Slaughterhouse (Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack)
Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
Released on: February 28th, 2017.
Director: Rick Roessler
Cast: Joe B. Barton, Don Barrett, Sherry Leigh, Bill Brinsfield, Jason Collier, Dave Fogel, Jeff Grossi
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Shot for roughly $110,000.00, Slaughterhouse (also known as Bacon Bits, which is a much cooler title in this writer’s opinion) is a testament to the no budget school of horror movie making, where all you need is a camera, some friends, and a bit of fake blood to make it work.
Borrowing more than a few ideas from Tobe Hooper's classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre and throwing in elements from Motel Hell, Slaughterhouse is the story of a strange reclusive old man named Lester Bacon (Don Barrett) and his idiot son Buddy (Joe B. Barton). Together these two men run a slaughterhouse that has seen better days. In fact, this place has recently been condemned and put up for sale by the county. It seems that old Lester has had a problem keeping his taxes paid up for the last few years.
Anyway, to make things worse, idiot son Buddy has killed a couple of horny teenagers that he found down by the river one night. He’s even gone so far as to put them on meat hooks in the cold locker. Lester finds their corpses and rather than scold Buddy or call the police, he tells him that he shouldn't have killed those kids… he should have killed the Sheriff, the lawyer and the man who runs the competing slaughterhouse instead. The family that slays together, stays together, right? Predictably, Buddy becomes inspired and decides that, yeah, this is a pretty good idea. From there he proceeds to do just that what his dad suggested. The old man makes a few phone calls to arrange for said victims to arrive at the old building for Buddy to do his work and we’re off.
But wait, there’s more! More horny teenagers, that is. These guys and gals are lurking about making their own horror movie using the same property. After getting some footage they dare one another to spend an hour in the slaughterhouse after dark. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who is skulking about there, wielding a giant cleaver and looking to kill whatever he can kill…
Sounds like a cool idea for a slasher, doesn't it? And it is, for the most part. Slaughterhouse does try too hard to be funny at times where you want it to be scary and it tries too hard to be scary at times when you might want it to be funny but the movie is nothing if not entertaining. Buddy keeps making constant pig snort and squeal noises, which doesn’t really endear him to us very much, because it’s annoying, but there are moments here where the filmmakers make it quite clear that he’s not quite all there and very much a product of his environment. He treats the pigs at the farm like most would treat their dogs and he’s obviously very loyal to his father, the only family it seems he has in this world. The characters who aren’t Buddy or Lester are essentially just slaughter-fodder but we get to appreciate the quirkiness of the two leads enough that, annoying pig noises or not, we kind of want to see how this all plays out. Joe B. Barton plays his role well, grunting and squealing and throwing his considerable weight about in a big way to make Buddy an intimidating character. Don Barrett, however, is much more interesting as he plays the salty old coot perfectly. He’s got some gravel in his gut and some spit in his eye, the type of stubborn old man who’d be right at home kickin’ and a gougin’ in the mud and the blood and the beer. He’s got that tough old white trash guy vibe to him and it’s a kick to watch Barrett bring this character to life.
If the movie had stayed away from the comedy and focused more on the moments of atmosphere that it was able to achieve (there are some genuinely creepy spots here and there), it would have been a lot more successful as a horror film. The slaughterhouse location is absolutely perfect – it’s sordid and sleazy and rundown and just flat out dirty looking. The camerawork, as gritty and sometimes very dark as it is, captures this nicely and does a fine job of using shadow and light in a few scenes to create some genuinely atmospheric scenes. If you’re an aficionado of 80s slasher films, particularly the low budget ones, Slaughterhouse will probably be right up your alley. It's filled with enough gore scenes and goofy one dimensional characters that it's hard not to at least appreciate it as a guilty pleasure if not a genuine horror classic.
Vinegar Syndrome release Slaughterhouse on Blu-ray on a 50GB disc that presents the movie in 1.85.1 widescreen in a transfer taken from a new 2k scan of a 35mm interpositive. The old domestic DVD release of the film looked awful and the 2015 Blu-ray release from 88 Films (reviewed here) offered up a marked improvement over that old standard definition presentation. However, this new scan leaves the 88 Films transfer in the dust. The image here is in great shape, showing excellent detail and really solid black levels, devoid of crush and compression artifacts. By comparison, the 88 Blu-ray looks dark and muddy – still miles above the DVD, mind you, but you can check the screen caps to see that Vinegar Syndrome’s transfer is clearly the one to beat. Additionally, the image is free of all but minor print damage, shows very solid color reproduction and is devoid of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. Who knew this movie could look so good?
English language audio tracks are provided in DTS-HD 2.0 and 5.1 ‘Ultra-Stereo’ Surround Master Audio formats with removable subtitles provided in English only (you’ll have to enable these through your remote, you can’t do it off of the menu). For viewing purposes we went with the 5.1 mix but sampling the 2.0 track throughout playback revealed no problems there. Both tracks sound pretty solid here, with the 5.1 mix doing a surprisingly good job of spreading things around a bit in the mix without overdoing it, keeping the dialogue up front for the most part. Both tracks feature properly balanced levels and are free of any hiss or distortion.
