September 6, 2013 (Limited)
Duane Graves, Justin Meeks
Ali Faulkner as Sissy
Edwin Neal as Freddy
Derek Lee Nixon as Benny
Marilyn Burns as Ruth
Johnny Walter as Bossboy
The insanity of Butcher Boys is mind boggling. Unfortunately, not for the proper reasons. This film is all over the place, constantly moving toward one thing, before swerving in a new direction, only to pull a u-turn followed by an immediate right. The picture never for one moment seems to understand itself, and it’s definitely uncertain of its intention and direction. Imagine watching the Tall Man of Phantasm getting together for a bite with the Sawyer Family of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, after they all just dusted off a gallon of moonshine… all the while someone films it. That’s kind of what Butcher Boys feels like. It’s a little bit cannibal, a little bit torture porn and experimentation with some maniacal family feuding and tons of aimless chase scenes incorporated.
Kim Henkel, the film’s screenwriter, also happened to write the script for the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I can see and understand how those influences crept into the mix. What I can’t understand is how far distanced this story feels when compared to some of the man’s earlier works. Is it a complete fall from grace for Henkel, or a simple misfire? I’m hoping for the latter, Kim’s given us a few classic gems. Notwithstanding past accomplishments, there’s just no story in this instance, and that’s because there’s about a dozen ideas being toyed with simultaneously. Don Coscarelli has made a career of squeezing an abundance of outlandish ideas into single pictures (note again the aforementioned Phantasm), but that takes a special mind, and apparently, at this stage in their careers, neither Henkel or directors Duane Graves and Justin Meeks seem to possess that mystic aptitude. Butcher Boys just isn’t Phantasm (not that it tries to be, but you catch my drift)… or anything remotely similar to a successful Coscarelli style pic, which it seems to want to be.
The story sees four youngsters fall into an unfortunate encounter with a small group of thugs after a little road racing leads to the death of this crew’s dog. Well, these guys go completely apeshit and happily hurl themselves into a murderous trek. Lengthy pursuits eventually lead to explorations of seedy underground dwellings where we learn of an assortment of homicidal and torturous acts that take place. As would be expected, one by one the flick’s protagonists are offed in numerous ways (a few of which are pretty damn cool, particularly the brain crusher; one hell of a way to utilize a massive strainer) until only Sissy, Butcher Boys’ heroine remains. One final absurd battle ensues as Sissy attempts to escape while a collective group of lunatics proceed to basically destroy a city block and off countless bystanders… in broad daylight.
Re-reading that paragraph, a thought just occurred to me that seems quite appropriate. Butcher Boys is more an extended violent video montage than a feature film.
But here’s the very serious kicker about the production. While I can give you very little in the way of praise for the feature as a whole, I can say this with complete honesty: Ali Faulkner, who portrays Sissy, is absolutely brilliant. She’s the kind of Scream Queen you look for. She’s reasonable and fast thinking; tough but vulnerable; determined despite meager chances of survival. And holy hell do her facial expressions tell the tale well. She blends fantastic verbal work with strong physical support. The one thing that kept my eyes glued to the screen was Faulkner, and that alone scores a strong point.
Despite a few of the talents affixed to Butcher Boys (where the hell was Marilyn Burns?), it erupts from a cinematic cave that could have kept it tucked away and spared viewers a few bucks as well as an hour and a half of their lives. Ali Faulkner saves the movie from running out of steam immediately, and I heavily applaud her dedication to this role. Ultimately however, Butcher Boys is something of a wreck. It’s a film that looks like it may have had a solid 30 minutes of relevant content left on the cutting room floor. Without a whole slew of connective points and clear transitions, the movie just cannot succeed and makes little to no sense whatsoever.