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Screen Entertainment
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Joe Castro
Susan Smythe
Juliet Bradford
Phoebe Dollar
Elina Madison
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Those depraved folk at Cinemacabre Productions strike again! Aided and abetted by the UK's Hard Gore label, they bring us Joe Castro's "Butchered": a micro-budget slasher that takes a seemingly burned-out genre by the scruff of it's neck, shakes it about a bit, and ... rips it's very guts out! That's a good thing, believe me!

Inspired, as he undoubtedly is, by early-eighties American slasher movies, Castro also seems to have taken a leaf or two out of Italian, "Godfather of Gore", Lucio Fulci's book; the nubile American college kids who provide most of the fodder for this film's knife-wielding maniac don't just get slashed in the polite, MPAA approved fashion we've come to accept from today's multiplex clogging, mainstream horror movies (Yes, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" 2003 Remake... I'm lookin' at you!); the unfortunate victims in this little film, literally get pulled apart, hacked to pieces, hammered to a pulp — all in the kind of unrelenting, graphic detail that would surely make ol' Fulci himself glow with pride! For instance, when one teenage female character gets slashed, we don't just see a brief squirt of blood before the film cuts away: her wounds literally gush with blood and gore (it would probably help if she actually tried to run away instead of just standing there letting herself be sliced to bits!); and while she lies on the ground, screaming and quickly bleeding to death, our killer finds a hammer and starts repeatedly smashing her skull with it — talk about overkill! Yep ... there is some seriously nasty stuff going down in this freaky little gem of a flick!

Joe Castro's previous movie, "Maniacal" (2003) featured some equally gruesome effects work (Castro does all the special makeup effects himself in both movies), but it suffered for it's rather lacklustre retracing of the traditional "maniac-on-the-loose" slasher plot-line, and for some very unconvincing acting — especially from the lead actress. "Butchered" though, represents an improvement on all fronts. Sure, once again we have a familiar slasher scenario: if you've seen "Prom Night", "The House On Sorority Row", "Pranks", "Funhouse", and probably countless others, then you will recognise the plot of this movie! It's the old "teenage-college-kids-get-hacked-by-maniac" storyline. Doubtless you will have fun spotting all the tongue-in-cheek references sprinkled throughout the film (the director even name-checks his own "Maniacal") but this time Castro gives us more than just great gore and ironic humour. Thanks, in part, to the use of a genuinely creepy location, he manages to conjure some surprisingly nervy and atmospheric images; and for once the shot-on-video approach is a help rather than a hindrance, as it gives the film a sort of "Blair Witch Project" feel in certain instances. Unlike "Blair Witch" though, none of the nastiness is left to your imagination! The acting, while hardly Oscar winning standard, is always adequate and the film's maniac killer — rather than just the usual bloke in a clown mask — is actually a very unusual and original creation!

The film gets straight to business in the pre-credit sequence: a homeless man wanders into a dark and derelict building looking for food and shelter; he hears strange sobbing noises and follows the sound to a small, damp room, where he encounters an odd-looking female figure huddled in a corner, dressed in a black gown and wearing a white Michael Myers style mask. She is also cradling a massive carving knife in her arms! Now ... I don't know about you, but at this point I'd be running for the exit — but not this guy! Instead, he begins to taunt and abuse the sobbing figure and demands food! I'll leave it to you to work out what happens to him!

Next, we get straight down to the obligatory shower scene as sorority sisters Jenny and Daphne (Phoebe Dollar and Elina Madison) are spied on through video cameras rigged up in their rooms by sneaky perverts Anthony and Darren (Adam Crone and David Alan Graf). This has nothing to do with the plot of the rest of the film, but it does afford Mrs Dollar the first of two opportunities to get naked! Not content with perving on the girls through video feeds, the two slime-balls also sneak into the girls' rooms through a window and spy on two new inductees into their sorority (Susan Smythe and Barbara Bradford) who are taking the first of the pledges they have to take in order to be admitted into the popular society. These involve getting spanked, stripping down to their underwear, and filling their bra's with whipped cream! So ... less than ten minutes in, and every single female character has got down to their underwear or even less!

The third sorority pledge involves having to spend the night in a deserted "haunted" building. Naturally, the two sorority sisters and our peeping tom male stars plan to scare the two teenagers with tape-recordings of bloodcurdling screams and by dressing up in scary halloween masks; but, as we know, our freaky masked female killer is squatting in the building and isn't too keen on being disturbed! Before the unsuspecting six even get anywhere near the building, a night watchman is dispatched by the killer; and by the next morning, only one of our six will still be in one piece!

The film's brief seventy-two minute running time means there is little padding — we get exactly what slasher movies so-often promise but rarely deliver: a series of grossly violent killings that aren't watered down in any way; and with it's fairly high body-count of nine, we never have to wait long for the next bloody set-piece to come along! If there is any problem with this it's that the film's tendency to dwell on the nastiness for so long means that there comes a point where it becomes impossible to avoid the fact that what we're watching is actually just a dummy getting pummelled and pulled to bits, even though Castro's special effects are generally excellent. But this is a small gripe; shot on video it may be, but this is a very professional-looking film and director of photography Sam Gunter deserves a mention for the great atmospheric look he has brought to it — since this plays no small part in the film's success.

"Butchered" was filmed in the 4:3 ratio so no anamorphic enhancement is needed; the film looks as good as a shot on video movie is likely to look on DVD with the small amount of artefacts present probably due to the medium it was shot in. Extras on this release are limited to a trailer for the film and also loads of trailers for other Screen Entertainment releases. Screen Entertainment have another excellent addition to their Hard Gore Collection. Anyone who appreciates a well made slasher with loads of gore and nudity will lap this one up! High art it an't, but hard gore it most certainly is!

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