Extras, which are a mix of old and new, start off with a commentary track from writer/director Rick Roessler, producer Jerry Encoe and production designer Michael Scaglione. It’s basically a scene specific walk through of the history of the movie, as it talks about the locations used, the casting of the picture, and the slaughterhouse set as well. They talk about how they used different cameras for the handheld footage, shooting it silently and adding the sound effects later, and they make some observations about the lighting and camerawork featured in the movie. They note how Buddy’s hair changes in length in the movie, how and when to use a turkey-baster in a horror film, the type of cleaver Buddy uses in the film, how to make it look like you’re slamming a guy’s hand in a door without really doing that, casting family and friends in the dance scene, how the finger slicing scene was done and quite a bit more.
New to this release is a video interview with Lead Actress Sherry Bendorf Leigh that runs ten minutes. She speaks about how emotional the scene where she opens the door to find her friends hanging on the meathooks because she’d just lost her best friend in a car accident. She then talks about working with director Rick Roessler, how she wound up in the film after coming across a casting notice for the film, how she got along with her fellow cast members and how the shoot involved a lot of late nights and long hours in the rain.
Making A Low Budget Indie gets Roessler on camera for just short of half an hour to give us a concise history of how this movie came to be and ‘what thirty years does to a filmmaker.’ He talks about the picture’s unique qualities, the importance of character motivation, teaming up with Jerry Encoe, how they made Buddy bigger for certain scenes by elevating him, the importance of casting the picture, how he landed the slaughterhouse set for the picture and how perfect it was, the other locations that appear in the picture and how they wound up there, how they used a pumper truck that was on the slaughterhouse property to make artificial rain, and how and why some of the film’s more infamous scenes turned out the way that they did.
Producing Slaughterhouse talks to Jerry Encoe for six minutes. He gives us the lowdown on how he came to produce the picture, his relationship with the film’s director after they made Navy training films together and wanted to get into features. From there he talks about their intentions to make some money with the film, how they ran out of cash while they were shooting, budgetary issues that cropped up throughout the production, cutting a trailer to get some financing, post production costs and more.
Roessler also shows up in an archival video interview shot in 1999 that runs about fifteen minutes in length. Here he talks about his screenwriting career, where he got the inspiration for Slaughterhouse and how he wanted to ‘break in’ with a horror movie. He then talks about what he tried to do with the story to make the movie stand out from the rest of the slasher movie pack. From there he talks about what went into getting the movie made, casting the picture, shooting and editing the film, going back for pickups to shoot scenes to give Buddy a bit more personality and more. This covers some of the same ground as the commentary but it’s a fun watch and Roessler proves here more than once that he’s got a pretty good sense of humor.
Jerry Encoe pops up next, for another archival interview from 1999 that lasts just over ten minutes. He talks about how he and Roessler got their start together doing training films in the navy and decided to then collaborate on a feature. Horror, low budget horror in particular, was big at the time and from there they created Slaughterhouse on a limited budget of $110,000.00. From there he talks about getting the most out of ‘a very professional crew’ over the twenty-one day shooting schedule, reception to the initial trailer and how it sold the film in foreign territories and complete the film, the film’s sound mix and other interesting little bits of trivia related to the movie. Encoe is a lot more talkative here than in the commentary, which makes this worth checking out for sure.
There’s also a twenty-minuet making of featurette that shows off, by way of some camcorder footage, a few key scenes being shot – the conveyor belt scene, some scenes of the guys in masks running around in the slaughterhouse, a bunch of outtakes from the shoot complete with time code, clapboard sounds in the background and people laughing off camera. Interesting and amusing to see, as is the separate three minute outtake reel featuring more footage from the liquor store and a ‘bathroom sequence’ that was cut where the sheriff doesn’t want to get out of the gas station restroom.
But the highlight of the extra features is some absolutely bizarre footage of Joe B. Barton in his full-on Buddy persona out promoting the film in a bit called Buddy Meets The Public. This twenty-five minute section is highlighted by some hilarious footage of him all dressed up and running around various locations in character. He appears on the street, in the theater – all over the place, meeting and greeting and signing autographs for people and posing for pictures too. Noticeably confused patrons look on not sure what to think. It's really strange footage to say the least, but it's interesting none the less and was for me the highlight of the disc.
Epilogue: Thirty Years After The Slaughter is a quick one minute ‘interview’ with a retired F.B.I. agent who investigated the case portrayed in the film that tells us what happened to Buddy after the first part of the story. Rounding out the extras are a few trailers for the feature, a vintage radio interview from 1987 with actor Joe Barton that runs five minutes, four minutes of some local news coverage of the film’s premiere, a few TV and radio spots, the Slaughterhouse shooting script in slideshow format, and an amusing No Smoking Trailer featuring the two main characters from the film.
As this is a combo pack release the clear Blu-ray sized case also holds a DVD version of the movie taken from the same scan and containing identical extra features. Vinegar Syndrome has also provided some reversible cover art for this release.
The Final Word:
The movie is hard to take seriously, but then it’s not meant to be. If you like your slasher movies gritty, low budget and with healthy doses of screwy humor, this’ll be just what the doctor ordered. As to the Blu-ray itself, the movie has never looked this good and it’s loaded with extras. If you’re a Slaughterhouse fan, this is the one you want.
Click on the image below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!
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