Abattoir review: An intelligent and stylish macabre tale straight out of the world of Lovecraft or Poe.

Abattoir review by Kat Hughes, August 2016.

Abattoir Review
Abattoir Review

Real-estate journalist Julia Talben (Jessica Lowndes) dreams of writing for the crime section, but irritatingly her boss doesn’t think that she’s got what it takes. After a personal tragedy in which her family are murdered, she finds the world of real-estate and crime merging as she uncovers a spate of murders connected to unusually fast house sales.

Joining Julia in her hunt is Grady (Joe Anderson), her on and off beau who is handily also a cop. The pair are compelled to investigate the murder of Julia’s sister and nephew after the house is sold mere days after the butchering. Even odder, the room in which the murders occurred has been ripped from the foundations. It isn’t the first time, it appears that there is a long history of rooms within murder houses vanishing. Someone or something is collecting the rooms and their victims for part of a nefarious plan.

Abattoir is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, director of three of the Saw moviesRepo! The Genetic Opera and Mother’s Day. Given the gory back catalogue and name expectations you may expect that Abattoir would be more of the same, but this is something completely different. Much more of a ghost story, this is a subtle affair with heaps of visual flair.

Abattoir Review
Abattoir Review

The pace start off slow, but builds momentum ending on a fantastic final third. Julia finds herself confronted with the ultimate haunted house and stumbles through a labyrinth of murder rooms all filled with perpetually dying spectres. The design on these phantoms is really impressive, first materialising as billowy smoke, before morphing into more corporeal forms.

Much like last years It Follows this a film that manages to remain oddly timeless. Julia herself has a 1920’s / 1930’s affectation to her. She dresses like a character straight out of a film noir, her relationship with Grady also reminiscent of the golden age of cinema. Design aesthetic’s of the building and sets also point to an older period of history. Then we get video tapes, film reels and mobile phones, pointing to a more modern time stamp. All elements combine together creates a dreamlike landscape in which anything can, and does, occur.

Abattoir Review
Abattoir Review

Lowndes is great as the sassy tenacious Julia. Her charm and her breathtaking old school beauty easily winning the audience over. Anderson too does a good job at making his character feel real. He doesn’t get quite as much screen time as the leading lady, but Grady is someone that we care about. It’s Dayton Callie and Lin Shaye that steal the show though as shadowy Jebediah Crone and kooky small town local Allie.

A movie that seeks to answer the question – ‘how does one build a haunted house?’ Abattoir blends elements of film noir, murder mystery and horror. Abattoir is a much more restrained and subdued tale than Bousmann’s previous offerings and it’s a welcome change-up. An intelligent and stylish macabre tale straight out of the world of Lovecraft or Poe, Abattoir will keep the grey matter working until the closing moments.

Abattoir review, Kat Hughes.

Abattoir forms part of this year’s Frightfest programme. 

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