What do you get when you cross a group of young adults on a road trip with a deranged family who live in the woods? The answer is Butchers, a Canadian horror film that played at this year’s FrightFest. It’s not an original plot by any means, and it’s hard not to compare it to the likes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Butchers gets off to an interesting start when we see brothers Owen (Simon Phillips) and Oswald (Michael Swatton) Watson ambush a young couple whose car has broken down. The man is murdered and the woman is kidnapped and chained up, whilst Owen makes some sinister introductions.
Our focus then moves to a group of young adults who are on a road trip, another classic scenario horror fans are all too familiar with. When their car breaks down, they make the mistake of splitting up as two go off to find help, and two stay at the car.
Amid this, there’s some clear tensions between the group as it’s revealed there’s been a betrayal. But with all of these characters feeling particularly unlikeable, it’s difficult to feel sorry for anyone involved. Perhaps it was intentional for us to hate this group of people, but either way, there’s no emotional connection here between audience and characters.
Despite being impressed by Simon Phillips scary performance, I found the rest of it very underwhelming, and it wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before. Everything we see in Butchers is predictable and it uses tropes that have been done to death, no pun intended.
If it wasn’t for Phillips, I think my interest would’ve been lost very quickly. You’re never quite sure what his character is going to do next, so at times he did have me on edge worried about if he was going to snap. But aside from this, all the characters are fairly formulaic and bland.
I was also disappointed by the lack of any story or context. I don’t mind films that have seemingly random acts of violence, like The Strangers, but nothing substantial really happened in this film. There was no indication as to why the brothers behaved the way they did, and the lack of any character development was a shame.
It does have a few tense moments and some scenes which gore fans will love, but beyond that it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. By the halfway point, it’s easy to stop caring about the fate of these characters because we have no reason to.
The ending is pretty abrupt too, and there’s no real payoff here. Horror films can really benefit from an impactful ending, but this one felt like a let down to me. Just when it starts to build some momentum, it ends, which was such a shame.
Butchers is watchable, but it really doesn’t bring anything new to the genre so some fans may be disappointed if the synopsis drew them in. But if you’re in the mood to watch some mindless violence, this might be the film for you.