By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Starring Finn Cole, Asa Butterfield and Hermione Corfield
Directed by Crispian Mills
Written by Crispian Mills and Henry Fitzherbert
Don’t be fooled by the presences of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the cast of SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ; the only reason this film will be “compared to SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ,” in the words of the publicity, is due to their roles in it, not because it has anywhere close to the wit and laughs of the Cornetto Trilogy. Though Pegg and Frost were also executive producers, the movie seriously could have used Pegg and his Cornetto partner Edgar Wright on scripting duties, and perhaps Wright at the helm as well.
The first 15 minutes or so of SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ land enough successful gags to make one hold out hope for the rest of the film, which is soon disappointed. The setting is the elite Slaughterhouse School out in the British countryside, where England’s boys (and girls, as headmaster “The Bat,” played by Michael Sheen, keeps having to be reminded) go for a superior education, and to play out the traditional tropes of boarding-school comedy/dramas. Don Wallace (Finn Cole) is an average teen plunged into this ritualistic world of the overprivileged, where he runs afoul of sadistic martinet upperclassman Clegg (Tom Rhys Harries) and falls for Clemsie (RUST CREEK’s Hermione Corfield), a girl well above his station. His roommate, Willoughby Blake (Asa Butterfield), hints that something dire happened to Don’s predecessor, while the unsubtle score portends that Slaughterhouse may live up to its name.
The screenplay by Crispian Mills, who also directed, and Henry Fitzherbert nonetheless eschews any attempt to draw the horror out of the class conflict and oppression inherent in its locale, settling instead for a series of student antics and activities that are too familiar and generic to draw many laughs. The genre element has its source in fracking activities going on in the woods not far from the school, and overseen by an old chum of “The Bat.” Early on, a techie sitting by an underground-radar screen notices strange shapes on his readout, but it’s a while before they finally emerge as hungry subterranean beasties resembling cousins of the Terror Dogs in GHOSTBUSTERS. At this point, the film piles on the gore and creature effects—both practical and digital—and though the latter seem well-wrought, the fast cutting doesn’t give us a good enough look at them, while the former misses out on the exaggerated charge it needs to work as gruesome entertainment.
In general, the energy is lacking during the second half as the young principals run from one place to another, attempting to rescue or warn their friends, and the earnest and enthusiastic stars struggle to break free from the strictures of their conventional roles. Meanwhile, Frost doesn’t have enough to do as the oddball leader of a group of eco-protestors living in the woods, Pegg has too much to do that isn’t connected to the main action as an oversensitive teacher dealing with a floundering long-distance relationship (Margot Robbie literally phones in her role as his girlfriend), and the movie barely gives them any screen time together. Even completist fans of the duo might want to give a pass to SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ, which only sporadically hits his targets but otherwise amounts to a yawn of the dead.