Every so often horror is treated to a movie that tries its best to encapsulate the excitement and thrill of the classics that made the genre so great, a plethora of movies that debuted during a time when the slasher was an original spin on a genre dominated by ghosts and ghouls and campy teens were butchered by the dozen in grotesque and unique ways. 2021’s BUTCHERS is one of those movies that tries its best to replicate the foundations laid down by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, yet fails at offering anything substantial other than mindless violence and a meandering story which wastes Simon Phillips brilliantly unhinged ‘Owen Watson’.
Initially, Butchers sets itself up with an intriguing premise, choosing to follow a pair of sadistic brothers, Owen and Oswald, rather than your typical run of the mill horror protagonist. These ‘loving’ brothers spend most their time carving up anyone unfortunate enough to cross their path. We first meet the pair as they quietly bury their mother, mourning her recent passing when they are interrupted by a car breaking down near them. In typical horror fashion, it’s not before long when the couple driving the car are violently attacked by the brothers, killing the boyfriend with a sickening hammer shot to the head and kidnapping his girlfriend. The opening minutes are great, they clearly establish the cruel world within Butchers and the intense use of violence is on full display.
However, after an opening as great as it was, the movie fails to provide anything original from here on out. We quickly shift away from the brothers, in favour of a group of unlikable young adults who, like the previously mentioned poor souls, have their car conveniently breakdown near the brothers place of business. We spend the next 20 minutes or so following these characters as they go out of their way to alienate themselves from the audience by proving how unlikable they can be. Two characters quickly cheat on their respective partners at the first chance they get, whilst the others sit discussing the use of ‘shit tickets’ (toilet paper for anyone unfamiliar with the term). It’s unfortunate how bad these characters are because when they do inevitably come into contact with the brothers you just don’t care about them.
Indifference can be detrimental to a movie such as this, especially when the narrative requires you to care for both the hero and villains journeys. The teens being as unlikable as they are , failed to conjure any emotional response from me, so when the body count did begin, I cared little about who lived and who died because the movie refused to build any empathy towards them. Alternatively, the brothers are the true standouts of the movie. Simon Phillips’ ‘Owen’ is a memorable villain one which Phillips plays with such confidence and charisma and it’s hard not to be enthralled by his performance even if the rest of the movie fails to elevate itself to his level.
As the film Barrel’s towards its predictable climax, there are a few notable kills worth mentioning. Without heading into spoiler territory, Butchers does offer some unexpected delights. Oswald’s brutal use of a jagged meat cleaver, tears through flesh like a hot knife through butter and certain characters are unexpectedly killed off without much warning giving off the idea that no character is safe.
Butchers isn’t a terrible movie but it also isn’t very good. Whilst trying its best to be like those that came before it, it ultimately fails at finding its own identity in the process leaving much of this movie to be desired.
Horror | Canada, 2020 | 18 |Digital HD – 22nd February 2021 (UK), DVD – 8th March 2021 | Sharp Teeth Films | Dir.Adrian Langley | Simon Phillips, Michael Swatton, Julie Mainville