Nab’em, Chop’em, and Feed’em to the EVIL Ox! “Butchers” reviewed! (Breaking Glass Pictures / Digital Screener)

After the death of their firm handed, elderly mother, brothers Owen and Oswald Watson remain isolated in the boondocks, off the beaten path to nowhere, to live in their rundown family home, like the generations before them, to do the one thing they desire and born to do – abduct stranded motorists, kill the men, and imprison away the women for their sadistic and misogynistic pleasures.  After breaking down passing through on a rural bypass, four young friends find themselves fighting for their very lives against a pair of siblings with a deep rooted heritage of experienced violence to show for it, but when one of the brothers starts to become even more unhinged than normal, the remaining survivors seek to take advantage of the situation to escape, but their captors know the woods inside and out.

Everyone believes Canadians are overly nice and well-mannered.  Our considerate neighbors of the North withstand the plethora of static noise from the turbulent South, willing to forget and forgive in a moments notice with nothing more than a smile and slap across the back, but has anyone ever bare witness to Adrian Langley’s dog-gonna-hunt, exploitation film, “Butchers,” hailing from Ottawa, Ontario?  The 2020 survival horror thriller displays the unseen dark side of Canadian’s grinning and friendly façade and, boy, does it familiarize and rival some of the similar backwoods doggedness we’ve seen in the last quarter century.  The film is written and directed by Langley and co-written with Daniel Weissenberger (“Come True”) in the intent of being a gritty, hillbilly-gone-wild hoedown with butcher blade sharpness.  Langley’s cinematic shiplap usually provides hard to swallow and violent themed content set to put one on tenterhooks established from his string of unflinching crime dramas (“A Violent State,” “Crook”) when the director is not moonlighting as a made-for-television PG-rated filmmaker for the holidays (“Candy Cane Christmas,” “Homemade Christmas”).  Christmas is long gone and a long way off and no amount of jovial spirit can guarantee a happy ending in “Butchers,” a production of Langley’s Unit XIX Films and Nicolás Onetti, producer and filmmaker behind retro-manufactured giallo horror “Abrakadabra” and “Francesca,” attached under his production banner, Black Mandala.” 

Principal characters are essentially the entire cast, small in size but pack a punch with their performances.  Starting off with the brothers, Owen and Oswald Watson, whose story begins during the snow and icy-filled heart of the winter months with them standing graveside, freshly filled with the remains of their mother, well before the hapless four protagonists breakdown in the summer’s heat.  The Watson boys story arc from second fiddle to top brass in a brief moment of background with the death of their mother as they quickly set to work pouncing on a young couple and exploiting the chained up and captive wife/girlfriend for carnal pleasure while abiding by a certain set of harshly punishable rules.  Television’s “Age of the Living Dead’s” Simon Phillips and Michael Swatton reteam in their respective roles of Owen and Oswald who are very much human characters with carefully planned and executed uncontrollable urges, callous whims, and fallible actions, sullied by a mixture of mental disease and rotten nurturing.  Philips is terrifying as in the intellectual brother, with his sophisticated word hole, very willing to get his hands dirty as the more perverse of the two brothers, but his relationship is on the rocks with his unstable brother, Oswald, as Swatton channels the internal family quibbling mindset of Leatherface from the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” franchise with the exception of the crossdressing obsession and the iconic, rip-roaring chainsaw.  Oswald instead wields a custom butcher’s knife with jagged shark life teeth as he manically runs through the forest hunting down the four youngsters played by Julie Mainville (“Ghastlies”), James Gerald Hicks (“Killer Mom”), and “The Nights Before Christmas’s Anne-Carolyne Binette and Frederik Storm.  With these lambs for the slaughter characters, this is where Adrian Langley succumbs to tropes that instill a misplaced sense of courage, uncontrollable and shallow horniness, and a turmoil amongst friends to be the divisive factor leading of their fate.  “Butchers” rounds out the cast with Jonathan Largy, Samantha De Benedet, Blake Canning, and Nick Allan as uncle Willard. 

