Distribution/Production Company(s): Phase 4 Films, Greeks Productions, Kitchen Sink Productions
Directed by: Duane Graves & Justin Meeks
Written By: Kim Henkel, also carrying a Producing Credit, & based loosely upon A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
Starring: Ali Faulkner, Johnny Walter, Derek Lee Nixon, Matt Hensarling, Phillip Wolfe, Tory Tompkins, Justin Meeks, Tom Byrne, Sonny Carl Davis, Ed Neal, Terri McMinn, John Dugan, Marilyn Burns, Bill Johnson, Gregory Kelly, Jon Clinkenbeard, Matt Beene, Katie Patterson, Jack Lee
Running Time: 88 minutes
Rating: Rated R for strong violence, language, some sexual content and nudity
From the creator of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes this gut-wrenching, non-stop roller coaster ride through the hellish underbelly of inner-city America. Starring Ali Faulkner, Johnny Walter, Derek Lee Nixon, Tory Tompkins, and Gregory Kelly, a birthday celebration at an upscale restaurant sets in motion events that bring a group of friends face to face with the macabre world of cannibals, the Butcher Boys. The Butcher Boys are international predators who deal in human flesh.
We at Backwoods Horror have been excited about BUTCHER BOYS since news first began to leak out about the film back when it was still titled BONEBOYS way back in 2010. Being big fans of the directing duo of Duane Graves & Justin Meeks (Headcheese, Wild Man Of The Navidad), in addition to the script by original Texas Chainsaw Massacre co-writer Kim Henkel (a former screenwriting teacher of Graves and Meeks), how could we NOT dig it. Crazy cannibal goodness, while showing up now and again in indie horror, now had one of the original masters of the form behind it and two promising up and coming directors with the chops to pull it off.
Upon first viewing BUTCHER BOYS, I honestly had to say it wasn’t initially my cup of tea. It seemed a bit too chaotic with characters that would blend together at times (I’m looking at you, Butcher Boys enforcers) with so many tropes I thought I’d seen before in films such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. I went into the film, my hopes high, and by the end had thought that, in some way, my hopes and dreams for a return to cannibal insanity had been dashed. Luckily for me, and every other filmmaker whose film I review, I have a policy of watching a film multiple times before doing a final review. In this case, I was particularly in luck in that for whatever reason I completely missed out on the connection to the Jonathan Swift quote at the beginning from his satirical work A Modest Proposal. Having read A Modest Proposal years ago in my High School AP English Literature class (that’s right, I’m a nerd…bask in my glory), I began to remember its scathing, yet satirical attack upon the class structure at the time.
A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick, commonly referred to as A Modest Proposal, is a Juvenalian satirical essay written and published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729. Swift suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies. This satirical hyperbole mocks heartless attitudes towards the poor, as well as Irish policy in general.
Remembering Swift’s biting proposal (and going back to do a little research for this review), I couldn’t help but see the film in an entirely new light. If anything, BUTCHER BOYS could be considered something of a horror satire upon modern woes and conditions similar in some ways to Swift’s time. After the Jonathan Swift quote at the beginning, we’re treated to a poor hispanic immigrant being pulled into a van for, we can only assume at the time, nefarious purposes and a grisly end. Afterwards, the film cuts to a birthday party being held at a restaurant for a foursome of middle class teens that so blatantly (to the now enlightened viewer) bears the name J. Swift’s. We’re lead to believe that this is a fancy celebration for them, given their surroundings of senators and the very wealthy as, afterwards, we’re given more information as to their class status in a simple, yet elegantly done, way by the car they’re driving. Nothing fancy for these teens, and it’s revealed that the car doesn’t even belong to the driver, but his parents, further elaborating upon the class factor, a relevant theme throughout the film.
Due to the poor judgement and overall ridiculous insanity of one of our protagonists, Barbie (quite the trashy slut of the group as made a bit too obvious at times), a high speed chase ensues that ends up with the teens, Sissy, Mikey, Kenny, and the afore-mentioned Barbie crossing paths with the Butcher Boys (or, it could even be said, the Butcher Boys’s enforcers), a gang of toughs who relentlessly track the group, resulting in grisly ends for many, and the abduction of Sissy (portrayed fantastically by Ali Faulkner).
Sissy is a fighter, to be certain, but to no avail and is quickly brought into the bowels below J. Swift’s and a nightmare scenario that recalls earlier Chainsaw films (due in no small part, perhaps, to Henkel’s screenplay). It’s difficult to say much more without going into spoiler territory, but in addition to the Butcher Boys enforcers, she’s introduced to the insane character of “Doc,” the large and almost animalistic “Amphead,” and two of the Butcher Boys themselves (one of which played both menacingly and hilariously by the ever interesting Justin Meeks) who seem to be running the distribution end of the operation. That operation being, of course, trafficking in human beings for meat (and perhaps other hideous desires; remember, they only seem to go after viable females…that’s an important clue and harkens back to Swift’s A Modest Proposal) for the rich and powerful.
Upon second and third viewings, and after speaking with director Duane Graves (interview coming soon!), BUTCHER BOYS, at first a film I initially put into a class (see what I did there) of shock & gore but not much more, began to expose its many varied and multi-faceted layers to me. Within the shell of a somewhat admittedly broad appeal stalk/chase/gore/chainsaw clone, the film contained a series of poignant satirical levels that hold true today just as they did during Swift’s time. Not only does the film touch upon human trafficking (a reprehensible practice still occurring in this modern age), but class structure and the ever building tension between said classes.
Of course, as clever as the film is, BUTCHER BOYS is still drenched with plenty of blood, gore, and incredibly fucked up moments anyone in the genre will be pleased to find. Additionally, the filmmakers knowing that a film such as this has roots strongly in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre tradition (stronger roots than you might think…once again, look for the Duane Graves interview coming soon!), we’re treated to cameos by TCM franchise legends such as Marilyn Burns, Ed Neal, Terri McMinn, Bill Johnson, and John Dugan in a variety of small parts throughout.
If you’re a fan of clever horror tales wrapped in warped insanity and drenched in the red red groovy, this is definitely the film for you. Hell, if you’re a fan of your standard hack ‘n slash insane cannibal extravaganza, it’s for you as well. BUTCHER BOYS is a film that appeals on so many levels that I really hope it reaches the broad audience it deserves as it definitely is one of those films that I feel require repeat viewings as even watching it for the third time, I was picking up on new serious, yet satirical metaphors. Additionally, at times, there is just so much insanity on the screen at any one time, it’s nearly impossible to take it all in at once. Duane Graves and Justin Meeks have done it again, bringing Kim Henkel’s new screenplay to life with respect and intelligence. With any luck, this will lead to future projects down the road and I, for one, can’t wait.