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Head Cheese From Overseas

Released to Blu-ray just this week by 88 Films, Slaughterhouse is a slightly lesser known entry in the catalog of 1980’s slashers. Released as part of their new “Slasher Classics Collection” line, it comes in a cool red case and includes a collector’s booklet featuring a brief look at the release and legacy of the film. The disc is region free, so US viewers should be able to watch on their players with no issues.

The story centers on Lester Bacon, one-time owner of a now defunct slaughterhouse and meat processing plant. Lester’s business went under when he was unwilling to modernize his plant with the latest in pork killing technology. He now lives on the property where the slaughterhouse still stands with his son, Buddy. Now you can say that Buddy is “a little special”. YOU can say it. I’m not doing it. I’ve always found that when confronted by a 350 lb man wielding a large meat cleaver, insulting their intelligence is usually not a wise bet.

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Sanford, the owner of the town’s newer, automated slaughterhouse (and a one-time employee of Lester’s) wants to buy Lester’s property to expand his own business. He enlists Lester’s attorney and financial adviser, Murdock, to help convince Lester to sell. Along with the town’s sheriff, they visit Lester in a last ditch attempt to purchase his land, but Lester refuses. He does not respect Sanford or the “corner cutting” that comes along with today’s butchery equipment. Lester still believes in doing things by hand. The “old way”.

When he refuses to sell, Sheriff Borden then condemns Lester’s property as the old man will have no means of covering his property tax debts without the money from the sale. Forced into either accepting their deal or losing his land to the county, Lester instructs his son to kill those that would see to do them harm. As Buddy is not exactly the sharpest blade in the pig’s belly, he gets carried away and a few other victims are added to the body count.

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Meanwhile, Sheriff Borden’s daughter, Lizzy, and her friends are looking for a location to film a horror movie. What better spot to use for your low-budget slasher than an abandoned slaughterhouse? Unaware of the events unfolding at the Bacon residence, she and her friends soon become targets for the deranged butcher and his murderous son. Quite honestly, they deserve it. I’m not sure what the hell kind of movie they were attempting to make, but you can bet your sweet, muffin ass that I’m not reviewing it. And yes, you read that correctly. Lizzy Borden.

The gore kicks in quickly with faces slashed open and hands cut off. The blood spills through the rest of the film, with one particularly gruesome kill coming in the second half. There is also one kill scene late in the movie that truly stands out as a character is hit in the side of the head with a meat hook. While not overly gory, the realistic convulsions of the dying character make it that much more brutal.

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It’s also worth noting that the opening credit sequence of the film is shot in an actual working slaughterhouse. I don’t think that I actually need to describe what is being done to these poor, delicious pieces of future sausage, but animal lovers are sure to take offense. I, however, sat next to the TV with some scrambled eggs, toast, and a bowl of cheese grits. I was never paid off. And the other stuff got cold.

Slaughterhouse tries to carry a comedic tone for most of its run time. Despite the bloody death scenes, the comedy never derails the film or seems drastically out of place. It’s not very funny, but it’s never much of a distraction and actually helps keep the movie moving at a steady pace. While not one of the better slashers of the 80’s, it is also far from being one of the worst. Worth checking out.

Picture/Audio – The transfer presented by 88 Films does present an image that has some improvement over previous DVD releases, but it is not without its share of setbacks. Heavy print damage is noticeable from the opening scene. There are quite a few scratches and white dots littering the print, but these do clear up as the film progresses. By the film’s second act they become less frequent. This is never much of an issue. Some may even appreciate the older, low-budget look that this adds to the presentation.

While fine detail is improved over DVD versions, it never looks very sharp or crisp. I expect to have detractors complain that I’m being unfair due to the film’s age and lower budget, but that is no excuse when many other lower budget, lesser known films have been granted superior HD transfers. Except for a few moments, the majority of the film has a very soft, almost hazy look to it. Some may even be forced to wonder if they are watching an upscaled DVD. While I do not feel that this is the case, it’s an understandable assessment as the transfer looks incredibly SD at times.

The biggest issue facing this transfer comes in the form of black crush. And man, is it ever present. Any scenes shot in shadows or in darkened rooms lose most of their definition and clarity, but you’ll still be able to tell what is going on. Most fine detail is completely wiped out of whatever is being filmed in these conditions. Unfortunately, that’s a large chunk of this film’s run time. This also becomes noticeable in scenes featuring actors with darker hair causing their heads to become inky blobs of evil, demon-spawning, darkness. (You get the point.) As most of the actors playing the teens fall into this category, it’s not a good thing.

As I’ve stated before, I do not own a high-end surround system. So, my soundbar & I may not be the best assessors of audio quality. That said, I was rather impressed with the audio track provided. Dialogue was always very clear and distinct. Sounds such as clinking beer bottles and the clang of metal on metal are very sharp and distinguishable. Solid job in the sound department.

Special Features:

Rick Roessler Interview: The film’s writer/director talks about the making and marketing of the filmas well as about the film’s star, “Buddy”. Roessler is a very charismatic guy and has a knack for storytelling. It’s clear that he enjoyed making the film and is still quite proud of it, even though he did not continue his career past this film. Roessler also earns “cool points” from the beginning by starting the segment holding an old VHS rental store pop-up counter display.

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Jerry Encoe Interview: Interview with the film’s producer. Unlike Roessler, Encoe is not an engaging speaker. This segment deals more with raising the funds to complete the film and acquiring crew and equipment. You can skip this one.

Raw Footage: Exactly what you’d think. Unedited takes from the shooting.

Buddy Meets The Public: Video footage of “Buddy” and Roessler making promotional appearances at Georgetown University and various other theaters that booked the film for its release.

No Smoking Trailer: Lester & Buddy provide a PSA about not smoking in the theater.

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Also includes theatrical trailer, TV spots, and trailers for other 88 Films releases.

Final Cut: The film itself is fairly entertaining and packs a decent amount of red stuff, but the image is just too noticeably intruded upon by “the black stuff”. Some may say that I’m being too picky, but there is no reason that brunettes should look like Venom is eating their head.

Audio is quite nice and the special features are entertaining, for the most.

I applaud 88 Films and their Slasher Classics Collection line. It’s nice to see some of these more over-looked titles getting the HD treatment. I also have to praise them on their past releases of Full Moon titles as most of them surpass the US versions. As for this release, I’m afraid I can only recommend purchase for the most obsessive of fans or collectors. Others should wait for a price drop.

A huge “Thank You” to Tim Ventura for providing the pic of the video store promo standee!!!