A birthday celebration at an upscale restaurant sets in motion events that bring Sissy, her brother, Mikey, and friends, Kenny and Barbie, face to face with the macabre world of the Butcher Boys. Inspired by Jonathan Swift’s cannibalistic tale A Modest Proposal, the Butcher Boys are international predators who deal in human flesh – dead or alive. Their hunting grounds are the cities of the world.
The Black Saint has nothing but respect for Kim Henkel. The man was responsible for writing one of the seminal horror films of the 70’s, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre & for that and that alone his is a name to respect if you’re a fan of the genre. The problem I have with him is the fact that he doesn’t seem to be too hot to write about anything else and in his latest film, Butcher Boys, he’s finally hit the bottom of the proverbial barrel.
The film begins with the introduction of four teens who are in the middle of a birthday celebration. Sissy (Ali Lautner), her brother Mikey (Philip Wolf) and friends Benny (Derek Lee Nixon) & Barbie (Tory Tompkins) are having a grand old time doing what teens do nowadays I guess. And in Barbie’s case that means making out with a busboy in the back of the restaurant while her friends are at their table. Actually both Barb and Benny seem to be on the wrong side of sensible while Sissy and her younger brother are far less manic, I immediately wondered why they would be friends with them. It just didn’t make much sense.
Anyways…the quartet leave the restaurant and drive away to pick up some gas before continuing the party elsewhere. Barbie goes inside the gas station and immediately gets into an argument with some others inside and a small fight ensues. After keying their car, Barbie hustles into the car she arrived in and attempt a getaway but they’re immediately followed by the other car and a silly car chase takes place which ends when a dog suddenly appears in front of them. Barbie and company evade the dog but the other car isn’t so lucky and they hit the dog head on. And when they stop to apologize to the (Extremely Annoyed) owners of the dog, events are set in motion that will lead to a really long night for Sissy and her pals.
Butcher Boys is full of chase scenes. Either by car or on foot it feels like 40% of its running time is meandering, meaningless chase scenes through completely abandoned city streets. And I mean abandoned! The film takes place in Texas and while I know there are some wide open spaces down Texas way I didn’t think city streets were among them. But I guess it looked good for the film. The titular characters have gotten the Serial Killer Walk down pat as well. It’s the phenomenon that happens in nearly every film of this type, the victim gets a big headstart in their escape from their pursuer(s) while the killer(s) just start walking really slowly. But no matter how fast they run the killer is always just a few steps behind them. This film makes it seem that the entire city is full of Butcher Boys since they’re seemingly behind every corner.
If you’ve seen the original TCM then you know what the Butcher Boys have in mind for their victims (And if you haven’t, what the hell is wrong with you?). And this leads to my problem with the estimable Mr. Henkle, can he write a friggin’ movie that doesn’t have anything to do with his biggest cinematic triumph? It gets so bad here that he even decides to write roles for a slew of original TCM alumni. You’ll find Ed Neal, Marilyn Burns, Perry Lorenz, Bill Wise, Ed Guinn, John Dugan, Terry McMinn, James Bargsley and Bill Johnson in cameo roles here and while I guess it’s nice for Henkel to make sure that his pals are working it’s kinda sucky that he can’t write a film that has nary an ounce of originality for them.
There isn’t much dialogue for a lot of the first half of the film (Too busy filming those chase scenes) and characterization is absolutely nil throughout. Directors Duane Graves & Justin Meeks do a poor job in conveying anything by way of character motivation and the film looks grainy and underlit so it’s a chore just trying to watch it let alone make sense of what’s going on. The boys are supposed to be bloodthirsty animals but they look more like a bunch of Jersey Shore rejects. There isn’t much gore included here either but what little there is succeeds in getting its message across. But it’s much ado about nothing because the film fails as both a horror film and a thriller anyway. The performances range from annoying to unwatchable and the film doesn’t really end either, it just lays there thinking that it’s being ominous & creepy when it’s just dull and flat. There are homages aplenty to TCM but all they did was make wanna see that film, not this one.
Movies like Butcher Boys do nothing for the genre and if a name like Henkel’s is associated with it then that’s a true shame since his name is attached to one of the greatest horror films of all time. I don’t think I’m being unfair when I say I expect more from a film that so proudly announces its connection with him. Maybe that film is just around the corner but if it’s got anything to do with the original TCM then maybe Mr. Henkel should rethink his vocation cuz’ he’s apparently run out of ideas…
Butcher Boys– .5 out of 5 shrouds
Butcher Boys (2012)