The screenwriting credits for “Butcher Boys” claim the film is based on Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” As someone who tends to brush off the fact that most films don’t follow the original story, there’s something about that statement that just feels wrong. “Butcher Boys,” which releases to VOD on Sept. 6, comes across as more of a generic horror film than a satirical piece of cinema.
Kim Henkel, who penned the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” had intentions to make this into a sequel to the 1974 film. But when he lost the rights to do so, he made “Butcher Boys,” which is a film that really, really, really wants to be as scary and as nerve-racking as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
Swift’s essay suggests, in a dark and humorous way, that the Irish can ease their economic woes by selling their children as food to rich men and women. Yet “Butcher Boys” is set in Texas, not Ireland, and there isn’t much indication that the victims are actually sold to those who eat them – more like taken against their will. The film begins with a child being abducted, and then we relocate to a group of sex-crazed teens celebrating a friend’s birthday. After almost killing a dog that runs into the street, they meet the Butcher Boys, a group of men dressed in black leather jackets. Fights break out, chasing ensues, and it all becomes very ho-hum after the first 40 minutes or so.
There are a few characters that have some very humorous moments, but not a single one gets enough development to make us care for him or her. One comes in looking for his daughter, while he carries around a gun and his whole body looks to be covered in Crisco. The problem is that we don’t know this character. He just makes a quick appearance and then leaves. He comes back later and the viewer just kind of shrugs upon his return.
The unfortunate thing is that “Butcher Boys” almost seemed like it had potential to be a different kind of horror film. If it had followed the irony of Swift’s essay, it may have been a unique twist. But when Henkel and the directors (Duane Graves and Justin Meeks) seem more focused on trying to make this a “Texas Chainsaw” spinoff, including having multiple cameos of those from the original films (Edwin Neal and Marilyn Burns, for example), all hopes go out the window.
Extreme close-ups of the “Chainsaw” family maniacally laughing are unpleasant and bland; the kills become a bit long-winded, especially at the end; establishing shots of Texas look beautiful, but it feels that there are a bit too many; and the whole movie is just a 90-minute bore. “Butcher Boys” is less of a new take on the horror genre and more of all of its cliches warmed over.