“Butchers” does have blatant derivative bones underneath a body that echoes the frameworks of pioneered films from the aforementioned “Texas Chains Massacre” to more recently “Wrong Turn,” the original film series formed in 2003 about inbred, cannibalistic mountain people.  These powerhouse of unpretentious and bloodthirsty franchises inspired much of what you’ll experience in Langley’s homage of a cyclical subgenre; yet, the filmmaker’s tale of two brothers with a bloodletting scheme of their own doesn’t lend itself as being a hack work nor does the story render like an atrocious carbon copy but, rather, “Butchers” lives in a moment of simple, matter of fact craziness living in the dark corners of the seemingly innocuous world.  Owen paints a near perfect picture of the one in a million chance that people, like his hapless captives, fall into the position they’re in, sophisticatedly monologuing with intent to his bound prey in a pair of scenes that slice a thinly opened gap of possibility and that, right there, is scary.  “Butchers” builds no momentum, but, instead, goes right for the throat straight from the get-go as Langley reinforces the attitude that this can happen to anyone by not getting too familiar with characters in their backstories.  In order to establish a pattern of action and to lay foundations in who we should and shouldn’t root for when things go to hell, virtue-less unfaithfulness becomes a promising wedge that doesn’t necessarily cause descension in the ranks of survival, but paves a trope-laden path of who will ultimately perish.

Backcountry exploitation might have seem to have run it’s course. I mean, really, how many times can crazy deformed cannibals wreak gut-spilling havoc on the naïve outlanders to their idyllic provinces? For me, as many time as it damn well pleases, especially when fundamentally satisfying as Adrian Langley’s “Butchers,” distributed by Breaking Glass Pictures and now available streaming on Prime Video. “Butchers” will be available on DVD at a to be announced date. Langley, wearing multiple of hats in the spirit of indie productions, dons the director of photography bowler hat…well, I don’t really know what hat the DOP would wear, but we’ll represent the position with a bowler for now due to the deluxe sophistication the bowler implies while still sustaining a classic touch and that’s how I see Langley’s clean and competent cinematography style whose able to frame scenes that force audiences to be a part of the action . As soon as a character turns to speak to another character or when a car hood slams, an effective rush of adrenaline courses through the veins when out of nowhere one of the brothers pop onto the widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio presented screen. “Butchers” come with no bonus material after a 92 minute runtime, but a single scene lingers during the credits that, again, harps back to a certain dancing killing machine from the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” May not be an original concept, but “Butchers” can still castrate the soul with an exploitatively merciless family tree sowed with perversion and bloodlust.

Rent or Own “Butchers” on Amazon Prime Video! Click the Poster to Watch!

The Mountains are Filled with Evil! “Killbillies” review!

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Cynically unimpressed Zina agrees to partake in a friend’s nature photo shoot with idyllic mountains and forest splayed in the backdrop. Soon as the shoot begins, two disfigured and armed mountain men abruptly interrupt the foursomes’ serene surroundings, kidnapping the city folk by brute force, and holding them hostage in the basement of a ramshackle distillery. Confused and scared, Zina takes action, fighting back for her life against a family of hillbillies yearning to mix their victims’ organic essences into a fine, smooth-tasting, down-the-hatch liquor that recently become popular in the region.
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Horror has finally found a home in Slovenia with Slavic writer-director Tomaz Gorkic’s freshman feature, the whimsically titled film known as “Killbillies! ” Alternatively known also as “Idila” originally and “Idyll” world-wide, the hillbilly survival horror-thriller is an unique feature in it’s own right, being the first horror film to be produced out of the European nation bordered by Italy, Austria, and Hungary. “Killbillies” savagely pits the entitlement of urbanity against the underprivileged and judged rural community who will kill for what they desire in an intense tale plastered with unforgiving violence and human rancidity. Gorkic’s film rivals America’s “Wrong Turn” series containing murderous, inbred mountain people and sets the foundational work for a potential “Killbillies” franchise to put Slovenia on the map and instead of rehashing the cannibal market, “Killbillies” can go out on a tangent by turning terrified victims’ brains in a tasty homemade brew.
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Gorkic decisively also lays the solid groundwork of separating the two classes of characters with the beautiful and sensible urbanites in the models, the photographer, and the apathetic assistant, and the deformed and unhinged states of the no nonsense hillbillies played convincingly, and terrifyingly enough, by the bear-framed Lotos Sparovec and the gangly Jurij Drevensek inside the detailed workings of some gnarly prosthetics to sell the hillbillies from hell. The ugly twosome seek to extract their moonshining secret ingredients from a tough Zina, a role executed well by Nina Ivanisin, a prissy up-and-coming model Mia, played by Nika Rozman, a quiet photographer named Blitcz in Sebastian Cavazza, and a middle aged hair, makeup, and wardrobe assistant named Dragica given to Manca Ogorevc. Each role tackles a unique persona that’s vital to their characters’ survival and Gorkic writes clearly the characters’ purpose in how they interact when pressured upon.
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While the visually visceral “Killbillies” requires a minor tweak here and there to only fine tune upon character development and to be slightly more forthright into the intriguing backstory with the liquor and even with Zina’s life struggling puzzlements, Gorkic ultimately captures the bones and soul that genetically makes up that mechanisms of bona fide horror as when the hillbilly duo proceeds through the extraction process with one of the victims, a montage of scenes, sold with composer Davor Herceg’s romantic gothic score, delivers a living, breathing machine of unspeakable mad science without ever divulging a word, without ever being gratuitously gory, and without ever being overly or explicitly taboo. The gore is just enough to sate with head bashings, decapitations, and even a “Walking Dead,” Negan style overkill with a very large, very nasty axe.
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“Killbillies” is the latest brazen DVD release from Artspolitation Films and the release is presented not rated in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio that gorgeously and cleanly contrasts the beauty of the trees, mountains, and blue skies with the vicious ugliness that quickly grounds you back to reality in an epic struggle of life and death. Aside from a simple static menu, chapter selection, original trailer, and an option for English subtitles and English SDH subtitles are only available. Raw and acute, “Killbillies” fears nothing by dipping it’s bloody Slovenian toes into the horror pool for the first time and able to tread water for the full length of the story that ultimately becomes a deadly cat-and-mouse game.
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Get your Killbillies on DVD and streaming video at Amazon!

