Originally released in 2010, Butchered is an attempt to recreate the feel of slasher films such as Halloween and the Friday the Thirteenth franchises, both of which contributed to the creation of the “immortal murderer,” a juggernaut of a man who kills but cannot be killed. Directed by Charles Steward Jr. with co-directors Sheila Brothers and Shaun O’Rourke, the movie does okay with what budget it has, but hardcore horror fans will find the visuals are simply too tame. Such skittishness when it comes to the “meat and potatoes” of slasher movies makes Butchered a rather weak entry in the genre.
The story starts off promising, as serial killer Terence Skinner (D.K. Naylor) escapes the custody of penitentiary guards transferring him from one facility to another. Two deputy sheriffs quickly pursue Skinner, releasing their police hound to take him down. Skinner is no slouch, however, and he quickly dispatches the poor dog and both guards (lifting one up as homage to Michael Myers, no less). Known as the “Butcher” in the media, Skinner then makes his way to a city, where he takes down several victims with his preferred weapon, an axe.
The movie then switches gears, focusing on a group of teens who decide to spend their final weekend before graduation on a deserted part of an island. There’s the usual bunch of “teens” (the actors are older), including the kid who does not want to follow in his father’s footsteps (no to fisherman—yes to high-powered attorney, courtesy of Stanford), the muscle who is about to join the military, the idiot who loves to party, and of course plenty of curvy girls in short-shorts and later in bikinis.
The flick then spends quite a bit of time setting up several dramatic sequences that bog down the action. Time is spent at a house party, with the usual shenanigans countered with melodrama, the obligatory scene of the kid telling his dad (and later his older brother) that he does not want to be a fisherman, and more time with the idiot working to get the shorts off the girls.
While all this is going on, the movie switches to the Butcher, who has now come onto the island and finds that there are plenty of stupid victims available. Grabbing his axe, he begins to systematically take out the poor kids, some of whom try to confront the man with the axe and pay the price. The final reel has the older brothers of two of the kids coming to the rescue, only to have one final battle with the Butcher. As is typical with these sorts of movies, the Butcher is supposedly killed, only to come back one final time during the movie’s coda.
At face value, Butchered is a snooze fest. The principal problem with the movie is that it is surprisingly bloodless. There is no gore, all of the kills are of the cutaway type, and the actors fail to communicate genuine fear. There’s a lack of directorial technique throughout the movie, so that there is little to no tension on the screen. Although some of the actors do quite well, there are a few meatheads who overact and thus bring down the movie. Not helping matters is some rather inane dialogue—there are some sequences where the actors smile through the poor dialogue they are asked to recite.
The movie’s budget should not be an issue, as other filmmakers have made low-budget slashers that work. The key is to go big—if there are no funds for gore, then by all means create horrid scenes filled with tension. There is some nudity in the movie, and even a hint of torture in the opening credits sequence, but nothing like the torture porn of today’s modern horror movies.
Hardcore horror fans will recognize that the filmmakers here pay homage to quite a few horror films, from Exorcist III and Friday the Thirteenth to Jaws and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. These nods are fun, but they are not worth sitting through this movie.
Butchered is not worth watching and will aggravate those who can see what could have been done to make for a better “shashing” experience. The movie can be found as part of the Backwoods Butchers compilation, which collects six movies with a similar theme.