Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Slaughterhouse Rulez


After careful consideration, I have decided that this movie would've been significantly improved by the inclusion of an exclamation mark in the title. Or, as others have pointed out, the words, "Edgar Wright" in the writing credits.

Not that I'd have minded his inclusion, but it's not THAT bad. It's just a British teen horror comedy... on the raunchy side.

It's easy to jump there since Edgar Wright's go-to comedy duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost both appear in this horror comedy in supporting roles, but really, this movie didn't need him to be involved; all it needed was to put a little more effort into the writing on its own. In the first scene it starts off strong -- introducing its lead in Don (Finn Cole), a middle-class teen from the North of England whose mother convinces him to attend a supremely posh private school that's he's inexplicably been accepted into. There's a briskness to this scene that suggests an urgency to get to the good stuff -- all the crazy, humorous horror the title promises.

And that's why it's weird that the movie doesn't actually get going until about 45 minutes in. And at that point the thing is almost half over. There's a lot of introductions; introducing the massive school, Don's pent-up roommate Will (Asa Butterfield), the headmaster (Michael Sheen), teachers, the school bully (Tom Rhys Harries) and the girl (Hermione Corfield) and the idea that something sinister is going on. But each one of these basically take up a whole scene each to introduce, and they invariably end with some kind of ominous hint of what's to come. We really wish it would just arrive already, but not all the time is wasted; we do get a good sense of all the characters relationships and the hierarchy of the school.

It's good stuff, just over-explained and over-dwelt on when we're here for mysterious horror goods.

Finally you think the horror will get going along with the introduction of the plot -- that some greedy company is fracking near the school and accidentally opens up a giant sinkhole. This is paired with a fantasy-horror type legend of dragons or monsters living in a labyrinth under the school. Cool. Then the movie piddles around some more. Around then is when people as dense as I am will finally pick up on the truth -- this movie doesn't actually have much of an idea for the meat of its events. It spends all its time avoiding the monsters and chasing down dead-end side-plots until it just can't put it off any longer.

Then it gives the action its best shot and it's only marginally better than the piddling. Because the piddling is piddling, sure, but it's still funny, and it's nice seeing the lead make friends and chase an out-of-his-league romance. Once the action starts everything else essentially is done and all that's left is lots of running around from one okay set piece to another, losing one or two people along the way, until the movie finds the finish line and sprints over it like it was scared of the monsters. Overall a bewildering pace, but rarely not amusing. On the cheaply budgeted side, but not noticeably held back by that.

Unless of course the movie was scared of the action because it couldn't pay for too much of it.

I think this movie could've used an exclamation mark in the title to convey a more accurate and low-grade vibe. But the "Rulez" with a 'Z' does a decent enough job at that. Movies with exclamation marks also seem to possess an extra boost of boldness, and in the end that's what this movie needed to sell itself. It did what it wanted and did it decently; I applaud and enjoyed it for that. But it did what it wanted while constantly promising something else -- something it never fully delivered. Either follow your own rulez or throw them completely out, I say. This sloppy British horror romp is a low-expectations-only kind of deal.

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