June 6, 2019 Slaughterhouse Rulez (Movie Review)
This is not Sparta and no one wants to die in Greek sandals! Follow the path to ‘immorality,’ or immortality, in the brand-new Horror-Comedy Slaughterhouse Rulez. Though the film was initially released to digital and select theaters on May 17th, 2019, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is poised to deliver the experience to DVD on Tuesday, June 18th. Strap yourselves in!
Despite its bizarre name, Slaughterhouse School, established in 1770, is an extraordinary pillar of excellence. A former palace, the noteworthy prep school is located in the English countryside, and it is about to become the new home of Don Wallace (Finn Cole: Peaky Blinders series, Animal Kingdom series). Sent off at the behest of his sweet-voiced mother (Jo Hartley: This Is England 2006, Eddie the Eagle 2015) to make something of himself, learn some survival skills, and hobnob with the elite, he arrives flustered and not entirely convinced that this is going to be the educational experience for him.
Meeting his new roommate Willoughby “Will” Blake (Asa Butterfield: Hugo 2011, Ender’s Game 2013) does not exactly convince Don otherwise. Then there’s the white-haired, Draco Malfoy-ian Matthew Clegg (Tom Rhys Harries: Hunky Dory 2011, Jekyll & Hyde mini-series 2015), with whom he instantly clashes, but it is the beautiful Clemsie Lawrence (Hermione Corfield: Star Wars: The Last Jedi 2017, Rust Creek 2018) who immediately wins his heart. It might help that she’s not just stunning but also highly perceptive, and she offers Don a quick explanation of the hierarchy of the school, which is split into four different houses. Take note: Andromeda is just for girls; Xenephon is for the intellectually elite; Olympus is home to the athletically-inclined; and Sparta, well, they’ve changed their name plaque to read “Sfarta,” if that tells you something.
Of course, all of this is merely what is occurring inside the walls of Slaughterhouse School. In the woods, someone is having a fracking good time with a massive shale gas deposit. Unfortunately, their little operation has caused a ginormous sinkhole to open—not far from the hippie commune led by Woody (Nick Frost: Shaun of the Dead 2004, Paul 2011)—creating an entrance to a series of subterranean tunnels that lead back to the school. No shocker to Horror aficionados, something bloodthirsty is hiding in the ground just waiting for its chance to attack.
When all hell descends upon Slaughterhouse, Don and Will must recruit their friends and fellow students if they want to survive the night. With the help of Clemsie, chess champion Kay (Isabella Laughland: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 2009, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 2011), Hargreaves (Max Raphael in his acting debut) and his sidekick, young Wootton (Kit Connor: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society 2018, Rocketman 2019), along with the popular Caspar (Jamie Blackley: If I Stay 2014, Irrational Man 2015), they will fight the battle of their young lives!
Clocking in at 104 minutes, Slaughterhouse Rulez was directed by Crispian Mills (A Fantastic Fear of Everything 2012) and was written by Mills with Henry Fitzherbert (Born a King 2019) and Luke Passmore (The Day 2011, Teen Wolf series). A film with a truly impressive and massive cast, it also features the acting talents of Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street 2013, Suicide Squad 2016), Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon 2008, Masters of Sex series), Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead 2004, The World’s End 2013), Jane Stanness (Nighty Night series, A Fantastic Fear of Everything 2012), and many, many more.
Billed as a Horror-Comedy, Slaughterhouse Rulez is exactly this. Very loosely put, it combines elements of the Harry Potter universe with 1993’s Jurassic Park, as well as 1985’s The Goonies to author a wonderfully fun and unique film experience that you’re not likely to get anywhere else. This is much in thanks to a splendidly smart and witty script that is chock-full of pop culture references, including nods to Star Wars, the Roman emperor Caligula, poet Dylan Thomas, Rage Against the Machine, and much, much more.
This is coupled with an exceptional cast, who all perform marvelously in their roles. As the Headmaster, “The Bat,” Sheen strikes comedic gold, and his interactions with his character’s wire-haired terrier, Mr. Chips, certainly do not hurt the cause, either. Similarly, as the fumbling Meredith Housman, dorm dad of Sparta and completely incompetent Latin professor, Pegg provides more than an ample dose of comedy. In fact, he is brilliant in his role, providing a hefty helping of the film’s laughter-inducing highlights. Robbie, who portrays Houseman’s somewhat estranged lover, racks up very little screen-time, though she delivers, as always.
Of the Goonies, if you will, Cole and Butterfield lead the charge. Cole’s Don is the more dominant personality of the two, the outsider who is just trying to survive the pre-established pecking order at his new school. Butterfield’s Will is the sullen introvert, the quieter of the two and yet a young man who never stops plotting. They are somewhat of an odd couple, sure, but the pair of talented actors play brilliantly off one another’s energy.
Corfield’s Clemsie is largely intended to be the beautiful love interest, but she’s fierce and never skirts the action. This allows Corfield to play at the front lines and, though she is not given much comedy to work with, she delivers a fun performance all the same. Meanwhile, Laughland’s Kay is given less material and an undeveloped character, and she largely steps into the picture to fill the ‘smart girl’ trope. Similarly, Blackley’s Caspar and Raphael’s Hargreaves are also fairly flat characters, but both do a good job with what they are given. However, young Connor, as poor little Wootton, is given plenty of comedy to deliver and he does so wonderfully.
In this instance, it is definitely the cast of the film who are the stars and not the creatures, though the CGI creature design here is intriguing. While not horrifying or entirely humorous, these nameless villains of the story are a combination of slug, walrus and dinosaur, with a dash of 1979’s Alien and Ghostbuster‘s Slimer embedded in there, as well. They do a splendid job of ripping limbs and shredding bodies, splashing blood everywhere for comedic effect. So while they might not be entirely spooky, they get the job done!
So, is Slaughterhouse Rulez “spectacularly gory” as its box cover claims? Well, not in the eyes of this particular reviewer, but this is certainly not for a lack of concerted effort. The blood and body parts do fly, but it’s all with a light-hearted spirit that never seems grotesque or cringe-worthy. If you’re down for a film that manages to meld together a boarding school, Roman orgy, bizarre creatures, hot button environmental issues, and plenty of fart humor, well, Slaughterhouse Rulez has you covered! Definitely aimed at teens but enjoyable for anyone with a good sense of humor, Cryptic Rock give the film 4.5 of 5 stars.