Abattoir (2016)

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman   Writer: Christopher Monfette (screenplay)

Music: Mark Sayfritz  Cinematography: Michael Fimognari  Production Designer: Jennifer Spence

Starring: Jessica Lowndes, Joe Anderson, Dayton Callie, Lin Shay, Michael Pare, John McConnell

“Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned, rather than housed by them”   Henry David Thoreau.

  This movie is about Julia Talben ( Jessica Lowndes, “90210”), a reporter for a newspaper. While her boss insists she’s just a real estate reporter, she writes investigative crime articles instead. When a man named Richard Renshaw (Pare) kills her sister Amanda, brother-in-law Felix, and nephew Charlie, for an unknown reason, she vows to find the *why* behind the seemingly random murders. She works with cop and her ex-lover Declan Grady ( Joe Anderson, of “Outsiders” fame), to find the answers. Seems like a simple plot, one that’s been done to death, right? Wrong…this is more than standard.

She jumps on the case when she finds out Charlie’s room, where the three murders took place is gone. Yes, the *room* is gone. As she investigates other murders and suicides through history, she learns the rooms the violent acts took place in are gone. Just the rooms, not the house. When Julia goes to see Renshaw, to try and learn why he killed her family, one of the things he tells her: “I made a barter with him, and now I have a room he cannot take.”

 Start watching this movie BEFORE the opening credits start. During them, we are greeted with various murders, in different places, along with newspaper clippings about them. A mans hand is carefully drawing architectural lines, pinning the clippings to a cork board. During this, we are greeted with a monologue by Jebediah Crone (Dayton Callie, from “Sons of Anarchy”). Listen carefully, watch carefully. Everything is important and has meaning in this film. 

After directing Saw 2, 3, and 4, most people expect splatter and gore from director Darren Lynn Bousman. Yet in “Abattoir,” (French for “slaughterhouse) he shows what a fine hand he has. Based on the graphic novel series that Bousman himself created, put out by Radical Publishing, every little thing is thought out. 

He gives us supernatural, psychological horror-noir. Watching the film, you see the characters dressed in the style of the late ’40’s – early ’50’s, with the type of fast paced banter from movies of those eras. Julia even drives an old car (in great shape, btw).  But the cell phones let us know we are in the present. For now. The music, by the wonderful Mark Sayfritz, and production designer Jennifer Spence bring Bousman’s vision to life. The movie is atmospheric, dark, and creepy. Yet, it’s all this that draws you in. With such delicate beauty, this movie takes us on a family journey, and revels to what depth people will go to to save their souls.

We learn that Julia and Amanda were adopted from the town of New English. So she goes back to where it all started. Grady follows, after getting no answer from her phone. New English is a town trapped…in time and in debt. Sheriff McDermott (McConnell) tries to warn Julia away, but she’s not having it. Soon enough, she meets Allie (Lin Shay, from “Insidious” and “Insidious 2”) an odd little bird, to say the least. This is where Grady finds her, where the mystery deepens. Where we get the full story. 

Dayton Callie plays a slick, silver-tongued salesman. He’s very suave and scary at the same time. A great change of pace for this awesome actor. Yet…what he offers, would you be buying? See the movie and let me know.

 While the horror genre has many sub-genres, we can now add horror-noir. “Abattoir” does not rely on gore, instead, you see how the murders start, but the rest is left to your imagination. I like that aspect of this film because it fits. Relying on the story-telling, the music in the background, and the unsettling “did I just see…that?” effect, this film is subtly terrifying. It’s a wonderfully entry into Bousman’s body of work. “Abattoir” is a movie you can watch again and again and always see something new.

Is this worth seeing? Hell yes, it’s in theaters and VOD now. It’s worth owning. Watch from the the very start, watch closely. Remember: How do you build a haunted house? Why, with one room at a time.