Evil That Is Hard to Swallow. Bad Meat review!

badmeatNot quite sure I want to review Bad Meat. Analyzing a project that never saw completion is like trying to teach terminally ill 3 year old how to manage a bank account. As I do a little more back ground research on Bad Meat, I’ve come across some very interesting and almost discouraging tidbits about the history behind Bad Meat. First off, the director is named Lulu Jarmen. Right now, you might be asking yourself who the hell is Lulu Jarmen and what else has she directed? Some people think Jarmen took over the project from Rob Schmidt, the director behind the inbred cannibal movie Wrong Turn and who promised fans that Dead Meat would be the most vile move ever seen quoted in 2011. However, many other people believe that Lulu Jarmen is a pseudo-name for Rob Schmidt because of how embarrassedly bad Bad Meat turned out financially and plot-wise.

Six troubled youths are sent to the isolated Camp Hardway under the cruel thumb of an hitler-esque figure and perverse, sadistic counselors. When the camp cook feeds the counselors rotten meat, the counselors transform into raging, flesh eating psychopaths.

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The premise is a shortcoming much like the ending of Dead Meat. Literally, the film just ran out of money from Capital films and immediately shut down production half way through the movie. Is it a good thing that perhaps Schmidt (or Jarmen) shot the movie from first sequence? One would think. Yet, Dead Meat ends right at the middle of the movie and in the midst of an attack none-the-less. The characters’ fates, the six teenage renegades, are left unexplained by an open ended, most likely reshot, ending that has left us to conjure up our own imagination to seek an ending to Dead Meat.

Dead Meat from the beginning had no promise even though fun to watch. The perversity is awkward, the fluids flow in chunky green vomit and think warm red blood, and the dialogue is as colorful as all the spectrums of the rainbow. The first 82-83, give or take, manages to at least make your time worth wild, but the last ten minutes are severely butchered with reshot with scenes of a severely burned (maybe?) survivor of the camp laying in a hospital bed and typing away on a bedside computer. Typing what? Yo no se. Most likely the story behind how this survivor came to be mangled and so horribly disfigured. These scenes, which are interjected into the original film, barely have any connections besides the name of the main character Tyler being thrown about by his apparent older brother who looks old enough to be his father.

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Dead Meat is not the “sickest move you’ll see this year.” Besides, I most likely would not even call it a full film. Intriguing, gross, and hilarious but a grand let down by Jarmen (or by Schmidt, who cares?). Any bit of Dead Meat’s success died with Capitol Films the production company. Revolver Entertainment’s pickup of Dead Meat would have rejuvenated life into this film, but instead arbitrary reshoots baffles and confuse.