entertaining movie. It doesn’t go full on with a social commentary on factory farming like I wanted it to, but that doesn’t prevent it from being an awesome slasher. The Blu-ray release from Vinegar Syndrome is one of 2017’s best and a must for every horror fan’s collection.
Slaughterhouse is now available on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome.
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