Abattoir is one of those movies that is hard to review. The plot is good, but moves a tad slow. The atmosphere and stylized film noir cinematography is mesmerizing, but won’t be something everyone will enjoy. The clothing and ’40s pulp dialogue is fun, but makes little sense as the film is written to take place in the present day. The goal was, of course, to make a horror film noir… but the director had no idea how to translate that idea into present day. This uneven styling unfortunately jerks the viewers out of the movie from time to time, as they sit there, scratching their heads, wondering why someone in 2016 is talking like a 1940s dime-store novel character.
Jessica Lowndes plays Julia, a real estate reporter wanting to move into investigative reporting. Her sister’s family is killed and the home’s sold within a week, with the room they were killed in removed. Julia investigates with detective boyfriend, Grady, played by Joe Anderson. Together, they find secrets in a town that involve human sacrifice and a murder house built out of murder rooms. The premise of the story is inventive, but the actual film drags this out and doesn’t properly exploit this inventive idea. Sure, once all is revealed, everything kicks up a notch, but you know, that takes about an hour before it happens. I also have to question why the director spent so little time allowing us to look inside his haunted house, once it is revealed. I would have liked to spend much more time roaming a home, made out of murder rooms. I also disliked that the main characters are just neutral pawns, to whom things happen… not characters that make things happen. This seems to be the way horror films are going these days.
The cinematography in this film is excellent. It’s a film that is beautiful to look at, with is stark contrast Chiaroscuro lighting. The town they travel to looks like it has been stopped in time. The sets were meticulously designed to be beautiful in an abandoned, lonely way. The clothing Jessica Lowndes wears is intriguing, while oddly out of place, at the same time. The film has an otherworldly sexy vibe. If beautiful camera shots, impeccable lighting and well-designed scenes are something you are into, this film will be among one of your favorite horror films to come out in some time. However, it is unfortunate that a large part of this film relies completely on atmosphere to hold it up.
All things taken into consideration, I really enjoyed this film. It was unique, even if it was poorly executed. It is just so visually and aesthetically compelling, a gothic noir tale of restless loss. The film is always just on the verge of being not just an OK film, but a great film that trips itself up in its inability to translate the noir style into modern-day storytelling. Perhaps the film was just a bit to much for director Darren Lynn Bousman to deliver without the backing of a major studio. A sequel is being planned and I hope that some of these problems weighing down this film will be corrected. This is no hastily thrown together horror film by someone hoping to quickly cash in on torture porn, but actual art, lovingly idealized by someone who is obviously a fan of the macabre. I look forward to watching Bousman grow as a director and think his idealized style will eventually successfully create the lofty concept he envisions.
I give Abattoir three stars out of five for the beautiful camera work, lightning and style. It’s a must see for fans of older stylized thrillers.
Abattoir is currently available as a rental movie on Amazon.