Before you delve into this review, be sure to take a look at the rest of the Halloween marathon!
Throughout the latter half of 2017 and the first half of 2018, fans of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were treated to regular updates they received after the creation of Pegg and Frosts’ production company Stolen Pictures. Constant reports of the pair’s first horror movie together since Shaun of the Dead had fans buzzing with excitement for the release of the company’s first movie and another team-up from the duo in Slaughterhouse Rulez.
As the cast was announced and posters and trailers were released, excitement grew more. Then the film was released. Making just over £700,000 on a 5-million budget. A complete box office bomb. But why?
Slaughterhouse Rulez is directed by Crispian Mills from a script written by himself and Henry Fitzherbert. It follows Don Wallace, a lay about lower-class teen who’s accepted into a middle-class school (almost like a reverse of The Inbetweeners). Upon arrival, it’s clear the school is a battleground for class warfare, rules set to benefit the higher class and filled to the brim with cliques. It’s an extremely over-the-top depiction of a boarding school done without a single hint of subtlety. Every actor playing up their role as though the characters were imagined by a five-year-old.
Soon after, we’re introduced to the characters of the school and have the plot shoved in our face via a group of protestors bursting into the school hall, protesting about the fracking sight on school grounds and its effects on the climate. It’s a pretty good message, all things considered.
Sadly the film’s message of ‘fracking is bad, climate is important’ seems like it was merely placed in as the filmmakers knew they needed a good message. Besides this, the handling of the situation, the protestors etc. feels like it was written by a baby boomer. It’s very dismissive of its cause and goes out of its way to laugh at (not with) those who are protesting it. Worst of the bunch is in the group’s second in command, who also happens to be the lone Scottish castmate of the film. He’s introduced as a stereotypical hippy and almost immediately dismissed, beaten up by members of the school.
He follows a long line of Scottish actors who are cast in English productions, usually in a degrading role, just to be laughed at. Even a filmmaker as respectable as Ken Loach is guilty of this, with his movie I, Daniel Blake whose one Scottish cast member portrays a homeless drunkard who makes a fool of himself.
As the rest of the school year carries on, as does the film, and we see more of the characters. Don is introduced to his roommate Willoughby (Asa Butterfield) and it’s revealed that Willoughby’s former roommate committed suicide via hanging from his school tie, due to schoolmates threatening to reveal his hidden sexuality to his parents. Butterfield shows how emotional he is about the situation by looking at his bed for about two seconds. Later in the story, it’s revealed that Willoughby and his old roommate were lovers. Butterfield shows even further range by giving a longing look into the distance.
Speaking of Asa Butterfield, this was possibly his worst performance to date. There’s no doubt that Mills’ direction had a lot to do with it as Butterfield has shown his acting ability many times before, but he clearly isn’t trying very hard in this movie. Frankly, many others feel the same.
Nick Frost and Simon Pegg display their worst performances. Both of which are due to the truly awful writing of their characters. However, lucky for them, one bad performance in a bad movie means nothing. This film could very likely have been the final nail in the coffin for Butterfield’s career, having chosen so many awful choices after his role in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. Thank god Sex Education came along just in time.
The final straw for Willoughby’s character comes when he just can’t handle his ex’s death any longer, downs some vodka and sets up his own suicide. He ties a school tie in a noose around his neck while standing on a chair and then decides to try and shoot himself. Now, a character’s death is a big deal in a movie and suicide is an extremely serious issue, but this scene… this scene is just. So. Dumb.
Who the hell would possibly go through the trouble of making their own noose, standing on the chair, tying the noose around their neck, just to shoot themselves? It makes absolutely no sense and seems overly complicated. Luckily Don saves Willoughby at the last moment but from then on the very serious suicide attempt is merely a footnote and put down as Willoughby not being able to hold his alcohol. It’s extremely disrespectful and terrible writing.
Finding out how this movie got made is truly mind-numbing. Pegg and Frost are genuinely smart and funny guys, so why they thought this movie was a good first for their production company is beyond anyone.
The filmmakers even failed to have a genuine protagonist of the film. There are main characters, sure, but there’s not one character who goes through a genuine change throughout the film. The most basic rule of screenwriting and they couldn’t even do that.
Slaughterhouse Rulez is a total mess of a film. Frankly, calling it a film feels disrespectful to cinema. It’s not well made, it’s out of touch, it isn’t funny and it isn’t scary. Nothing. There’s nothing good about this movie. Even the important message on fracking/the climate crisis is dealt with so little grace that even that’s a negative within itself. Truly one of the worst movies ever made.
Rating = 0 stars