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Slaughterhouse   C-

Program Power Entertainment

Year Released: 1987
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Rick Roessler
Writer: Rick Roessler
Cast: Joe B. Barton, Don Barrett, Sherry Bendorf, Bill Brinsfield, Jason Collier, Jeff Grossi, Hank Gum, Linda Harris, Jane Higginson, Joel Hoffman, William Houck, Courtney Lercara, Lee Robinson.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Remember the 1980s? It was a time when new wave music was cool, bad hair was universal, Reagan was King, and all those horny teenagers were getting slaughtered by psycho-killers. It was also a time when every low-budget slasher film made was almost guaranteed a theatrical release -- no matter how bad. And while 1987's Slaughterhouse certainly isn't the bottom of the barrel, it's pretty much a run-of-the-mill bad '80s slasher movie. Only with a sick sense of humor and a filthy, 300-pound psycho-killer who grunts and squeals like a pig.

Yeah, Buddy (Joe B. Barton) is a big guy. When he starts butchering teenagers and hanging them up on meathooks in the old family slaughterhouse, his old man (Don Barrett) tells him he can't just go around slaughtering kids for messing with his hogs. Nevertheless, the old man comments, "At least you made good, clean cuts." The old man suggests more productive ways for Buddy to use his massive cleaver -- like knocking off the people who are conspiring to take his land and slaughterhouse for the expansion of a local meat processing plant. But, of course, there's no stopping those dumb teenagers from wandering into the slaughterhouse to mess around.

While this could have been a surefire recipe for enjoyable schlock, Slaughterhouse is surprisingly ho hum. Sure, the synth-pop new wave soundtrack is priceless -- and the ridiculous teen party dance scene is the cheesy highlight -- but the characters and the murders in the film are pretty bland. You've got your grab bag of teens lacking in personality, the town sheriff, and his dumb-as-a-rock deputy, among others. Most of them are done in by Buddy's cleaver, but certain farm equipment is also put to use. The murders aren't bad, there's some decent gore, but there's nothing remarkable or even a bit scary here. A slasher film like this only makes one long for the craftsmanship of Halloween, the creepy ambiance of Friday the 13th, the manic intensity of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or even the campy T&A of Sleepaway Camp 2. That's right, this is an '80s slasher with absolutely no sex or nudity (and where's the fun in that?). The new wave soundtrack and 300-pound pig-like killer notwithstanding, Slaughterhouse never really hits its stride.

Well, to be fair, it has its moments. It's fun when Buddy kills a cop and goes speeding around in a cop car with the siren blaring and the windshield wipers going. And the last 20 minutes are decent. Slasher movies always have me rooting for the Final Girl™, even if she's just as paper-thin as the rest of the characters, and this was no exception. But why do Buddy and his old man stop and torture her when they killed the others without a second's hesitation? Well, duh, they have to give Final Girl™ a chance to get away.

Slaughterhouse has been released on DVD by Program Power Entertainment on their Lucky 13 Cult Collectibles imprint. The film is presented in full screen format with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The audio commentary track features writer-director Rick Roessler, producer Jerry Encoe, and production designer Michael Scaglione. While the fact that the film's soundtrack is playing through the left channel while the commentary comes from the right channel is a bit of a nuisance, it's barely listenable -- but if you can adjust the audio level on the left and right speakers, it'll be a smoother ride. Trust me.

And, boy, the Slaughterhouse DVD has more than enough extras to keep you busy. Aside from the commentary, writer-director Rick Roessler and producer Jerry Encoe each have their own featurettes in which they talk about the making of the film, the creation of Buddy, and financing and distribution. But I really enjoyed the "hidden camera" stuff that shows Buddy signing autographs at Georgetown University and invading theaters showing Slaughterhouse -- even if these features go on for way too long. There are some DVD-ROM extras like the complete screenplay, an extensive behind-the-scenes photo gallery, budget forms, distribution contract, newspaper clippings, and ad campaign design sketches. There are a lot of goodies here. I enjoyed sorting through them, even if I'm not a big fan of the movie.

Slaughterhouse has a memorable villain in Buddy (who could forget a big lug like that?), though it's pretty run-of-the-mill in other respects. But if Program Power continues releasing goodie-packed DVDs of forgotten horror and schlock films of yesteryear, I won't complain. Program Power has a feature-packed DVD of 1988's Evil Laugh and a bare-bones edition of 1976's Class Reunion Massacre coming up soon, so keep a lookout. I'm looking forward to Evil Laugh, which I saw about 10 years ago. I still remember the microwave death scene from that one -- and I've always marveled at how the killer got the microwave started without closing it. Clever bastard.

Review published 05.27.2001.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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