Butcher Boys

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Four teens out on the town celebrating a birthday run into the wrong people. Sissy (Ali Faulkner), her brother Mikey (Phillip Wolf) their friend Kenny (Matt Hensarling) and random, token slut Barbie (Tory Tompkins) have a chance encounter at a convenience store that sets off a violent chain of events. In a seedy part of San Antonio, a group of men begin relentlessly pursuing our teens. Why? Because they’re cannibals, that’s why.

Inspired by Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal these are the Boneboys; a motley group of men who are hunting human flesh. Some of them act like junkies and the leader, Bossboy (Johnny Walter) is a tall drink of water and a real smooth criminal. If you aren’t familiar with A Modest Proposal, I highly recommend checking it out; it really is a delightfully twisted read.

As our cannibals descend on their prey, the males are swiftly taken out while Sissy and Barbie are left to run around dark, back alleys. Alone. At this point, I feel compelled to admit that I only watched the first half of this movie on my first go and I’m about to tell you why. So, SPOILER ALERT. I’m about to get lengthy and preachy. You’ve been warned.

A film has to work pretty hard to offend me when it comes to using women as mere objects, but Barbie is one of the most offensively written slutty, unintelligent, disposable characters I have come across in a long time. Her greatest attribute is that she wants to make out with everyone. While running for her life, she literally runs into the boy whom she was making out with earlier in the film. Naturally, she screams and then exclaims,”what are you doing here? you’re totally hot” and proceeds to make out with him. I’m not kidding; this girl was just hiding in a locker, Texas Chainsaw 2003 style, fearing for her life and three seconds later, she is making out with this guy. What the what?! It gets better: when she realizes this group has only bad intentions towards her, she screams, ” I would have given all of you a blow job, but forget it!” When the guy who has been awarded the first go at her doesn’t immediately take charge, she slaps him and says, “what? are you gay?” Um, are we trying to make a world record of how many people we can offend in 20 seconds? Well, ┬áthank goodness for the super close boob shot we are treated to before Barbie is eaten alive. The boob shot is one of the worst cases of editing in nudity I’ve ever seen. Also, dumb question, can you scream when someone is ripping your throat out with their teeth? This would be when, upon first viewing, I began to run out of patience. As a woman who is constantly defending Eli Roth and his portrayal and use of women, I feel pretty good about my tolerance level when it comes to finding something so unbelievably misogynistic that I’m not even offended by it, I’m just annoyed that my intelligence has been insulted and my time has been wasted.

Meanwhile, Sissy, who is clearly meant to be a modern day Marilyn Burns, is ignored by the police and ditched by the group of thugs that only stopped so they could, I’m assuming, rape her; after they see who is chasing her, they jump back into their stereotypical SUV and speed away. Apparently, people who live on “the other side of the tracks” know all about the Boneboys and choose to turn the other cheek when privileged white girls are being hunted. Enter the real Marilyn Burns walking her dog: because all women walk their dog’s alone, at night, in their bathrobes, through the worst part of town where the Boneboys are known to hunt. Well, one of these boys decides to steal her dog and this would be the exact moment when I shut off the movie. Why are we stealing a dog from a nice lady? What is going on here?!

Alright…second viewing and, yes, I watched the beginning of the film again. It was all still annoying. Now, we enter into the second half of the film. The Boneboys have gone back home to J.Swift’s (get it?), a large building that holds jail cells full of women, some sort of after hours establishment and the headquarters of the Boneboys. Oh yeah, and a makeshift gynecological exam room. Yes, I said gynecological exam.

I really enjoy the soundtrack at this point. It kind of sounds like tribal music made with aluminum trash cans and dumpsters; its very cool and suits the setting perfectly. As Sissy navigates her way through this mishegas, there is also a clever use of security cameras to help move the story along that I really liked. It isn’t new or groundbreaking, but it was a nice visual change up.

Walter does a great job with Bossboy. I absolutely adored the way he looked and his demeanor and presence. He is that bad guy that you shouldn’t find attractive or humorous, but his masculine energy cannot be denied. Bossboy is not to be trifled with. It really felt as though Walter had a great time with this character and it’s infectious.

