“Every town has secrets.”
A.k.a. The Butchering (USA)
Director/Writer: Leo McGuigan / Cast: Shaun Blaney, Jenna Byrne, Andrew Stanford, Diona Doherty, Ciaran McCourt, Vicky Allen, Joshua Colquhoun, Rachel Morton, Philip Rafferty, Natalie Curran, Stephanie Donaghue, Odhran McNulty, Brandon McCaffrey.
Body Count: 16
Laughter Lines: “Ready to be the final girl?”
During the rehearsal of a prank in Braxton Butcher, one character turns to another and says: “It’s too Scream 3, it should be more Scream 2.” And that pretty much sums up what this cute homage is all about. Leo McGuigan, only nineteen when he directed this, is clearly on Team VeVo in terms of ranking the Scream flicks in realising the second one is the best one. Minor spoilers ensue.
It’s a well established fact that the sexiest accent in the world is Irish. Those with a keener ear will be able to delineate between regions therein; but spades being spades, everyone in this film could drop my pants any second with just a few brief utterances. Ahem, anyway…
Cops are called to the Miller house in the small NI town of Braxton after the neighbours hear screams. There, they find Mom and Dad slain, laid out on the bed, their teenage son, Tommy, nowhere to be found. Instead he’s busy crashing a party at the town hall, where he slashes up a number of classmates, leaving survivors Ryan and Cora.
Ten years later – never nine, never eleven – the two have drifted apart: Ryan has grown up to become a detective, and Cora presents a local radio show. In a curveball turn of events, she and her bratty teen sister are slashed up by a mask and Parka wearing loon, leaving Ryan to investigate with the help of his new partner, Will.
News of the murder fascinates the local teens, who show no sign of calling off their town hall throwdown, even when their own peers begin getting sliced up. Ryan’s seventeen-year-old niece Julie is thrust into the centre of things, as she has a sort of Sidney-Billy on-off romance with Danny, who has been dating bitchy girl Claudia, who is seeing Oliver on the site, despite the fact he’s with Sarah. Confusing.
Clocking in just shy of two hours is ambitious for any slasher film, and Braxton veers into being quite talky here and there, with a lot of characters to keep track of, but McGuigan has clearly studied what works on a visual level and pushed these elements to the forefront, most commonly extended scenes of characters being stalked or chased. Sure, the budget is probably quite far south of Wes Craven’s but this is still leagues ahead of other recent British efforts that looked like local am-dram groups rented a camera and wrote a stalk n’ slash script in an afternoon: “Yeah, it just needs tits, lesbians, and some ketchup!”
The actors are all game – screaming at the right moments and not really making all the idiotic decisions expected of them in this genre, although the killer opts to terrorise female victims with more drawn out cat and mousery than the boys, who are largely victims of quick stab n’ go drive-bys. Vicky Allen is a hoot as bitchy Claudia, who would have VICTIM stamped on her forehead in any other film, but here is given the chance to redeem herself as the situation heads south.
I read a couple of effusive reviews that had me thinking I was about to see the next Cold Prey, which isn’t quite the case, but considering McGuigan’s tender age and the effort he and the crew appears to have put in, seeing beyond the usual pitfalls of making a teen-horror film, this deserves more exposure, if not only to see what is likely the beginnings of an impressive career.