Abattoir (2016) [FrightFest 2016]

AbattoirJulia, an investigative reporter, starts looking into the disappearance of complete rooms from houses where violent deaths have occurred.  As she gets closer to the truth, things and people get weirder.  Her investigation puts her life in danger as she gets too close and discovers more about the rooms and herself.

Director Darren Lynn Bousman created Abattoir as a multi-platform story.  The prequel in comic book form is a mini-series of six issues written by Rob Levin and Troy Peteri with art by Bing Cansino that came out in 2010.  The film Abattoir is the second part (but stands on its own) and will be followed by a sequel called The Dwelling.  The film Abattoir was written by Christopher Monfette, David Schow, and Teddy Tenenbaum.  They take the story pre-established and build it into its own free-standing film with a strong female lead and some kooky and crazy supportive characters.  The story of what is happening to the rooms is intriguing while the why is interesting.

The cast for Abattoir is composed of Bousman regulars and other talented thespians.  In the lead of Julia, Jessica Lowndes brings charm and determination, playing Julia as a sweet young woman who learns more about herself and destiny as she becomes willing to do a lot to bring to light where the rooms are going and why.  Lowndes’ performance shows nuances in her character and leads the film well.  Shining like a bright, crazy light amongst the supporting cast is Lin Shaye as Allie.  She brings her own brand of kooky older lady here that works perfectly for the part.

Giving a fantastic but oh-so-short performance, Michael Paré steals the show for the few short scenes he’s in.  He brings his enormous talent and if his part was not so important, he would feel wasted.  However, as he sets a lot of the wheels in motion, his presence is worth it and greatly appreciated.  In a bigger part, that of the main bad guy, Dayton Callie is great as Jebediah Crone.  He believes in his part and Crone’s reasoning makes sense in this set up, which shows in his portrayal, so much so that it almost all rings true.  It’s nuts, but he sells it very well.

Abattoir is a dark film in subject matter, but it’s also dark in its images.  The scenes are often barely lit, which could make it hard to see what’s going on, but it works here.  The lighting patterns in the forest and in the rooms are interesting, but could definitely have been a bit brighter without losing their full effect.  With a touch more light, the cinematography by Michael Fimognari would show better and could be better appreciated as it is good.  The set decoration by Ruston Head, the art direction by Christine Eunji Kim, and the special effects could be seen much better and so would their great attention to details and to the characters’ back stories.  As it is, it’s all beautifully dark but hard to see and fully appreciate.

Abattoir is a dark fairy tale feeling film that is slower and less flashy than what some may have come to expect from Darren Lynn Bousman but it’s most definitely good.  It’s both darkly lit and esthetically pleasing, which is not an easy feat.  The cast does well with Michael Paré just grabbing you and making you wish he had more screen time.  It’s bloody and violent but the pace may turn some horror fans off while working great for others.