Slaughterhouse (1987)

July 20th, 2019

Undeniably, out of all the various sub-genres that exist in horror, there is one that is arguably the most highly-regarded by fans and critics alike. The theme of ‘slasher’ and its array of popular franchises, cult-following classics, and all-around oddities, have come to be known as the most borrowed, inspired, and even ripped off, of any category. For as many excellent examples exist within the theme, there are also many examples of complete duds. Perhaps to some, the “it’s so bad it’s good” category also applies. 

The film Slaughterhouse, can be found somewhere in the center of the scale. Its release in 1987, found it somewhere near end of the era of great American slasher films within the decade. There were elements that helped keep its status as somewhat relevant among today’s average horror fan. Slaughterhouse consists of a decent story, good acting with a memorable killer, and a few interesting kill scenes. 

I look back and think about how common it was to find the Slaughterhouse box art sitting in almost every VHS rental shop of the past. In the classic hand-drawn style I love so dearly, we have an image of a large, grizzly man in overalls, and the tagline “Buddy has an axe to grind,” along with the title, “Slaughterhouse,” in red-slashed font. The artwork has always drawn me in to pick up the box and look on the other side.

The story is basically this: 

“The owner of a slaughterhouse facing foreclosure instructs his obese and mentally disabled son to go on a killing spree against the people who want to buy his property.”

So, definitely not your ordinary crazed killer horror or typical teen slasher. In Slaughterhouse, you have a central character who is feeling the pressure of others, and in turn, decides to allow his son to kill off anyone that gets in his way. Don Barrett convincingly plays the appropriately named character of Lester Bacon, an old man who owns a rundown meat processing farm. The setting proves to be an excellent location for this story. I found it to be of a similar vibe to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If one is to consider Slaughterhouse as a TCM rip-off, then I consider it to be one of the better ones. However, it really stands on its own as a redneck slasher set in rural California. 

Lester Bacon is feeling the pressure of the sheriff and some local business men who want to take over his land. There is also a cast of young adults to fulfill the teenage roles. And to no surprise, the kids overstep their boundaries and party just too much for their own good. Of course, one of the characters is the daughter of the local sheriff. There are enough characters in this film to keep it interesting. As the story plays out, bodies start to go missing, and of course, the meat processing factory is central to the story, just as much, if not more so than Buddy the killer. The film’s ending, along with the moments that preceded, prove to be suspenseful. 

There were, at times, some comedic moments, despite the film having a gruesome tone to it. The comedy scenes were mostly goofy moments involving Buddy, as well as some funny dialog from the crazy Lester Bacon. I think it was done well enough for the film to be considered primarily horror, with just a touch of comedy. Although others may consider it a true horror-comedy, I find that it is good enough to stand alone as horror, if that is what you prefer. Whether you are a fan of the funny side of horror or not, this film won’t disappoint. I wasn’t too crazy about some of the comedic music that played during some silly scenes, but it was tolerable enough where it wasn’t too distracting.

The acting performances were done rather well, despite the fact it was a low budget film with an overall unknown cast. Some of the more notable scenes came from the interactions between Lester Bacon and the local sheriff and businessmen. The story itself and the performances kept the film moving at just the right pace. I didn’t find myself waiting for scenes to end.

Not too many filler scenes, other than maybe the party scene featuring the local radio station, but it wasn’t so bad. Like so many other horror films, this one is definitely a time capsule for what a party looked like in 1986/87. 

For the horror side of things, this movie had just the right amount of kills. Some were more gruesome than others. Slaughterhouse has just the right amount of kills sprinkled throughout the movie to keep it interesting. The movie had a pretty good “No trespassing – violators will be KILLED” vibe to it. Of course, the meat processing farm does indeed come into play. We can’t let that go to waste, now can we? The idea is not so much used towards a “cannibal” sort of idea, but instead as an environmental factor where the setting gets put to good use for the sake of killing those pesky trespassers. One of the best scenes involves a built-in-floor meat grinder. I never knew those existed! Well, this movie has it, and it definitely does not disappoint. Great use of practical effects, some of which were minimal in effort, but effective, nevertheless. 

Because of the reasons previously stated, I can picture this film being one that many look back upon fondly. Great story. It does enough where it separates a little bit more than some other Texas Chainsaw Massacre type films. Acting and performances were convincing enough and not too distracting. Kills came at a good pace and were effective in proving the brutality of the barbaric Buddy. Slaughterhouse is one of the better low-budget slasher films of the late 80s. During a time when it seemed like serious horror was beginning to take a back seat to more laughs, this movie had just the right amount of kills to keep its gruesome tone. Maybe not one of the greatest, but it’s definitely a personal favorite. Perhaps for some, I can picture this being a ritual “holiday film,” though there’s not one in the story, it can still be an excellent choice for friends and family to gather around and make the viewing an event. Perhaps you can enjoy it over a nice barbeque pork dinner or just the usual bowl of popcorn. Either way, check it out, but be warned, it may result in a loss of appetite!

– Alan