I had originally reviewed 1987’s Slaughterhouse, the only film from writer and director Rick Rossler, back on February 27th, 2015, shortly after the film had received a blu-ray release courtesy of 88 Films as part of that label’s “Slasher Classics Collection” line. However, I can honestly say that I had not re-watched the film since that review posted, at least not until now. Much like the film, I can’t say I ever revisited the review either as I’m really not fond of my earliest writings for this site. Now, as I’ve revisited the film for the first time in nearly eight years, I figured that it might also be a good time to look back at that old review to see if my thoughts on Slaughterhouse had changed.
Spoiler: They had not. Not really.
Upon rewatching the film, I began writing a brief plot summary and jotting down a few general notes and observations. Upon reading these notes, I was a little surprised to discover that my words really weren’t all that different from the ones that I had used for the film back in 2015. In a few minor instances, they were verbatim. So, I chose to just reuse the words from the original review (in green), albeit with a few minor corrections.
“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 350lb man wielding a large meat cleaver, insulting their intelligence is usually not a wise bet.
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 the old man 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 is forced to condemn 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.
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.”
One of the most evident aspects about Slaughterhouse, or at least the one that most astute horror fans will notice is just how heavily the film is inspired by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, although cannibalism surprisingly isn’t touched on here. However, from its themes of meat (and images of bodies on meat hooks), to the look of the Bacon property, to its moments of sadistic black comedy, Slaughterhouse often feels like a tribute to (if not an imitation of) Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic, yet unsurprisingly never comes close to capturing the grim desperation or unhinged madness of that film.
As any good movie (and more than a few bad ones) from the 1980s’ should, Slaughterhouse very much feels of its era. From the music to the clothing, the film is quite representative of the decade’s fashions (on a KMart budget, that is), but never becomes obnoxious while putting these flourishes on display. In other words, the film doesn’t feel overly trapped in its decade, making it possibly a little more accessible to modern audiences.
While there are a few, fairly bloody kills early in the film, it does take about two-thirds of Slaughterhouse‘s runtime before the pace truly begins to pick up speed. In the meanwhile, the film is content to spend its time alternating between the older gentlemen who helped push Lester “over the edge” and the group of teens, who generally spend their time anywhere other than the slaughterhouse and prove to be quite inconsequential to the overall plot. In fact, these younger characters do feel somewhat forced into the story in order to help the film seem relevant/relatable to the predominantly younger, horror-watching audience of the era. While I can’t really fault Rossler for this approach, it does give Slaughterhouse something of a dual personality.
“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.” Nothing has changed here, and this sequence is still sure to offend or repulse certain potential viewers. That said, while the end results are proudly displayed, the more graphic and gruesome parts of the process are thankfully omitted.
Wrapping up my original review of Slaughterhouse, I felt that “while not one of the better slashers of the 80’s, it is also far from being one of the worst. Worth checking out.” Nearly 8 years later, my opinion of the film is pretty much the same. Overall, Slaughterhouse is quite well-made; more so than many of the other low budget, independently produced slashers of the mid/late 80’s, some of which have established larger fanbases over the years. A couple of the younger actors give fairly wooden performances, while the older actors fare much better. Lighting is also handled quite effectively, and the film’s score becomes notably heavy and droning during the final act.
Slaughterhouse may get a tad dull for some viewers during its early moments, but the film presents a fair share of cinematic bloodshed and grim humor as it progresses, keeping proceedings from ever feeling like they’re truly grinding to a halt. I respect the attempts to create more of a storyline and motive than just the average “kids go to creepy place and get killed” approach taken by many of the film’s genre brethren, but there are still a few small plot holes to be found along the way. Personally, I have a very hard time believing that none of these kids from this seemingly small town knew that the slaughterhouse was still occupied, but it’s never enough of a distraction or flaw to keep me from enjoying the film.
Overall, Slaughterhouse is still worth checking out, especially if you’re an enthusiast of 80’s slasher films… in which case, you’ve probably already seen the film multiple times. If anything, I may have appreciated the film marginally more this time around, but also would not be surprised if I went another 8 years before I watched it again.