Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #520
Also known as Pig Farm Massacre, Bacon Bits
Number of Views: One
Release Date: January 1987
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 85 minutes
Director: Rick Roessler
Producer: Ron Matonak
Screenplay: Rick Roessler
Special Effects: Robert Roscoe
Cinematography: Richard Benda
Score: Joseph Garrison
Editing: Sergio Uribe
Studio: American Artists, Embassy Home Entertainment
Distributor: American Artists
Stars: Joe B. Barton, Don Barrett, Sherry Leigh, William Houck, Bill Brinsfield, Jeff Wright, Jason Collier, Jeff Grossi, Hank Gum, Linda Harris, Jane Higginson, Joel Hoffman, Courtney Lercara, Tom Normand, Lee Robinson, Jeanette Saylor, Erich Schwarz, Donna Stevens, Herb Pender
Suggested Audio Candy
 Vantage Point “In The House”
 Vantage Point “Walk Through The Door”
I regularly speak of the eighties being a monumental period for horror cinema and it certainly had its fair share of success stories. However, for as much as I recall the decade with a wide smile and warm cockles, it wasn’t all bloodbaths and foam parties. While the first five years were overspilling with indisputable highlights, the tail-end was far less eventful and, by the time the dreaded nineties loomed large, the once thriving genre had pretty much reached a stand still. 1987 wasn’t quite that barren and still managed to produce the likes of Hellraiser, Evil Dead II, The Lost Boys, Near Dark, Anguish and Stagefright amongst others. But the writing was already on the wall by that point.
Among the numerous lesser-known silage that surfaced that year was Rick Roessler’s Slaughterhouse. Arriving over a decade too late to take advantage of the buzz surrounding Tobe Hooper’s exploitation classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it was in and out of theaters in the time it takes Justin Bieber to fill a mop bucket with piss and had to rely on the video rental market to find itself an audience. Sadly, despite boasting some rather wonderful cover art depicting its hulking killer grasping a similarly hefty meat cleaver as sweetener, that never really came about. Roessler planned and even wrote the treatment for a sequel but failed to find anyone willing to back it and consequently never took to the director’s chair again.
It’s hard to say why Slaughterhouse disappeared without trace but it certainly didn’t help that the whole slasher scene, in particular, was dying a death by the time 350 lb bearded porker Buddy Bacon entered the fray. However, one thing Roessler can’t be accused of is getting it wrong with his setting. There is something decidedly ominous about meat-packing plants that makes for the ideal slayground. I still recall watching Richard Linklater’s Fast Food Nation for the first and only time and his scathing fictionalized exposé of the junk food industry featured harrowing scenes shot inside a real abattoir. Consequently, it was some time until my next quarter pounder, I can tell you. There seem few better places for a psychopath to do his foul bidding than one boasting blood-stained walls and meat hooks populated with pig jackets sliced open from asshole to appetite.
Slaughterhouse wastes no time in repulsing its audience as, after a routine first blood opening, the credits play out over the backdrop of an authentic pig farm massacre. We watch on as numerous hogs are cut down to size, curiously accompanied by the kind of yeehaw rockabilly title music that would open a Russ Meyer flick. It is then that it becomes clear that Roessler has opted for a tongue-in-cheek approach and this is perhaps where he alienated a fair share of his target demographic in one fell swoop. Despite never claiming to take itself too seriously, his cast play it straight and thankfully things never veer into downright parody. Hell, he even throws in a dash of admittedly skimpy social commentary, highlighting the plight of the honest hard-working little man when faced with the relentlessly plundering Trojan horse that is American industry.
However, that’s about as close as we come to anything resembling a statement and, instead, Roesller’s film plays out more like your traditional slasher once it decides to fall into formation. First off, we are introduced to the aptly named and barely hinged land owner of a now-defunct pig pen, Lester Bacon (Don Barrett), and the soiled fruit of his loins Buddy (Joe B. Barton). After being paid a visit by bad new bearer Sheriff Borden (William Houck) and big shot partners in crime Sandford (Bill Brinsfield) and Murdock (Lee Robinson) and informed of the abattoir’s imminent foreclosure, Lester decides it is high time he take action against the swines in question the only way he knows how…by letting his socially stunted son off his leash and giving him the green light to go hog-wild.
“My God, boy, what have you done? Why… why? You mean they were messin’ with your pigs? Jesus Christ, boy, you can’t just slaughter people ’cause they were messin’ with your hogs! Now we’re in a heap of trouble. Ah, shit… I buy you a new drum-bunker cleaver for your birthday, and this is how you repay me? Sometimes you really piss me off. At least you made good, clean cuts.”
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s typically cute as a chinchilla co-ed daughter Liz (Sherry Leigh) and her three typically easy on the eye pals (who may as well be called Cindy, Chet and Brad for all it matters) are preparing for a good old-fashioned small town American hoedown and, naturally, the most romantic location to stage your after party is the nearby pig locker right? Actually, these young entrepreneurs are planning, not only to sow their wild oats, but to shoot a horror flick. Bully for them, it just so happens that Buddy is looking to break into film and he’ll stop at nothing to land the leading role.
While it isn’t until the closing act that Slaughterhouse gets anywhere close to maintaining tempo, Roessler keeps the slaughter coming at regular enough intervals to prevent a walk-out and we get to spend time with our enigmatic killer, simply hang out, and do what any regular backward facing 350 lbs juggernaut does with all this down time. To Barton’s infinite credit, he makes for a rather lovable lunk and cannot help but win us over a little as sit alongside him in the straw, while he plays puppet master to expired roadkill, squealing like a pig in muck. By far his finest moment comes when he decides to joyride a cop car with sirens blazing, Dukes of Hazard-style, before performing a doughnut when passed by a handsome female motorist and pulling her over to dish out his own kind of justice.
While Buddy’s antics are undeniably charming, Slaughterhouse puts one pretty hefty size thirteen wrong. Both the title and box art suggest something of a bloodbath and, despite frequently using the numerous options at his disposal (oversized meat cleaver, meat hooks, and meat grinder), the all-important grue is regrettably thin on the ground. A fair share of the kills occur off-screen and fleeting glimpses of his oversized blade making actual contact are guilty of teasing far more than deliverance. When you bear in mind that this was no longer the seventies, Roessler could have slackened the reins a little more although, considering he did only have a slender kitty at his disposal, I’d be positively pig-headed busting his balls too much.
However, I regret to report that it all feels a little like a missed opportunity to me. The late-eighties was densely populated with struggling psycho killers. Horace Pinker and Max Jenke found it tough finding an audience, and Buddy certainly had the dense bone structure, domineering stance and twinkle in his eye to turn the tide in his favor. Ultimately Slaughterhouse fails to satisfy, somewhat ironically, like fast food itself. A few minutes of satisfaction aren’t enough to compensate for the lack of nutritional value on offer and eventually the smiles give way to a sadly empty feeling and mild gut rot. The most disappointing fact is that, had we been given more sloppy batter to lick from our finger tips after consumption, then he could have been onto something.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 5/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Credit where its due, Robert Roscoe does his level best with rather meager resources and there are a reasonable number of dispatches spread across its 85 minutes. A lopped off hand here, some minced meat there, and a lot of never quite gruesome enough after-the-fact injury detail is just not quite reason enough for us piggies to squeal. Harder to overlook is the lack of prime mutton on display as, cards on the table Grueheads, a little harmless nudity never harmed none right? When you consider the handsome menu options on the platter, it would have been a thought to offer up at least a dash of relish. Meyer would have given us plenty.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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