Slaughterhouse Rulez. 2019.
Directed by Crispian Mills.
Starring Asa Butterfield, Michael Sheen, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Finn Cole, Hermione Corfield, Jo Hartley, Jamie Blackley, Tom Rhys Harries, and Margot Robbie.
An illustrious British boarding school becomes a bloody battleground when a mysterious sinkhole appears at a nearby fracking site unleashing unspeakable horror.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s production company Stolen Picture celebrates its maiden release with Crispian Mills’ eco-creature-terrorizer Slaughterhouse Rulez. In many ways, a hopeful companion to Joe Cornish’s equally sci-fi-scary alien invasion blockbuster Attack The Block. Teenagers are failed by systemic social issues, monsters rampage with R-rated ferocity, and British witticisms prove dismally dark. The only problem? Where Cornish’s slummy apartment defense kicks into top-gear instantaneously, Mills holds for emphasis before unleashing mongrel beasts upon the prestigious grounds of Slaughterhouse’s campus. In some viewers’ eyes, maybe too long a delay.
Finn Cole stars as incumbent boarding school student Don Wallace, the newest attendee of Slaughterhouse’s distinguished facility. He’s sorted into “House Farta” (err…”Sparta”) under Meredith Houseman’s (Simon Pegg) overseeing, where he meets wisecracking roommate Willoughby Blake (Asa Butterfield). Don immediately catches heat from upperclassmen “God” Matthew Clegg (Tom Rhys Harries) for pursuing “Goddess” Clemsie Lawrence (Hermione Corfield), which is but a taste of the hierarchical classism under headmaster “The Bat” (Michael Sheen). Don doesn’t think his higher education experience could get any worse, until a fracking plant installed not far from campus frees a subterranean superspecies of predator ready to prove Slaughterhouse’s name contextually on-the-nose.
Where Stranger Things plays to broad age demographics, Slaughterhouse Rulez revels in mature content. When “Frack Beasts” emerge from a cavernous sinkhole caused by undeterred corporate drillers, lesser films’ offscreen deaths are Mills’ decapitations, dismemberments, and general bloody munching. As danger looms, spilled guts honor the altar of horror influence (one such kill in competition for 2019’s best). Dialogue may push comedy first and forever, but between slimy monster effects – something like a beached seal meets rodent space slug – and mucky gnawed corpses, Mills brings the gore in heaps…during his satirical doomsday warning to humanity’s final act.
Mills’ promised prep school hysteria doesn’t clock in until about one hour into its 1:45(ish) running length, which will test many a patience. How, you ask? Slaughterhouse Rulez milks subplots for all the (uneven) drama they’re worth, from Meredith’s long-distance relationship to ex-teacher gone surgeon abroad (Audrey, played by Margot Robbie) to tree-hugging protester camp leader Woody’s (Nick Frost) high-as-hell industrial opposition. The mystery of Will’s ex-roommate who hung himself with a necktie or heaps of anti-fracking commentary. Mills and co-writer Henry Fitzherbert issue a rotating door policy when it comes to whose character’s arc is most important at any given time – Clemsie rescuing her brother from his “God” inauguration Grecian orgy, Wootton’s (Kit Connor) inability to pass Slaughterhouse’s historical test, etc. – to the point where one might question if monsters have been forgotten altogether. Certainly not lean-and-mean when it comes to pacing.
A cast featuring Butterfield’s wry cynicism and Harries’ sadistic bullying cadet sell Slaughterhouse Rulez above it’s messier tangential means. As Pegg screams at his underclassmen and Cole professes his love for unattainable beauty, ensemble benefits exude personality amidst inexplicable karmatic beast slaying. Sheen delivers quite the pompous inauguration speech as a robed authority figure within Slaughterhouse’s hallowed walls, while Frost’s mushroom-munchin’ advocate for “Eco Doomsday” is forced to navigate a stony labyrinth based on Slaughterhouse’s legendary background. Players are a rag-tag, all-cliques mishmosh who make scenes more fun than they otherwise might have been on a weaker budget. Temper expectations by expecting more outlandish performing focus past the film’s halfway market, but rest easy knowing actors keep pre-escape buildups interesting: profitable contract coverups, romantic fling heartbreak, secret relationships, all of it.
Slaughterhouse Rulez is splattery, gruesome fun once Don Wallace must fend off cave-dwelling animals freed by our own worst impulses. Greed corrupts, environmental damage begets equally angry consequences, and fracking only spells a carnivorous end to humanity. Quite the scenario, but not without pacing issues that withhold genre-coated outbursts until we’ve endured schoolyard dramatics meant to serve up payoffs that erase their prolonged introductions. Cinematography is clear during action chaos (less once we enter psychedelic monster vision), performances wound tight, and Crispian Mills proves capable of handling wild sci-fi aggression that bites back – it’s just more than some will be willing to chew. Man vs. beast exploitation that abides by time-honored rules but misbehaves in the right (deathly) ways (when allowed).
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Slaughterhouse Rules arrived on Digital and in select theaters in the U.S. on May 17th and on DVD on June 18th.
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd (@DoNatoBomb).