Abattoir (2016)

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman

Written by Christopher Monfette

Starring Jessica Lowndes, Joe Anderson, Lin Shaye and Dayton Callie

Life after death is a phenomenon that has befuddled and intrigued mankind ever since we first became aware of the concept. What lies after this mortal coil? What happens when a life is ended unexpectedly and violently? Would it possibly imprint on the locale upon which the accident occurred; a blemish that would stain the time-fabric of the room?  This is the core concept of the latest film from horror director Darren Bousman, he of fame for multiple films from the Saw franchise, as well as Repo: The Genetic Opera, The Barrens and part of Tales of Halloween.

The man is prolific but on a personal note, his work has always been rather hit-or-miss for me. His latest effort is a slight miss. Abattoir is an intriguing, ambitious film. To focus on the positive, the plot and concept is actually very unique and full of potential. Essentially, we have a cult leader seeking to establish his own spiritual domain by “collecting” various rooms and locations attributed to violence and suffering. His next move is to connect all the locales together as an enormous home built entirely of haunted rooms, each portion stalked by restless spirits of various crimes and accidents. Sounds great, right? Kind of like a new take on Thirteen Ghosts.

The downside though is that the film itself doesn’t live up to the basis. While not every horror film needs to be tongue-in-cheek, this one is deathly serious to a fault. The dialogue is written in a goofy, cliche, pulpy manner that feels as though it’s being spoken via stereotypes from a pulp detective noir (“Lipstick on the collar is one thing, but you’ve got ink on your fingertips. You’ve been writing again, haven’t you?”, “You would brave hell for your loved ones, I would construct one for mine!”). The film is paced typically for the unsung subgenre of “investigative horror”. You’d recognize it as a story that almost exclusively follows the trail of our protagonist discovering facts about the overwrought story piece by piece, via interviews, articles, websites etc. It leads to a rather boring escapade that doesn’t even really pick up until we enter the house in the final 20 minutes!

The acting is solid but unspectacular. We have a host of talented actors here but they can only do so much with what they’re given. Mr. Callies and Ms. Shaye in particular suffer from their cliched characters. Our antagonist is named “Jebidiah Crone”… if that doesn’t scream cliche horror villain, I don’t know what does!  As for the climax, the house itself is still a cool idea but suffers from iffy CGI effects as opposed to the arguably more effective practical makeup. It all coalesces into a hodgepodge of confusion that is translated mainly through a villain that feels copy and pasted from Bray Wyatt (WWE fans will know exactly what I mean).

Overall, this film just feels like a misfire. It has so much potential to be something fascinating and it doesn’t even really explore the concepts that it seems to want to focus on. It’s poorly paced, poorly written and just doesn’t make any sense. That said, it’s not unwatchable and the story has roots that are just begging to be nourished. There’s a sequel being tossed around so hopefully it can reign in the heavy handedness and laughable dialogue and focus more on the fascinating, thought provoking premise.

2/5 Haunted Mosaic Houses

Splatter Factor: 2/5  *** Another letdown is the lack of gore in a film that bases its very premise on the accidents and murders. It’s not bloodless per se, but nothing notable aside from the expected shooting and stabbing wounds. ***

The Collective Speaks:  We have visited many a distressed domicile in our time haunting this world. During our visits, we have made many friends and many more enemies but have always respected their wishes. LEAVE THEM BE. The old soothsayer in this tale would “collect” the cells of the damned and construct an organism of 100 proof pain. May the karmic retribution fall upon him for disturbing the halls of the dead. Perhaps he should have spent his time constructing a coherent story or realistic dialogue… 

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