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Everything that happens at J. Swift’s is either an homage or a blatant rip off of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I will leave that up to the viewer to decide. We have a crazy dinner party, a chainsaw, someone who doesn’t seem to possess all of their mental faculties and a guy who likes to wear makeup. Yup, everyone is here. There is a super awesome, gory treat at the center of this dinner table; it really is a wonderfully gruesome sight to see and I would never ruin it for you. Faulkner also manages a pretty lovely Sally Hardesty moment towards the end of the movie. The last 9 minutes of Butcher Boys is some sort of statement on vegans crossed with the initial rapture/apocalypse scene in This Is The End, impregnated by Commando and influenced by John Waters. I say all of this as a huge compliment. I don’t know what was going on, but I loved every second of it.

I view this movie in two parts. The first half was an assault on my intelligence and my gender. The second half is a roaring good time. I love Sissy. She is a great entry into the Final Girl gamut. Faulkner plays her as smart, brave and tough, never screeching or annoying. Sissy is such a cool cucumber, she even keeps herself together when she runs into an older gentleman slathering his body in shortening. Yes, you read that correctly. The soundtrack is also pretty awesome. There are two uses of classical music that worked really, really well and as stated before, the industrial tribal music is cool. While I understand how the two parts of the story went together, I just cannot stomach that first half. It’s not gratuitous violence or nudity that bothers me; it’s the lazy writing of throwaway female characters who are only good for one thing. The fact that Butcher Boys is written by Kim Henkel (TCM 2003, TCM 1974, TCM:The Next Generation and TCM 3D) is what I find the most confusing. I love all of those movies. The Next Generation is a gem and I had tons of fun at TCM 3D. Directed by Duane Graves and Justin Meeks (The Wild Man of the Navidad) this entire movie is a giant celebration of Texas movie making. We are even graced with cameos by Marilyn Burns and Ed Guinn and a full role inhabited with crazy glee by Edwin Neal.

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Ultimately, the second half of this film is a crazy, violent and gory good time. I am very happy that I returned to the movie to see why it has such a fervent fan base. Some find it disturbing, but I found it to be humorous and in on it’s own joke. Despite all of the negativity I have thrown at Butcher Boys, I would recommend it; not to everyone, but to some. And the insanity that ensued at the end of the movie only makes me want to check out Graves and Meeks other movies.

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Butcher Boys is currently available on Netflix.

We Are What We Are (Somos Lo Que Hay)

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I came across We Are What We Are (Somos Lo Que Hay) this past summer; I found it to be a fascinating, multi layered, beautiful story. What is presented as the story of a family of cannibals is so, so much more. You can take this movie several different ways; you can simply watch a horror movie that does not rely on gore to tell it’s story, you can watch a horror story that also explores family relationships and dysfunction or you can really go all in and watch a horror movie that not only delves into family, but also into homosexuality and how it is, or isn’t, accepted.

Written and directed by Jorge Michel Grau, this is the story of a family who has just lost their patriarch. Though the religion or backstory behind the cannibalism is never explained, we understand that this family performs a yearly ritual that is to be overlooked by the man of the family. Seeing as how the father has unexpectedly passed away, this responsibility is supposed to go to the oldest son, Alfredo (Francisco Barreiro). Unfortunately, this is a family with a mother who is slowly losing her sanity, a younger brother who has a quick temper and a sister who is clearly the “leader”, but can never be in such a masculine culture. There is an undercurrent of subtle disgust and disappointment towards Alfredo that does not make sense until a little later in the movie. Alfredo does not necessarily want to take the leadership role, but he cannot leave it to his impulsive brother, Julian, either. His sister, Sabina, has convinced him that he is more than capable of leading the family, so, Alfredo and Julian go out to find a suitable sacrifice.

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Their lack of experience leads to some bumbling and embarrassing moments while trying to abduct people. One unfortunate choice will even lead to another character’s brutal demise. As the time for the ritual grows close, the discord in the family intensifies; the only thing that everyone agrees upon is the fact that the ritual must take place. Just when Alfredo looks as if he is going to give up, a chance encounter on the subway causes him to reassess his life. Alfredo instantly owns his power, his new role in his family and his sexuality. As a gay man, Alfredo is looked down upon for his “flaw”. When he brings home a boy for the ritual, his mother and brother both use the F word freely and with much hatred. It is then that Alfredo finally snaps and has a heartbreakingly honest conversation with his mother about his sexuality.

