A horror film that tries to break the mold by leaning on its influences.
The film opens with a strong allusion to the Texas Chainsaw series with its tone and music. The opening indicates that the narrative is going to try to balance the philosophical with the gore, and I can appreciate the effort. The tone of the film remains brooding and serious, sometimes to a fault.
We follow reporter Julia Talben (Jessica Lowndes) and her ex/current boyfriend detective Declan Grady (Joe Anderson) as they investigate why Julia’s sister, brother in law, and nephew were murdered by a stranger to the family. Aside from the murder, other strange events begin to occur. The murdered family’s house is sold almost immediately, and Julia knows this can’t be accurate—she is a real estate journalist after all. So, the two begin to dig deeper into the case. Then they discover the entire crime scene has been cut out of the house, which is odd to say the least.
The creepiness of the film is the seemingly random explosions of violence, followed by an unseen buyer coming and removing the crime scenes. We are given an interesting setup, and I like the idea of the film. There is a clear departure from the normal crap that has become the horror genre as late. The writers had a clear goal, but the film does not fully deliver.
The mystery aspects of the narrative are interesting. It is weird to me that more horror films don’t reach back to the mystery roots of the genre. Part of the fun of horror is that you feel like you are uncovering what is happening at the same time. So many horror films lately seem to have abandoned any real mystery, and instead go with the “who is going to die next” premise of storytelling. Director Darren Lynn Bousman is probably most well known for Saw II, III, and IV, which is a series that tried to be horror with a brain, but fell into violent spectacle sometime after the second entry. Bousman does interesting things, but they aren’t fully put together.
Abattoir tries to be smarter than it really needs to be. Okay, some weird stuff is going on—great. The movie falls into a forced stalling of the plot by making Declan recalcitrant (for some reason) to investigate the connections Julia finds. The relationship between the main characters is weird. It might be somewhat realistic, but it is weird. Everything from their interactions, style, and behavior seems a bit off. Julia is in pin-up fashion, which is fine, but Declan is presented as a hard-boiled noir detective. So, she is in contemporary 1950s redone glam, and he is in an outfit that screams COP! I AM A COP! I don’t know why, but the fashion choices are more distracting than anything else (though there is a narrative reason, it comes a bit late).
The way our two protagonists talk to each other is irritating. Why people can’t talk like normal people in movies is beyond me. The tension in certain moments is wiped away by stilted awkwardness. The film is trying to be Silent Hill, but it can’t quite grasp the psychological concepts.
Where the film should go beyond itself and do something amazing is when it ultimately collapses. After so much build up, the actual abattoir is a big letdown. Any scares or interest is shrouded in poorly special effected ghosts and cheesy camera work. The actors didn’t seem to know how to react (probably because it was all green screen) so any interest is lost. I was truly disappointed in the final act. So much of the film had shown great promise, but the end moments really take away from all the good aspects.
Despite the flaws, this is one of the more original horror films to come out in a while. There is a lot of promise here, even if it gets squandered when the film should be reaching its most interesting part. A decent, but flawed film. 5/10