Recently being mentioned in the film festival circuit, Abattoir is a high-concept supernatural horror film from director Darren Bousman (Director – Saw II thru IV; Repo! the Genetic Opera). The mere mention of the title immediately set my mind ablaze with imaginings of what could be contained within this film. An abattoir (for those who may not know) is defined as “a slaughterhouse” [“abattoir” on Dictionary.com]. As with books and any other offering in media and art, it is never wise to “judge a book by its cover”, and my first predisposition when hearing this title was “torture porn” – this film is not in that category (much to my relief).
In an attempt to avoid spoilers, please pardon this vague and almost haphazard overview of the movie’s plot. The basic plot is that something horrible happens to a reporter’s sister and family, Immediately after the crime, the home in which the events took place is purchased, and the a certain portion of the house is removed. Naturally, this leads our reporter to question the activity, and with the aid of her friend – conveniently a detective – she begins to uncover the mysteries surrounding the purchaser of the property.
Dayton Callie excels in his role
The aesthetic of the film is tough to nail down – especially from the opening acts to later progressions. As the film opens, it is almost a modern-noir presentation – a vintage wardrobe, yet with modern conveniences and technology, giving it a “timeless” feel; much the same way Dark City or It Follows did. However, once the story moves to the ubiquitous isolated location, the “noir” feel is subtly removed; while not detracting from the ultimate viewing experience, it was there enough for me to notice the change.
To judge this film is actually difficult, and I want this review to be as fair as possible while avoiding any spoilers. Abattoir is a slow burn, yet the tension builds with this film, keeping it from being totally boring. While I use the term “boring”, that is my own personal interpretation – others may find the pacing to be very succinct. From a viewer’s perspective, I will say that just when I thought I was finished with the story, something new would happen, and I would continue watching, waiting to see the resolution of the plot.
The set pieces and overall ambiance of the story are crafted exceedingly well. It blends an aesthetic of modern, noir-esque horror, while also having an almost Americana folk tale resemblance. At times, I felt as if I were watching an homage to Tim Burton or Neil Gaiman (only in presentation, not in story).
Lin Shaye – you know have a horror movie if she has a role!
The plot – while comparable to other stories – is pretty darned clever. I have a perfect amalgamation of describing it, however were I to write my descriptor, it may actually spoil the plot, so I must refrain. Let me gently put it this way: if you like Silent Hill, The Grudge, or even the H. P. Lovecraft story “The Shadow over Innsmouth”, you will more than likely find something in this film to enjoy. Admittedly, the story almost seems chopped and disjointed in the beginning, and there was a time when I actually checked the timer to make sure I had not missed a part. However, for those who endeavor to navigate the plot, there is a payoff. There is a scene, nearly halfway through the film that grabbed me, and was so damned effective, it alone is the reason I am reviewing this film in a positive light. Again, I cannot write much about it as I do not want to give away any spoilers, but it involves an old film recording and demonstrates an effective use of such a narrative device – much the way a really good supernatural horror film should.
In all, Abattoir was a decent film – I enjoyed it. Plenty of ambiance, and a clever story that both adheres to well-worn horror tropes while injecting a new aesthetic and feeling to the genre. It does not break new ground, but sometimes a film does not need to. I am not going to be the arbiter of your entertainment, and I will not tell you to go to a theater and spend your hard-earned money, but if you like a good, spooky tale, Abattoir may have something in it you may like. Look for Abattoir to hit theaters on December 9.