Abattoir follows a young woman who, with the help of her smitten detective friend, traces suspicious puzzle pieces of her sister's murder to a man who collects rooms of houses that have a dark, fatal past. What is this man's obsession with haunted sections of victims' homes, and what does it have to do with the young woman's past?
It's worth noting that the actor in question from Abattoir, Joe Anderson, has a respectable horror and thriller resume, along with his costar and lead actress Jessica Lowndes. Anderson was in The Grey, Horns, The Crazies, Creep (2004), and the TV series Hannibal, to name a few. Lowndes had more leading roles and was in films like Altitude, Eden, Autopsy, The Devil's Carnival and A Mother's Nightmare. Our antagonist, Jebediah Crone, was played by Dayton Callie of Sons of Anarchy fame. He was also in Halloween II (the remake franchise) and The Devil's Carnival alongside Lowndes. But the laundry list of experience doesn't end there, with director Darren Lynn Bousman helping collaborate the rag-tag team of horror actors. Bousman directed three of the Saw installments, Repo! The Genetic Opera, the highly underrated The Barrens and, of course, The Devil's Carnival, where we would see familiar faces/names.
But enough name-dropping...was this collaboration any good? Abattoir is a one-of-a-kind horror film with plenty of originality and depth hidden in its dark atmosphere and heavy dialogue. The film was planned out back in 2010 by Bousman, when he helped develop a 6-issue prequel comic that "set up the universe" for the standalone film. What followed was one of Bousman's best works and a film that takes an interesting premise and builds a world full of mysterious and nefarious nature that is never fully in view. We only get the tip of the iceberg of what this concept has to offer and it makes me want more.
A majority of the runtime of Abattoir is spent in a mystery-type setting as the journalist (Lowndes) seeks answers for her sister's seemingly random murder. She is eventually led to an old, mysterious man, Crone (Callie), who is buying homes with dark pasts for above asking price, removing the rooms in which violent crimes have been committed, and then selling the homes for dirt cheap. Her investigation leads her and her "boyfriend" detective Grady (Anderson) to an ominous town reminiscent of a less-aggressive Silent Hill. And what we discover is a unique perspective on Hell that just may actually be loosely based on a piece of real history.
It turns out that Crone is taking these haunted rooms and building a massive house made up of tortured spirits imprisoned by their own tragic and violent ends. Initially I thought that it's like a more obtrusive and less formulaic method of the 13 Ghosts plot, but then I happened to listen to a podcast the same day I watched this film, which was about the Winchester Mystery House.
The Winchester Mystery House, for those that don't know, is a massive mansion-like structure in California that was built by Sarah Winchester, the wife of the then-treasurer of the Winchester firearms fortune. After losing her daughter and husband to relatively young ages, respectively, she went "mildly insane", following the direction of a medium who told her that the spirits of the people killed by the rifles her family made were haunting her and her family to the point of death. The only way to appease the spirits was to build a massive house, room by room, and never stop building onto it. So that's what she did. Through her own eventual architectural brilliance, Sarah built a massive maze of a home, room by room. It is still around today and a sight to behold.
In many ways Abattoir parallels this real-life tragedy, as our villain is, admittedly through sadistic and evil ways, trying to get to his family. It's a dark, fantastical version of something America's history gave us as inspiration.
Abattoir has its flaws. The struggle with many horror mysteries can be convoluted plotlines and jagged pacing. This film has problems in both areas. But it has a unique era-melding feel to it, with 50's-esque dialogue from the two leads in a modern-like setting. The house is a thing to behold, for sure, and Callie makes an excellent antagonist. It's definitely a film that is worth a watch.