Abattoir is a horror film with several great things working in its corner. For starters, genre favorite Lin Shaye is on the bill, and though she isn’t in the film as frequently as I imagined she would be, it’s still a pleasure to see her for any amount of allotted time. Secondly, the film was crafted by an experienced horror director with Darren Lynn Bousman having directed three installments of the Saw franchise in addition to films such as Repo! The Genetic Opera and a segment in the Tales of Halloween anthology. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the title translates to “a slaughterhouse” and the film is about a haunted house that’s been constructed from murder rooms. What?! There’s no way Abattoir could be disappointing, right?
For all of its ambition, Abattoir is quite unfortunately flawed in several ways. That’s not to say this is a terrible film, however. Though hardly the horror film I was expecting until the tail-end of the runtime, Abattoir presents viewers with an interesting enough noir premise about a real estate reporter (Jessica Lowndes) who is driven to investigate the murderously constructed house of Jebediah Crone (if I had a nickel for every time a sinister dude was named “Jebediah”, I swear I wouldn’t be stingy) – played by Sons of Anarchy‘s Dayton Callie in a role that feels 30% inspired and 70% miscast – all the while being involved in a complicated romantic subplot with a relatively angry detective (played quite well actually by the ever-reliable and underappreciated Joe Anderson). The tone of the film alone is enough to carry Abattoir far from the reach of “bad film” territory. This is the type of film you catch on cable while attempting to couch-nap on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Though you may find yourself fighting sleep to remain invested in the story, it’s tough to imagine putting this on for any other occasion.
Much of this is due to the fact that basically nothing happens until there are only twenty minutes left in the film. It’s competently made, sure. The direction by Bousman is fine and the performances are by and large better than the bland characters themselves, but overall, the film lets down the talent. Jebediah Crone builds to give his family and town purpose, but Abattoir itself builds to essentially nothing. The slaughterhouse in question isn’t even seen for the first time until there are 25 minutes remaining in the film, and once it’s introduced, the horror waiting inside is of the “been there, done that” variety. There’s a compelling concept and mystery at the center of Abattoir, however, as that mystery begins to unravel, it’s clear that the story is but a ghost of far better films.