Viewers shouldn’t get too excited, or too dismissive, when the opening scenes of Darren Lynn Bousman’s Abattoir suggest it may intend to dress its swampy ghost story up in the clothing of a ‘30s screwball comedy. Though its plucky reporter heroine (Jessica Lowndes) displays a love for all things retro throughout, the film drops its newsroom-banter conceit early on to focus on a less familiar angle. Horror buffs may warm to the moody film, especially with few thrillers currently competing in the market; more important, journalists working the real-estate beat will have the rare thrill of seeing their career glamorized.
Lowndes plays Julia, who yearns to write investigative crime stories instead of monitoring 30-year interest rates. Be careful what you wish for: She gets the mystery she wants, but only because her sister’s family is brutally slaughtered.
A pulpy supernatural tale dripping with atmosphere.
But then the house where the crime took place is sold within a week — such a thing isn’t possible, Julia knows — and the bedroom where her loved ones died is somehow removed from the home surrounding it. Turns out there have been a string of similar events in these parts, going back decades. With the help of her sometime boyfriend, a leather-jacketed, toothpick-chewing detective named Grady (Joe Anderson), she tries to find out what’s going on.
Before viewers can stop to ask a natural question — if somebody is able to yank whole crime scenes out of houses overnight without anybody seeing, why would they bother buying them? — Julia has traced a dark conspiracy back to the little town where she was born, an inhospitable hamlet that may be home to a cult of human sacrifice.
Screenwriter Christopher Monfette’s novel (if dubious) conceit earns him some latitude for anachronistic hard-boiled dialogue that might deserve mockery. (Him: “So let me get this straight…” Her: “There’s nothing straight about it, Grady — this story bends.”) And while Bousman’s climax is a not terribly original effects-laden haunted house, the house’s builder, and his motives, have enough of their own flavor to please a hardened horror fan. Just think what this team could do with unscrupulous mortgage lenders.
Distributor: Momentum Pictures
Production company: Dark Web Productions
Cast: Jessica Lowndes, Joe Anderson, Dayton Callie, Lin Shaye, John McConnell, Bryan Batt, Michael Pare
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Screenwriter: Christopher Monfette
Producers: Jesse Berger, Brent C. Johnson
Executive producers: Yohan Baiada, Robert D. Cain, Yoel Dahan, Kevin Niu, Steve Ponce, Michael Yedwab
Director of photography: Michael Fimognari
Production designer: Jennifer Spence
Costume designer: Dana Embree
Composer: Mark Sayfritz
Casting director: Meagan Lewis
Rated R, 98 minutes