In the sleepy American town of Lakeside, a group of wisecracking teenagers like to party on a night near old man Lester's (Don Barrett) rundown slaughterhouse. The place has been ailing since his ex-employee Tom (Bill Brisfield) set up a modern abattoir as competition.

One night an amorous pair of teens stay behind when their pals, led by local sheriff's daughter Lizzy (Sherry Leigh), decide to call it a night. They start making out, before the lad - Kevin (Joel Hoffman) - decides it would be good idea to disturb the slaughterhouse's pigs. This incenses Lester's hulking, simpleton son Buddy (Joe B Barton) so much that the lovers soon end up feeling the sharp edge of his axe.

Oblivious to this, Tom is in cahoots with Lester's lawyer Murdock (Lee Robinson), the pair of them hatching a plan to buy Lester's business from him. When the old geezer refuses to let his livelihood go - arguing that his old-fashioned methods are healthier and provide better value - Lizzy's dad, sheriff Borden (William Houck) is called in to serve the place with a compulsory order: it'll be forced to shut down in 30 days' time.

Unless ... Lester can hatch a plan of his own to get rid of Tom, Murdock and Borden. He plots to gather all three of them up at his slaughterhouse and put psychotic Buddy's axe-wielding skills to good use. But he didn't bank on the remaining teenagers returning with designs on making a no-budget horror movie on his land...

Strong echoes of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE are obvious throughout writer-director Rick Roessler's sole filmmaking effort. This 1987 film also exhibits ties to MOTHER'S DAY, with its backwoods family values and resistance against modern living (which is argued quite intelligently in the script); the merging of slasher horror and dark comedy echoes other late 80s fare like INTRUDER.

Teenagers sporting big perms and a penchant for PORKY'S style dialogue; characters using the term "radical" as an expression of approval; electro-pop and AOR tracks on the soundtrack ... I'm not sure SLAUGHTERHOUSE could be more of its era if it tried. But it all adds to the low budget charm: the film was apparently shot for just �110,000.00.

It's a weird film in terms of tone. There's definite comedy in the script, while Barrett and Barton are so cartoonish in their villainy that they appear to be playing their roles for laughs as much as shrieks. On the other hand, the gore is unapologetic and there are some really mean-spirited sequences. Also, the opening titles sequences - footage of pigs being ushered to their demise in a real slaughterhouse - has an oppressive, ugly horror about it that is only slightly offset by an ill-fitting bright and breezy score.

While the performances are a little too nondescript and the pace never quite strong enough to qualify SLAUGHTERHOUSE as a fondly remembered 80s genre flick, it has aged quite well. It perhaps came about too late to capitalise on the first-wave of slasher cinema, the genre having been effectively shattered before then by the redefining A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. But, looking at it retrospectively, it's not a bad little film. Even with all its fashion-crime 80s trappings...

Kudos to 88 Films for bringing this relatively unseen curio to the UK. On blu-ray, no less. Albeit as part of their "Slasher Classics" collection. Hmm, I'm not entirely sure that this will count as a classic in many people's eyes. But, what the heck, it's a fun film and it's great to see it getting released in HD.

Truth be told, the film still looks rough around the edges. The picture quality is darker and softer than your average HD transfer, and the print employed exhibits its fair share of damage. Grain is also quite heavy in places. But this is still the clearest and brightest this low budget film, shot on short ends of 35mm stock, has ever looked. It's presented as an MPEG4-AVC file in full 1080p HD, and in 16x9 widescreen (1.85:1). It's also worth pointing out that the film is fully uncut here (its original UK video release from Braveworld in 1989 was trimmed by almost 3 minutes ...).

English audio gets the LPCM stereo treatment, offering a fine balance between channels. Dialogue, sound design and score are all treated to clean and consistent playback.

The disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, a scene selection menu lends access to the film via 12 chapters.

I didn't expect much in the way of bonus features for SLAUGHTERHOUSE. However, what we get is most pleasing.

They begin with an engaging audio commentary track from producer Jerry Encoe and Roessler

We learn how: the opening abattoir footage was shot in Oregon, while the bulk of the film was shot in South California; the uses of a turkey baster when shooting low budget gore scenes; the ending was rushed because the production ran out of money; the town of Lakeside really exists and was used for exteriors; Barton stood on apple carts and the like to help disguise his diminutive stature and make him appear more hulking; three locations were used for the slaughterhouse interiors...

Despite frequent pregnant pauses, this emerges as an informative and highly listenable track.

Roessler also pops up in an archive, pillar-boxed interview from 1998, to speak about how his original idea from 1983 blossomed into the film. He's a lot more animated here than he sounds on the commentary track, and injects a lot of welcome humour into this affable 15-minute address to camera.

Encoe is also featured in his own archive 10-minute interview, and is a lot more serious in tone. He explains how he and Roessler had previously made training films in the Navy and hoped to break into the movie industry by making a horror picture.

11 minutes of "raw on-set" material amounts to a selection of enjoyable outtakes.

"Buddy Meets the Public" is a 25-minute featurette following Barton at a convention gathering in the late 90s. It's shot on handheld video camera but is a well-natured account of the man signing autographs, waving a mock axe around, arm-wrestling fans and so forth.

The film's original 2-minute theatrical trailer benefits from a great voiceover, while 2 further minutes of original US TV spots manage to suggest a darker tone than the film actually has.

There's a wonderful 28-second advert included here too, which originally ran in theatres stateside prior to SLAUGHTERHOUSE's screening, in which Barton and Barrett encourage patrons to refrain from smoking.

Oh, and what 88 Films release would be complete without the usual reel of trailers for other titles in their roster? The 22-minute run here includes previews for PUPPET MASTER, PIT AND THE PENDULUM, DEMONIC TOYS, BLOODY BIRTHDAY etc ... All very good, but it would be nice 88 Films were to update this reel now, as they've been adding some fantastic titles to their catalogue of late.

Also forming part of this impressive package are double-sided cover artwork and a collector's booklet (unavailable for review purposes).

SLAUGHTERHOUSE gets treated well on 88 Films' release and comes recommended.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by 88 Films
Region B
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review