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John’s Horror Corner: Abattoir (2016), a horror noir that didn’t live up to the graphic novel and likely would make a cool horror videogame.

March 5, 2023

MY CALL: I just… didn’t enjoy this at all. So many great ideas here. But none of the execution to make it work.

Based on a graphic novel, director Darren Lynn Bousman’s (Saw II-IV, Mother’s Day, Spiral) opening credits have a very Se7en­ (1995)/Saw-ish (2004) flavor. Themes of homes, floorplans, neighborhoods and fly-on-the-wall POV bespeckle the montage overlayed by a noir-ish narration by Jebediah Crone (Dayton Callie; Sons of Anarchy, Fear the Walking Dead, Halloween II, The Devil’s Carnival) as people are murdered in the aforementioned rooms.

When one of the murders touches the life of investigative reporter Julia (Jessica Lowndes; The Haunting of Molly Hartley,AltitudeThe Devil’s Carnival), she teams up with a detective (Joe Anderson; The Ruins, The Crazies) to solve this case which makes less sense the more they learn.

Our reporter with that pin-up style hair and fire engine red lipstick, the detective with that hat and coat and antiquated swagger, and the dark narrator are all so dripping-noir that I was shocked to realize this occurred in present day and not the 1930s. That said, all of the other characters feel well grounded in contemporary reality. And weirdly, later in the movie our noirish characters become less noirish in terms of hair, wardrobe, etc. Not sure what happened there.

Julia’s murder investigation eventually links a chain of murders to homes in which the house was sold and renovated, completely stripping the walls and floors of the just the murder scenes, and selling them for a loss. The clues lead them to an unconventional minister Jebediah Crone, documented as going to morally questionable extremes to heal his congregation.

I thought all this sounded cool, too. What we see and hear in this movie, however, do not meet any glimmer of my expectations and rather disappoint me at every turn. Not sure how else to say it, but this movie is just not good. There’s a cool concept here—really cool. But the delivery just isn’t there. I can appreciate the style Bousman was trying to capture, but I’d say he missed it. Feels more like a soap opera horror in the first half, and ill-adapted videogame horror in the second half. Lin Shaye (The Grudge, CrittersInsidious 1-4A Nightmare on Elm StreetChillerama) appears as an exposition character, and while not a small role, it’s not impactful.

We end up in a cartoonish mega-house that is a gigantic collection of murder scene rooms populated by a collection of ghosts. Again, super cool idea. There is some dreadful ghost CGI that leaves a lot to be desired, and exploration of the house does not match the scale of its introductory imagery.

This movie really tries. But for me, it really fails at every turn. I just found it to be an overwhelmingly boring execution of an otherwise creative idea. But for the record, I can totally see how this idea would’ve worked so well as a graphic novel—as it likely would as a videogame, too. It just didn’t translate well… at least not with this attempt.

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