Released last year in its native Australia and now available in North America, The Slaughterhouse Killer, (not to be confused with Slaughterhouse, Slaughterhouse Rock or even Slaughterhouse Rulez) is certainly one of the grimmer serial killer films to come my way lately. Director Sam Curtain and co-writer Benjamin Clarke look back at the likes of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to give us an alternative to all the glossy Dexter and Hannibal wannabes.
The Slaughterhouse Killer opens in a shack full of trash, dead flies and assorted ammunition. A huge man, Box (Craig Ingham, Aiyai: Wrathful Soul, Australiens) sleeps on the bed. We follow him as he runs errands on his way to work, right-wing talk radio blaring in his car. He works at the local slaughterhouse, but despite being there for years hasn’t managed to get promoted off of the killing floor.
Today he’s getting a new assistant, Nathan (James Mason, Neighbours, Killervision) who’s out on parole and looking to make a fresh start. However, when a couple of co-workers take hazing the new guy a bit too far Box shows that it’s not just animals he enjoys killing. And Nathan finds it equally enjoyable. At least until the film’s final act when Box’s brutality pushes Nathan past his limits and he wants out. This rejection destroys whatever was left of the big man’s sanity and sets things up for a climax that unsurprisingly leaves nobody unscathed.
Set in an updated version of the kind of dead-end, nowhere Outback towns that featured in 1970s films like Wake in Fright, The Slaughterhouse Killer has a feeling of bleakness right from the start. Using real locations, including a working slaughterhouse grounds it in reality and enhances that bleakness. It’s not surprising a place this devoid of hope spawned someone like Box.
Ingham cuts an imposing figure as Box. He’s massive, but not in the way Nathan Jones was in Charlie’s Farm though. He’s got the kind of build that would have gotten his character named Bubba if this had been an American film. He’s scary when you see him strangling a woman with his bare hands. And when you hear him ranting and spewing hate for the world and those in it.
That feeling only gets worse as The Slaughterhouse Killer goes on and we find out just what he’s capable of. Or see what kind of memories looking at Nathan’s girlfriend Tracey (Kristen Condon, Mondo Yakuza, SheBorg) bring up. It’s no wonder she’s creeped out and doesn’t want him around.
Despite the film’s title, premise and slasheresque poster, The Slaughterhouse Killer isn’t an overly bloody film. The killings are violent and brutally staged. But don’t expect much beyond blood in the way of gore and effects. Its impact comes more from the way the kills are filmed than showing them in bloody detail.
Violence in the movies is always fun so I think it’s up to the creators to push it in whatever direction they choose. In our films quite often the violence has been quite suggestive rather than overly graphic, but if we had a few more dollars in the kitty I’m sure the blood would have been flowing a little more freely.Sam Curtain
While it never rises to the level of John McNaughton’s classic, The Slaughterhouse Killer comes a lot closer to recapturing Henry’s grit and nastiness than most recent films of its kind. I’ll take its meat and potatoes approach to horror over Hannibal’s liver and fava beans any day.