Butchers (2020) Review
Butchers begins at the burial of the Watson brothers’, Owen (Simon Phillips, The Nights Before Christmas, Gehenna: Where Death Lives) and Oswald (Michael Swatton, C.A.M., Hillbilly), mother. That wouldn’t be an odd way to start a film, except they’re burying her, and it’s in a wooded clearing, not a cemetery. And when a car breaks down nearby, they kill the driver and keep his passenger Celeste (Samantha De Benedet, A Storybook Christmas) for their pleasure.
Fast-forward a few months and Jenna (Julie Mainville, Ghastlies, Confessions of a Haunting…), her boyfriend Mike (James Hicks, Midway) and their friends Taylor (Anne-Carolyne Binette, Built to Kill) and Chris (Frederik Storm, An Unexpected Killer) break down in a rather familiar-looking spot. Mike and Taylor head to the nearest town for help. Unsurprisingly, the locals aren’t as friendly as they seem.
Director Adrian Langley (A Violent State, Bunker) and co-writer Daniel Weissenberger (Come True) had the smart idea to set the film in the 1990s to avoid the usual issues with cell phone reception. That, by the way, is something that’s never really seemed like an issue to me, though. Travelling across the US and Canada even recently, I’ve run into plenty of rural areas with no or very sporadic reception. Which is indeed horrifying when the needle on the gas gauge starts getting low.
In any case, that’s about the only clever idea they had. Butchers, (not to be confused with The Butcher or Butcher the Bakers) is a collection of clichés from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Wrong Turn and so many other films. There’s even someone who shares TCM’s Hitchhiker’s love of Polaroids, that’s how deep they dive for stuff to copy.
Considering how many sequels, reboots and imitations the three films I just mentioned have been responsible for, this kind of plot is still a popular one. And it can be effective if done right. Butchers, however, just goes through the motions. The four friends are bland and utterly predictable stereotypes. From the moment Mike and Taylor insist on being the ones to go for help, you can start checking off the plot points.
The villains are equally cliché. There’s the “smart” brother, the really dense brother, and something lurking in the back of the barn making strange noises. What are the odds there’s a barely human member of the family as well?
Simon Phillips should have made an impressive villain as Owen. He’s big, scowls a lot and can scream “You cunt!” real loud. He also has a nasty looking axe and a big gun. But he has no backstory or motive, he simply says they kill and butcher people because it needs to be done. Nor does the script make him bizarre or unique enough to stand apart from a host of other big, backwoods killers.
By the time Butchers got to its predictable “shock” ending, I was more than ready for it to be over. There are no interesting or really likable characters. There are no memorable kills or gore and surprisingly, given the film’s rampant misogyny, there’s no nudity. All we get is an inferior cut of meat that doesn’t even have any spice to hide its blandness.
Butchers is available to stream from Red Hound Films.