Les Bacon yearns for the good old days of skilled craftsmen and sharp knives. The heck with today's automated slaughterhouses, he tells creditors pressing him to sell his dilapidated factory. He's always been a hands-on sort of guy and one with a conscience to boot. "I'd never allow 30 percent fat ... clogging up all those young people's arteries."
Of course, Les' son Buddy is soon severing many of those same arteries with a cleaver -- and not just a cleaver, but a major-league cleaver. Les doesn't get mad when Buddy starts slicing and dicing anyone who stumbles onto the family turf. "At least you made good, clean cuts," he says proudly. Buddy's something of a hog himself -- 360 pounds, with a vocabulary limited to screeches and snorts (you lie down with pigs, apparently you talk like a pig, as well as smell like one). Can the World Wrestling Federation be far behind?
"He's a good boy," beams Dad, "but he has his basic hygiene problem." So does this film, but then again, whaddaya expect from a movie called "Slaughterhouse?" A treatise on the evils of automation it's not.
Rick Roessler, who wrote the script and directed, has a perfect setting and a decent premise, but doesn't know what to do with either. Roessler can't decide if he wants the perverse irony of "Motel Hell" or the goremongering of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," so he ends up with a standard amount of bloodletting and no point of view. In fact, the grossest parts of the movie are the opening scenes when the automated slaughterhouse is shown in action. Ninety minutes of that would set you off hot dogs, for sure.
The plot revolves around the Characteristic Victims -- a half dozen teen-agers, two policemen and assorted others who will for the most part end up on the sharp end of a meat hook -- caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most of the action occurs in the slaughterhouse, which is vast, spooky and definitely not the kind of place anybody's going to seek out after this particular film. There are a few attempts at macabre ambiance a` la "Texas Chainsaw Massacre II" and a dozen other genre films, but Roessler usually opts for the cheap shot and the cheap thrill. Nowhere is this more true than in the final freeze frame, which suggests we can expect "Slaughterhouse II." The only mystery: Will Kurt Vonnegut sue when they get to the fourth sequel?
Slaughterhouse, at area theaters, is rated "R" and contains gruesome scenes of violence -- but, thank heavens, no nudity.