In order to save her son’s life, Ana embarks on a quest to find a powerful stone from the Zone of Silence, located in Mexico. Someone finds out the power the stone possesses and believes it is a power worth killing for.
There is a scene at the beginning of SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ in which Don Wallace (Finn Cole) is being convinced by his mum Babs (Jo Hartley) that he needs to go off to an expensive school. He accepts and Babs quickly grabs the urn of her husband’s ashes and they take a family picture to celebrate Don deciding to go. Now, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was off at that point. But as the new horror action comedy played out, that scene, as simple as it was, kept coming back to me. That is because it exemplifies the awkwardly plotted film’s squandering of comedy and logical plot so succinctly.
Don of course heads off to Slaughterhouse, a sprawling school in the country and is introduced to his roommate, Willoughby Blake (Asa Butterfield). Willoughby seems to know a lot more about the school than the teachers care to be known. We meet the rest of the classmates and their place in the pecking order. We meet the headmaster, The Bat (Michael Sheen), and the cool teacher, Meredith Houseman (Simon Pegg) and then we get an idea of where the plot is headed. There is a fracking operation near the school that The Bat preaches is entirely safe. Then there is an oddball bunch of druggies in the forest led by Woody (Nick Frost) who is attempting to sell mushrooms to the student body. You think the story is frayed now? Hold on. You expect a cautionary environmental tale, when the students discover creatures in the forest that are emerging from subterranean holes. Not soon after the monsters attack and it is up to Don, Willoughby, and Meredith to do battle with the creatures and make it to safety.
Okay, so safety where? To the weapons I guess. The screenplay by Crispian Mills, Henry Fitzherbert, and Luke Passmore has a very difficult time keeping focus on its through line, digressing into tangents and unfunny beats. In fact, whole scenes and storylines could easily have been trimmed in favor of a leaner comedy. Co-writer Mills also directs and you can actually see what he was going for. He gets a few touches spot on but the energy never rises above the average comedy. The film needed to be trimmed and polished to really hit that insane level of absurdity that Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are known for.
I will say, however, that as far as the comedic gore goes, they do get that right. Some moments are downright gag-worthy as you attempt to muster a chuckle but again, that is the downfall of this comedy. We don’t believe, much less fully understand why certain things are happening so while seeing someone’s head bitten off by a monster is entertaining, the comedic timing is squandered. Performances all around from Cole, Butterfield, Pegg, Sheen, and pretty much the entire student body, is solid. As inexplicable as his character is, even Frost nails his unnecessary scenes.
SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ is an attempt to have some of Britain’s finest comedic talent showboat and then let a younger, talented cast do the heavy lifting. This could have worked with a more focused script and tighter direction and editing. It is too bad that it never makes the honor roll.
On Digital and in Select Theaters May 17
On DVD June 18