‘The Slaughterhouse Killer’ Is Aussie Torture Porn Meant for Hardcore Horror Buffs
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Australian torture porn import The Slaughterhouse Killer is a grungy, ugly, low-wattage homage to ’70s cult horror classics. Directed by Sam Curtain and co-written with Benjamin Jung-Clarke, the film is blood-soaked misanthropy wrapped in piss-stained nihilism served on a cracked platter of white male anger. In other words, it’s horror for hardcore connoisseurs of carnage.
“Violence in movies is always fun,” the director has said, “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.”
This may be the only time in the history of movies that a smaller budget is a blessing, because I don’t know how much more blood The Slaughterhouse Killer could handle. Box (Craig Ingham, dirtied up and impressively hideous), a lifelong employee at the local slaughterhouse, is assigned a new employee, Nathan (the very sexy James Mason), to train in the ways of animal extinction. The seasoned Box senses a darkness in Nathan, though we in the audience know what Box does not: Nathan is on parole for an undisclosed crime, and he’s primed to learn the ways of the trade. Animal extinction, for Box, includes the cesspool of humanity, and before long the fast friends turn Box’s solo endeavors into a team killing sport.
Curtain was wildly influenced by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and it shows. “Probably what has been the biggest influence,” he has said, “would be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and you can certainly see inspiration from it in both Blood Hunt (his feature debut) and The Slaughterhouse Killer.” When asked what separates OK horror films from great ones, Curtain has said, “I think for me it would have to be the level of authenticity. Take the example of Texas Chainsaw again, it’s so grounded in reality that it still holds up today.”
Unlike Saw or Hostel or other examples of the torture porn genre, The Slaughterhouse Killer feels plausible. Whether you are entertained or not depends upon your level of fortitude. My tolerance for on-screen violence is relatively high. (The crazier it is, the funnier I find it.) I have no problem watching people being mercilessly tortured and slaughtered (and if they’re nasty characters, even better) though — hypocrite alert! — I draw the line at animal killing (there’s a scene with a squealing pig that I couldn’t sit through).
Yet like most famous cult films from the ’70s, which this one echoes in spirit, there’s not much else to sustain it. Ingham and Mason make the most of their limited roles (with Ingham’s Box the heir to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Leatherface). And the low rent surroundings — the squalor of not only the slaughterhouse itself but everyone’s homes, apartments, etc. — pitch it at the right level of authenticity. Yet The Slaughterhouse Killer becomes a buddy cop film, only here it’s Bad Psycho (Box) versus Good Psycho (Nathan), with the prerequisite twist at the end to guarantee sequels.
Curtain has got the basics down, and he has written a character in Box that might well become archetypal, but he’s still finding his way. He’s a good director, not a great one (yet). The Slaughterhouse Killer is a footnote; another in a long line of low-budget gorefests inspired by the still reigning champ of the genre.