Fledgling filmmaker Paul Gagné wrote, directed, and produced The Slaughterhouse Massacre for apparently less than my annual salary, so it's obviously not going to have the polish and glossy sheen of a $12 million studio slasher. Gagné didn't have enough cash on-hand to build elaborate prosthetics or even to shoot on film, so he tried to compensate by adding Mo Fuzz-style production value. The Slaughterhouse Massacre has a couple of the longest, most gratuitous sex scenes I've seen in a homegrown movie without having to flip on OuterMax at 2:30 AM. The bulk of the first seven minutes of the movie are devoted to one couple fooling around, and a few minutes later, a pair of girls strip for no apparent reason at a party and grope each other in plain sight of everyone. Making a feature film, no matter how it turns out, is remarkable in and of itself, but convincing this many attractive women to star in your movie and getting several of them to bare it all is an even greater accomplishment. The length and randomness of these scenes kind of drag down the pacing in the early part of the movie; I guess I prefer stabbing to softcore in my slashers. The first half of the movie is an extended set-up, and the remainder is a chase around the slaughterhouse as our cast of four is slowly whittled down. Although the first forty-five minutes are heavily padded with the two lengthy love scenes and far too much time spent aimlessly wandering through the slaughterhouse, the movie shifts gears after that. Gagné puts American Pie back on the shelf, and the horror elements finally kick in.
Sure, The Slaughterhouse Massacre has its flaws. I like how just before everyone breaks into the slaughterhouse, the two football players are loudly chatting about how much they're looking forward to terrifying the girls...who are standing two feet behind them, oblivious. Oh, and the address being "13666 Main St."...? Very subtle. Some of the acting is genuinely painful (particularly the stoner character whose name apparently is "Stoner"), although the four leads are decent enough, and the girls are much too cute for me to be overly critical. Paul Cagney seems to be having a blast hamming it up as the one-liner-spouting slasher, although he never really seems that menacing. The photography and editing can be a little clumsy, and it's not always clear what's going on. Sickle confronts three survivors at one point and starts slashing, and I couldn't tell for sure until the next scene if he actually hit anyone or not. That sort of thing happens several times where the action just doesn't cut together all that well, such as in the first present-day kill where a character's pants are already stained with blood before he gets stabbed. The make-up effects are mostly modest, but the "gotta split" effect winds up looking really good. The handful of decapitations...? Not so much. I also got kinda lost in the last fifteen minutes. A character needlessly discards a shotgun, runs back to the slaughterhouse where she and her friends were attacked, gradually strips down to her underwear, and then there's a floating body which...is that supposed to be a ghost or just some awkward digital effect? It gets down to the Final Girl and the imminent battle-to-the-death with a supernatural mass-murderer, and then whatever tension there may have been is completely defused by the pothead and a tubby cop doing a bad Buford T. Justice impression.
The Slaughterhouse Massacre isn't a particularly ambitious movie, but I get the impression that's the idea. Half-serious and half-smirking, it's not trying to revolutionize the concept of the slasher flick. It's the product of a guy who clearly loves these sorts of movies and rather than just talk about making one of his own, he went out and did it. The end product is certainly rough around the edges -- too rough for me to recommend it with much enthusiasm, and for a movie that juggles teen sex comedy and horror, it's not that funny, not that tense, and not that unsettling. Still, The Slaughterhouse Massacre does have kind of a unique charm, and fans of no-budget slashers might want to consider giving it a rental.
Video: 1.78:1 letterboxed widescreen. The Slaughterhouse Massacre was shot on video, and I'm guessing Paul Gagné's particular style of microbudget photography is why this DVD isn't enhanced for widescreen displays. The footage is sometimes soft and noisy, but for a movie that doesn't have a dozen people meticulously rigging lights for every setup, that doesn't come as any sort of overwhelming shock. Considering the budgetary limitations, it's fine.
Audio: The Dolby Digital stereo audio (192Kbps) also shows the strain of the budget. Much of the dialogue has a clipped, muffled, not-entirely-discernable quality, and the music definitely sounds like it was composed on a home computer. Probably as good as can be expected, but this isn't exactly demo material for an overpriced home theater. The DVD also includes Spanish subtitles and English closed captions.
Supplements: The only extra is a full-frame theatrical trailer, which is served up alongside a little over ten minutes of clips for other Lion's Gate releases. Some of the pre-release information claimed there would be an audio commentary with writer/director Paul Gagné and the cast, but nothing like that's been tacked onto the DVD I was sent. The disc does sport a set of static 4x3 menus and eighteen chapter stops, though.
Conclusion: I know a lot of people who follow direct-to-video slashers, but this grade of homebrew horror isn't really my speed. Although I did kinda like The Slaughterhouse Massacre despite its many flaws (it definitely wins out over Man-Thing), I'd have a hard time recommending anyone shell out three bucks to rent this DVD, let alone twenty to buy it. Only for the brave sorts of genre fans who skulk the video aisles in search of DIY horror.