I’ll start off by saying, I really did not know what to expect going into this movie. The title, Abattoir, is very cryptic, the poster is dark and mysterious, and other than wonderful character actress Lin Shaye, no big names are attached. I did learn the director is Darren Lynn Bousman directed this psychological horror film, and that intrigued me.
The Saw series is a guilty pleasure of mine. Say what you will about the plot holes, lack of character, focus on gore and nonsensical story thread, I really enjoy them. Bousman took the series over from James Wan and gave us three pretty solid sequels before the series went completely off the rails. Bousman took what was established and made it his own, for better or worse.
Bousman’s distinct style is apparent. With quick pace, rapid fire edits, dark lighting and nonlinear story telling. Bousman creates an atmosphere of confusion and dread as you can’t really predict where the film will go. It can be frustrating for some as it can be difficult to follow, but for others like me, it’s refreshing. That’s not to say that Bousman has been doing the same thing for a while and I would like to see him branch out and try something new.
Abbatoir tells the story of Julia Talben, a real estate journalist (did not know that was a thing) who’s sister and family are brutally murdered. Shortly after the funeral, the house where the murder took place is sold and Julia discovers the room where the crime took place, has been completely stripped away of everything, right down to the studs. This launches Julia into a dark and seedy world and she attempts to uncover a decades old urban legend that may turn out to be true.
Does it sound a bit predictable? Sure. I can’t say the initial story and set up are the most original. Even with Bousman making it his own, the film is bogged down in weak dialogue, flat characters with almost no development, and a second act that is practically all exposition. Lin Shaye as Allie saved the middle of the movie for me. She is just chewing scenery whenever she gets the chance, clearly taking pride in these small B-movie roles, even though she has been in much better projects *cough Insidious cough*. The rest of the cast is serviceable, not too terrible, but not grounded and strong enough for me to be invested. Blame that on who you will, I choose the writer as there is almost no individuality to these characters. I did mention that already so let’s move on to the good stuff, THE HORROR!
There are glimpses of the violence and crimes that Julia is investigating, however there isn’t much set up to them, and they are pretty bland for an R rated film. Once we get to the third act, the big reveal, the film picks the pace back up and you go through this literal house of horrors and see what it’s all for. The visuals are surprisingly good for the smaller budget. Bousman really utilized the atmosphere and the haunted house aesthetic. I would have liked to see some different rooms and crimes as we mostly get the same ones from earlier in the film, but it did work for me.
Is this the best film Bousman has made? No. is it the worst? No. It’s B-movie, campy charm and style is enough to make this an entertaining 90 minutes. It reminded me a lot of horror films from the early 2000’s that I would watch over and over because there was heart behind. Bousman really tried to create something that was nostalgic, but still had something new to show. I give respect to the cast and crew who clearly tried their best and showed they are proud of this movie.