I’m not a huge fan of the Saw films. I saw the first one and the second one. I may have seen another one, but I’m not sure which. They are fine for a single viewing. Especially the first one. So, when I saw that Darren Bousman – director of Saws 2, 3, and 4 – directed the new film Abattoir, I wasn’t particularly stoked. Then I remembered that he also directed Repo: The Genetic Opera and I was even less excited. (i’m kidding! it wasn’t that bad) But the premise of a woman searching for a man who collects the actual rooms in which particularly violent murders have taken place seemed pretty interesting. And it does have that guy who played one of the Masons Verger (sic – i prefer this pluralization as ‘funnier’ than the correct one) in “Hannibal”. Besides, I got a screener. So…
Julia is an ink and paper dame, see? And she ain’t gonna let no lug stop her from playing triple-A ball with the birds in the ol’ bullpen, see? But the man upstairs won’t toss her a break due to she’s a skirt, see? (ok, i’ll drop the old-timey bullshit) Translation: Julie is a reporter who’s sick of real estate reporting and wants to write crime stories. You might think the story is set in the 40’s when you see her outfit, hair, and makeup, or when you meet her hard-boiled, fedora-wearing detective boyfriend, but you’d be wrong. It’s set in modern times with modern cell phones, modern skateboards, and modern cars. But not hers. Her car is old as shit but in pristine condition. This is never explained and it never becomes a plot device. It’s dismissed with a grammatically questionable, “So much vintage things! It’s like the inside of my head.”. Whatever the reason, Julia drives her antique out to the tiny town where she was born and promptly given up for adoption so that she can investigate her own history as well as the recent murder of her sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. It turns out that the man who bought their house after the tragedy tore the murder room right out of it and he lives in her birthplace. What a coincidence! (2 birds, right?!) She finds the townsfolk less than welcoming and very secretive. One woman, Allie, takes her in and gives her the rundown. The townsfolk have all been swindled into rejecting God and sacrificing loved ones for the promise of everlasting life and miraculous healing. (yikes) The man doing the swindling, Jebediah Crone, claims to have escaped Hell to bring them salvation. Julia and Detective Boyfriend (oh, he shows up) aren’t buying this guy’s snake oil. Or is he legit?
Abattoir has a solid premise. It’s an intriguing mystery that piques the viewer’s interest from the start. Someone is collecting entire rooms. Murder rooms. That’s weird! Julia’s quest to find out what / who the hell is behind it is understandable. And engaging. Especially given her personal stake in the matter. Where the film falters is in trying to pack too much into the story. Julia finds her birthplace, learns about her long-lost mother, discovers a blood sacrifice cult, learns of a shocking connection she has to the cult, and uncovers the supernatural answer to the mystery – all in the same place / 24 hour period. There are some good kills and some very cool ghost designs, but the story is so convoluted that it fails to make any real impact. It’s solid premise is diluted to a slurry of scary movie ideas that end up feeling shoehorned in for false depth. But the scattershot approach just doesn’t work here story-wise. It makes for a very middling experience overall. Sure, we’re interested in Julia’s story, but we’re certainly never given much reason to really care for her. So, by the time she makes her life-or-death decision at the end, we don’t really care that she’s putting herself in danger. Indeed, we’re glad that she did (inexplicably) choose the obviously perilous / possibly damning route because that means we get to see what Jebediah has been up to with all of those rooms. That’s shallow interest and it’s weak storytelling. Fortunately, the rooms are pretty cool. And Jebediah is awesomely nefarious. The poor storytelling isn’t completely made up for with the cool stuff, but at least it’s not a total loss.
The Final Cut: Abattoir is a thin story built around an intriguing premise. The clever kills and unique ghost designs / effects barely tip the scales toward entertaining.