 

 

This movie was remade into an American and Americanized version with the gender roles all reversed. I have no shame in admitting that I prefer the original version. Why? Because this version is a slow burn horror movie that is more concerned with story; while there are moments of gore, they are reserved and well done. A lot of the violence in this movie is inferred rather than shown; I always find this to be a much more effective means of “showing” violence. All of us can identify and sympathize with complicated family relationships and we have all been touched by someone who is learning to be comfortable in their sexuality. I love that the social and cultural differences between men and women were shown and I especially loved that it was clear that the women were the strong ones. I had absolutely no idea that I would be watching a movie that had a message. Usually, I abhor a “message movie”, but this was handled with great care, respect, a fair representation of all sides and a non heavy hand. You can either see this side of the story, or you can ignore it. Either way, you will be investing in a family falling apart and doing only what they know in an effort to survive. Grau is not asking you to agree or disagree with any of the narratives or character arcs in this movie; he’s just illustrating a basic, human fact. We are what we are.

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We Are What We Are

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In an unusual and rare twist, I am mildly annoyed by a horror remake. We Are What We Are, directed by Jim Mickle (Stake Land), is a remake of the Mexican film of the same name. Now that this film is available on Netflix, Twitter has lit up with conversation about it. It seems to be the consensus that the remake is superior and the original is, simply, “meh”. I am absolutely gobsmacked by this. Why? Usually, I’m the one preaching tolerance and acceptance of remakes while the minority rallies against them; without even seeing them! After falling in love with the original film and all of it’s layered themes, I was beyond excited about an English language version and then I find out that the gender roles have been reversed?! Well, now I am so optimistic that it’s just stupid; and perhaps that was my biggest downfall.

We Are What We Are is the story of a family of cannibals that is living amongst us. Once a year, they perform a ritual in order to maintain their families’ survival. In this film, it is the mother who is the leader of the family. With a husband, two daughters and a young son, she leaves her family in a state of shock and panic when she unexpectedly passes away in a freak accident.┬áBecause the women are the ones in power, as it should be, the oldest daughter, Iris, will take on the responsibility of ensuring that the ritual is completed.

Iris (Amber Childers) is given a journal by her father Frank (Bill Sage); this contains the history of how her family came to this particular religious practice. Basically, what it comes down to, is the family was going to starve, so, Dad killed his brother and served him to his wife and daughters. He then told them that “all is forgiven in the eyes of The Lord”. Why a family who lives in a functioning, educated part of society would continue on with this practice is beyond me. It’s clear that the girls are not comfortable with it and they only comply out of familial obligation and good manners. It is their father, who married into the “faith”, that is insistent on perpetuating the cannibalism. He uses the word of The Lord as his defense, logic and reasoning. I try to not be offended when religion is used in flippant ways in horror movies, but this gets annoying and mildly offensive. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Who am I to argue with the word of The Lord, though?

This family lives in a small, tight knit community which brings up all kinds of problems. The local doctor finds some unusual symptoms in the mother during autopsy and then he finds human remains while walking his dog. His daughter is one of a few young girls that have gone missing in this community,so, he becomes a bit obsessive about putting all of the pieces together. All of this malarky culminates in a “shocking” ending that isn’t terribly shocking. In all seriousness, I cannot think of a more obvious solution for this family. For me, this movie was a bit too serious for it’s own good and relied too heavily on religion as a catch all reason for everyone’s behavior. I absolutely adore that Iris and her sister, Rose, were the ones who had the brains and the brawn, but they were still just caricatures of good girls.

Overall, this remake is a “better” movie than the original in the sense that it is more accessible,but that is exactly my problem with it. What I first saw as a horror movie with commentary on family and homosexuality was Americanized down so much that it simply became a story of a family that represents the token backwoods clan that we see all too often in horror. This family is surrounded by modern culture, religion, and societal values, yet continue in their anachronistic and barbaric ways. Why do these intelligent women do what they are told despite their obvious objections? The only thing that they did for themselves was the shocking ending. For me, this one was meh. I will take thought provoking story lines over recycled ones any day.

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