Four teens out on the town celebrating a birthday run into the wrong people. Sissy (Ali Faulkner), her brother Mikey (Phillip Wolf) their friend Kenny (Matt Hensarling) and random, token slut Barbie (Tory Tompkins) have a chance encounter at a convenience store that sets off a violent chain of events. In a seedy part of San Antonio, a group of men begin relentlessly pursuing our teens. Why? Because they’re cannibals, that’s why.
Inspired by Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal these are the Boneboys; a motley group of men who are hunting human flesh. Some of them act like junkies and the leader, Bossboy (Johnny Walter) is a tall drink of water and a real smooth criminal. If you aren’t familiar with A Modest Proposal, I highly recommend checking it out; it really is a delightfully twisted read.
As our cannibals descend on their prey, the males are swiftly taken out while Sissy and Barbie are left to run around dark, back alleys. Alone. At this point, I feel compelled to admit that I only watched the first half of this movie on my first go and I’m about to tell you why. So, SPOILER ALERT. I’m about to get lengthy and preachy. You’ve been warned.
A film has to work pretty hard to offend me when it comes to using women as mere objects, but Barbie is one of the most offensively written slutty, unintelligent, disposable characters I have come across in a long time. Her greatest attribute is that she wants to make out with everyone. While running for her life, she literally runs into the boy whom she was making out with earlier in the film. Naturally, she screams and then exclaims,”what are you doing here? you’re totally hot” and proceeds to make out with him. I’m not kidding; this girl was just hiding in a locker, Texas Chainsaw 2003 style, fearing for her life and three seconds later, she is making out with this guy. What the what?! It gets better: when she realizes this group has only bad intentions towards her, she screams, ” I would have given all of you a blow job, but forget it!” When the guy who has been awarded the first go at her doesn’t immediately take charge, she slaps him and says, “what? are you gay?” Um, are we trying to make a world record of how many people we can offend in 20 seconds? Well, thank goodness for the super close boob shot we are treated to before Barbie is eaten alive. The boob shot is one of the worst cases of editing in nudity I’ve ever seen. Also, dumb question, can you scream when someone is ripping your throat out with their teeth? This would be when, upon first viewing, I began to run out of patience. As a woman who is constantly defending Eli Roth and his portrayal and use of women, I feel pretty good about my tolerance level when it comes to finding something so unbelievably misogynistic that I’m not even offended by it, I’m just annoyed that my intelligence has been insulted and my time has been wasted.
Meanwhile, Sissy, who is clearly meant to be a modern day Marilyn Burns, is ignored by the police and ditched by the group of thugs that only stopped so they could, I’m assuming, rape her; after they see who is chasing her, they jump back into their stereotypical SUV and speed away. Apparently, people who live on “the other side of the tracks” know all about the Boneboys and choose to turn the other cheek when privileged white girls are being hunted. Enter the real Marilyn Burns walking her dog: because all women walk their dog’s alone, at night, in their bathrobes, through the worst part of town where the Boneboys are known to hunt. Well, one of these boys decides to steal her dog and this would be the exact moment when I shut off the movie. Why are we stealing a dog from a nice lady? What is going on here?!
Alright…second viewing and, yes, I watched the beginning of the film again. It was all still annoying. Now, we enter into the second half of the film. The Boneboys have gone back home to J.Swift’s (get it?), a large building that holds jail cells full of women, some sort of after hours establishment and the headquarters of the Boneboys. Oh yeah, and a makeshift gynecological exam room. Yes, I said gynecological exam.
I really enjoy the soundtrack at this point. It kind of sounds like tribal music made with aluminum trash cans and dumpsters; its very cool and suits the setting perfectly. As Sissy navigates her way through this mishegas, there is also a clever use of security cameras to help move the story along that I really liked. It isn’t new or groundbreaking, but it was a nice visual change up.
Walter does a great job with Bossboy. I absolutely adored the way he looked and his demeanor and presence. He is that bad guy that you shouldn’t find attractive or humorous, but his masculine energy cannot be denied. Bossboy is not to be trifled with. It really felt as though Walter had a great time with this character and it’s infectious.
Everything that happens at J. Swift’s is either an homage or a blatant rip off of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I will leave that up to the viewer to decide. We have a crazy dinner party, a chainsaw, someone who doesn’t seem to possess all of their mental faculties and a guy who likes to wear makeup. Yup, everyone is here. There is a super awesome, gory treat at the center of this dinner table; it really is a wonderfully gruesome sight to see and I would never ruin it for you. Faulkner also manages a pretty lovely Sally Hardesty moment towards the end of the movie. The last 9 minutes of Butcher Boys is some sort of statement on vegans crossed with the initial rapture/apocalypse scene in This Is The End, impregnated by Commando and influenced by John Waters. I say all of this as a huge compliment. I don’t know what was going on, but I loved every second of it.
I view this movie in two parts. The first half was an assault on my intelligence and my gender. The second half is a roaring good time. I love Sissy. She is a great entry into the Final Girl gamut. Faulkner plays her as smart, brave and tough, never screeching or annoying. Sissy is such a cool cucumber, she even keeps herself together when she runs into an older gentleman slathering his body in shortening. Yes, you read that correctly. The soundtrack is also pretty awesome. There are two uses of classical music that worked really, really well and as stated before, the industrial tribal music is cool. While I understand how the two parts of the story went together, I just cannot stomach that first half. It’s not gratuitous violence or nudity that bothers me; it’s the lazy writing of throwaway female characters who are only good for one thing. The fact that Butcher Boys is written by Kim Henkel (TCM 2003, TCM 1974, TCM:The Next Generation and TCM 3D) is what I find the most confusing. I love all of those movies. The Next Generation is a gem and I had tons of fun at TCM 3D. Directed by Duane Graves and Justin Meeks (The Wild Man of the Navidad) this entire movie is a giant celebration of Texas movie making. We are even graced with cameos by Marilyn Burns and Ed Guinn and a full role inhabited with crazy glee by Edwin Neal.
Ultimately, the second half of this film is a crazy, violent and gory good time. I am very happy that I returned to the movie to see why it has such a fervent fan base. Some find it disturbing, but I found it to be humorous and in on it’s own joke. Despite all of the negativity I have thrown at Butcher Boys, I would recommend it; not to everyone, but to some. And the insanity that ensued at the end of the movie only makes me want to check out Graves and Meeks other movies.