When you title your horror movie “Abattoir” you’re building in certain…expectations.
Lots of blood, for starters. And while there’s plenty of it in this adaptation of a comic book, there isn’t exactly a slaughterhouse full of it.
Director Darren Lynn Bousman (assorted “Saw” sequels) toys with the idea of a lurid, stylistic “faithful” comic adaptation here. He works from a script that clings to the pungent, minimalist zingers that stand out on the page, giving the voice over narration (not enough of it) to the villain, hurling all manner of design and effects flourishes into an impressive finale.
And hanging your picture on veteran Scottish character player Dayton Callie (“Sons of Anarchy,” “Deadwood”) is a solid choice. He plays a small town hustler/preacher with a sideshow barker’s spiel, a man who dresses out of his time and yet who has conned the village of New English into some sort of deal with the Devil.
“He went to Hell. He brought back its SECRETS!”
But the movie is let down by a meandering story and two good-looking but uninteresting and out-of-their-depth leads.
Crone’s “secrets involve Preacher Jebediah Crone (LOL) tracking down, buying and flipping houses where awful murders take place. His “Revelation Holdings” strips the “murder room” out of each house before it is resold, an old trick if you’ve ever watched an HGTV show on folks who flip for a living.
Intrepid reporter Julie (Jessica Lowndes) resents the fact that her newspaper won’t let her do crime reporting. “Doug’s on crime,” her salty editor (Bryan Batt) hisses. “He’s got scars. You’ve got ambition and perfect skin.”
But she also has a source, a sometime beau/cop played by Joe Anderson. And when her sister’s family is slaughtered, Det. Grady and Julie start looking into why their house resold so quickly, and why the blood-spattered “murder room” is missing.
Their search leads them to this Revelation Holding front, and then into the boondocks, where sleepy New English is filled with scary characters. Of course horror dowager Lin Shaye is one of them.
“You SCARED me!”
“I have that effect on people.”
Will out two diggers find the answers they seek, or is this dead-end dump literally the end of the road for them?
This Louisiana production feels somewhat unstuck in time and geography. Costumes of different eras, cars of various vintages, topographical establishing shots that muddy up the locale, a “ghost town” that just looks like an abandoned cement factory — with a few cute bungalows somehow around the edges — all give it that comic book “Everyworld/Days of Future Past” look.
Callie rattles through his mesmerizing sermons/come-ons.
The germ of an interesting idea was here, and the collection of murder rooms makes for a dazzling third act setting.
But the movie flatlines every time a chewy supporting player (Michael Pare is another) isn’t on the screen. The leads are dull and so rattled in some line-readings as to make you wonder if English is their second language.
Lowndes has some quips about “Glengarry Glen Ross” real estate hustlers (J. LaRose) that sound as if she’s just been handed them on a note card, and doesn’t understand what she’s saying.
Anderson is similarly clumsy with the Mother Tongue. An elm tree becomes “el-um” and “Realtor” — well, heck kids, what ARE you spending your movie money on if not housing?
MPAA Rating: graphic violence, profanity
Cast:Jessica Lowndes, Joe Anderson, Dayton Callie, Lin Shaye, Michael Pare
Credits:Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman script by Christopher Monfette, based on the Radical comic book series. An eOne/Momentum release.
Running time: 1:38