DVD REVIEW: BECKONING THE BUTCHER / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: DALE TROTT / SCREENPLAY: DALE TROTT / STARRING: DAMIEN E. LIPP, STEPHANIE MAURO, SOPHIE WRIGHT, TRISTAN BARR, TILLY LEGGE / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 13TH
From El Mariachi to 28 Days Later, recent cinema history is littered with inexpensive but hugely successful breakout movies. And thanks to The Blair Witch Project, the “found footage” genre has given film-makers a cheap but potentially effective means of getting their independent flicks produced even on the lowest of budgets. However, there are now so many of these doing the circuit, anyone making a found footage film would have to either bring something new to the genre, or find a story that could only be told using the particulars of format. Australian entry Beckoning the Butcher, part-financed through Indiegogo, is hardly at the forefront of innovation; it does, nevertheless, use the format wisely, and the premise is ideally suited to the form.
Chris Shaw (Lipp) has a growing online reputation for posting home movies of Satanic ceremonies he has unearthed in the darkest corners of the web. For his latest project, he and four friends take off to an abandoned house in the outback to perform the eponymous ritual – and it’s scarcely a spoiler to say that things don’t go quite as innocuously as usual.
We’ve all seen any number of films in which a bunch of attractive young people at an isolated location get picked off one by one by a mysterious killer, generally unmasked at the end of the final act. But the number of subtle differences here is quite impressive. While the location in which the friends find themselves is as run down as you might expect, it’s hardly the Gothic mansion or the dilapidated shack of your average teen horror flick. And the kids themselves are a relatively unassuming, likeable bunch. There’s no wild partying, precious little alcohol consumption and no illicit sex, and indeed for the first half an hour they’re a pretty dull bunch – although you’re never given a good reason to wish any of them dead, either.
What follows in the last third is mostly consistent with the premise, and includes a couple of modestly achieved jump shocks that will have you leaping from your seat. The performances, from a group of largely untested actors, are uniformly excellent, and a number of elements are prudently left to the imagination.
Shrewdly, Beckoning the Butcher is presented as a documentary, the use of post-mayhem interviews intercut with the location footage saving it from feeling like an overambitious home movie, while allowing for an uncontrived surprise ending. These sequences might not work as well as the rest of the film – it’s difficult to capture naturalism in as contrived an environment as a staged interview – but they do succeed in breaking up the necessarily unkempt found footage elements.
A qualified and surprisingly agreeable success.
Extras: commentary, deleted scenes.