Slaughterhouse Rulez (2018)
Directed by: Crispian Mills
Written by: Crispian Mills, Henry Fitzherbert, Luke Passmore, Crispian Mills & Henry Fitzherbert
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Finn Cole, Hanako Footman, Hermione Corfield, Isabella Laughland, Jamie Blackley, Jo Hartley, Michael Sheen, Nick Frost & Simon Pegg.
Remember when Simon Pegg and Nick Frost did cool, relevant and funny films that often redefined a genre and deconstructed tropes? Well I do, and Slaughterhouse Rulez isn’t one of those films. Crispian Mills is in the driving seat for this comedy horror flick, and he drives the whole thing straight into a sink hole. There are allusions here to Harry Potter, and classic British cult movie If, but unfortunately there is no chance that this mess is ever going to achieve the status those previous outings have. It’s the first film from Pegg and Frost’s production company Stolen Film, but there is very little here that is either original, clever or funny.
The plot sees an upmarket private school, filled with every single cliche you can think of about private schools, becoming the center of a dodgy fracking site that seems to have released ancient dog like creatures into the world, and only a team of misfit students stand between them and a deadly ancient evil. Pegg is a drunk teacher constantly face timing his cheating philanthropist ex while Michael Sheen is the head master benefiting from the malicious fracking company. Finn Cole plays new boy Don Wallace, sent to the school against his wishes and trying to find his place in this unsettling new world.
The main problem with the film, is it seems to be trying hard to be too many things at the same time. The characters are over the top 2 dimensional stooges, the comedy is often misjudged with set pieces simply not being funny, the horror and effects are fine but it’s impossible to take anything that happens seriously as you are unable to invest in the characters, the premise really lacks any substance as we don’t really know why Don has been sent to the school in the first place, and there are so many plot holes that it’s hard to suspend belief at any given time. Had they approached the film differently and set a consistent tone, then we may have been able to invest more in what was happening, but the tonal shifts are jarring and the observations about private schools has been done a million times before, and much better.
Director Mills also seems to be channeling Edgar Wright’s style, perhaps in an attempt to catch magic in a bottle a la Shaun Of The Dead, but it’s so badly done, it all looks like a cheap sketch. By the end of the third reel, I just wanted it to end, with the cast limping from one chase to another and the gore level turned up to 11. The audience I watched it with also became restless, as they all seemed to be losing faith, and concentration with what was unfolding before them. There must have been a point where this looked like a good idea on paper, and perhaps with the right direction it could have worked.
The first act should have been played with more emphasis on the dark side of the school, the secrets it keeps and the horror of British private education life. By playing the set up straight, and holding back the easy cheap laughs, there could have been a real turning point in the 3rd act when the madness erupts and all hell is let loose. Remember your shock when Dusk Till dawn suddenly U turned and blew everyone away? This could have went down that road, and in my opinion, that would have been a better approach.
Pegg, Sheen and Frost should have dialed everything back and saved it all up big for the end. Instead we get pantomime performances that refuse to let us believe even for a moment that what we were watching could have been a dark and sinister twisted comedy, with cult status written all over it. Instead we get a teenage comedy horror, with a 15 rating that tries too hard to be too many things and ends up being a hotch pot of nothing.