Thursday, December 08, 2016

Bousman’s Abattoir

New Yorkers will need little convincing of the real estate industry’s evilness. However, the sort of flipping reporter Julia Talben uncovers will be a new one on them. A mysterious holding company is buying up crime scene houses and removing the murder rooms before re-selling cheap. The story gets personal for Talben when it happens to her late sister’s house. The trail leads her to the fixer-upper from Hell (more or less literally) in Darren Lynn Bousman’s Abattoir (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in Los Angeles.

Talben is understandably devastated when her sister, brother-in-law, and sickly nephew are murdered by a home invader, especially since the poor boy never really had a chance to enjoy life. To add salt to the wounds, the bank sells their house suspiciously, nearly impossibly quickly soon thereafter. It turns out the purchaser is a holding company with a record of these sort of transactions. Generally, the shady outfit only hangs onto properties long enough to somehow remove the rooms of infamy. It also happens to be registered in the same depressed [post-] industrial town that Talben traced her birth mother to, in hopes of finding a donor match for her nephew.

The locals are not exactly friendly. In fact, the sheriff keeps trying to run her off. Yet, he is probably the friendliest of the lot, except perhaps Allie, the proprietor of the world’s most available bed-and-breakfast, who shelters Talben until her on-and-off cop boyfriend Declan Grady arrives to back her up. It turns out the town is under the malevolent sway of demonic cult leader Jebidiah Crone, who is about as sinister as his name suggests.

Abattoir is set in the world of (but not adapted from) Bousman’s limited graphic novel series of the same name. It definitely helps having such a richly eerie backstory pre-established and ready to be applied. Although Bousman slightly loses sight of the human element during the big, woo-woo special effects climax, the film is mostly a character driven affair, which is why it gets so creepy.

Jessica Lowndes and Joe Anderson have surprisingly snappy chemistry together as Talben and Grady. However, the film really belongs to the crafty old timers. Lin Shaye’s Allie keeps viewer completely off-balance, whereas Dayton Callie chews the scenery with menacing authority as Crone. John McConnell adds further screwed-up small town color as the less than reassuring sheriff and Michael Paré even turns up briefly as the murderer of Talben’s family.

Granted, Abattoir falls apart at the end, but that is oh so typical of the genre. For at least eighty percent of the film, it is a first-class example of moody, suspenseful story-telling and intriguing dark fantasy world-building. Vastly superior to his Saw franchise installments and his Grand Guignol excesses, like Repo: The Genetic Opera, Abattoir is probably Bousman’s best film to-date. Recommended without caveats for horror fans, it opens tomorrow (12/9) at the Arena Cinelounge in LA and the AMC Westminster in Colorado.