Slaughterhouse Rulez review: Title ring a bell? It should do and it’s not the only thing about Slaughterhouse Rulez that sounds and looks more than a little familiar. For the first production from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s new company, Stolen Picture, it’s disappointingly derivative and short on the knowing humour that we usually associate with them.
That title echoes Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse Blue, a satire on Cambridge University life. Here the action is transferred to a posh public school, the Slaughterhouse of the title, one originally for boys but which now admits token girls as well. New boy Don Wallace (Finn Cole) is a fish out of water: he comes from the North of England and his family isn’t wealthy, but he still manages to make friends with room mate Willoughby Blake (Asa Butterfield) and acquire a crush on sixth former, Clemsie Lawrence (Hermione Corfield), who is universally regarded as being out of his league. But there’s something very odd happening at the school and it all seems to be connected with a nearby fracking site. A massive sink hole opens up and unleashes all manner of hell – and monsters.
If that all sounds like a co-ed version of St Trinian’s, that’s exactly how it starts off, although the Slaughterhouse students don’t have quite the same criminal tendencies. The jokes, however, are along similar lines and exactly what you would expect from a movie set in an English boarding school. It’s also peppered with references to other films, from 300 – one of the houses is called Sparta, so there’s the inevitable line – to Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 satire, If. It memorably featured Malcolm McDowell on the school roof, taking pot shots at those down below. Here, one of the schoolboys picks up a rifle and, hey presto, there’s a photograph of McDowell pinned to the noticeboard. Yep, it’s as subtle as that.
For the first half, it’s an average public school comedy. The jokes are hit and miss, but it’s reasonably entertaining, if not spectacularly so. But it’s when it tries to combine comedy with horror that it really comes undone, short and thrills and chills and with below-par special effects and monsters that look decidedly bargain basement. It’s just cheap looking and unconvincing and, in the case of the monsters, downright revolting. The attempt at political satire by introducing fracking to the proceedings is no better: not only does it smack of tokenism, it falls flat on its face and belongs in that sink hole.
Even the most die-hard fans of Pegg and Frost may struggle with this. It’s less than what we expect and it feels stale, awkward and contrived, with little of the likeable cheekiness that we all loved in their previous offerings. This teacher grades Slaughterhouse Rulez as a D. Could do better. We know they can.
Slaughterhouse Rulez review by Freda Cooper, October 2018.