A horror movie set in an elite boarding school is certainly nothing new — Dario Argento’s Suspiria and its 2018 remake being primary examples of this — but taking that horror setting and then blending it with a comedy element is a nice little twist, and casting the likes of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost certainly couldn’t hurt. That being said, it’s the additional serious issues brought to the table, such as closeted homosexuality, bullying, and suicide, that causes the filmmakers of Slaughterhouse Rulez to stumble a tad.
With Slaughterhouse Rulez, director Crispian Mills brings us a dark teen comedy set within the walls of a prestigious private school, where future leaders will be molded and groomed for greatness, but once I realized that the name of the school was actually Slaughterhouse, and not just a nickname, I had a hard time understanding the thought process behind parents sending their kids to such an establishment. One would think the school’s board of directors would have at least thought about rebranding the place to keep the tuitions coming in. Once again we have one of your standard cliché movie schools that has found itself in financial dire straits, much as Disney’s Medfield College was constantly suffering from. In this film, the headmaster of Slaughterhouse, affectionately known as “The Bat” (Michael Sheen), has come up with a solution, one that involved selling the mineral rights of the surrounding land to an unscrupulous fracking company.
The film’s central character is new student Donald ‘Ducky’ Wallace (Finn Cole), who got this rare placement at this exclusive school because a spot opened up due to a suicide, but everyone, with the exception of dead boy’s best friend/roommate Willoughby Blake (Asa Butterfield), would like to forget about the tragedy and continue the school year by upholding the Slaughterhouse status quo. This is, of course, upheld by head prefect Clegg (Tom Rhys Harries), a sadistic bastard who is a cross between Draco Malfoy and Joseph Goebbels, as he takes particular pleasure in tormenting Wallace and Blake, but mostly against Wallace who has shown interest in his posh upper classmate Princess Clemsie Lawrence (Hermione Corfield), who, by school rules, is untouchable by the likes of Wallace.
Rounding out the cast of characters we have Mr. Meredith Houseman (Simon Pegg), a lovelorn teacher who has been batting way out of class with former teacher Audrey (Margot Robbie), who herself is now giving medical aid to children somewhere in Africa, and most likely sleeping with one of the other Doctors Without Borders. This running gag of Simon Pegg mooning over his clearly lost love, him Skyping her and begging for her return, seems like it belongs in another movie entirely, and it derails the central plot of the movie whenever it pops up. Next, we have Eco-Warrior Woody (Nick Frost), whose group has set up camp in the nearby woods, and from there they split their time between protesting the fracking operation and selling drugs, when they’re not going on about, “The dangers below,” that is. The character of Woody has a little more to do with the plot, as we eventually learn of his tragic backstory that deals with his days as a student back in his Slaughterhouse time, but once again, he really doesn’t add much to the proceedings, other than the fact of, “Hey, that’s Nick Frost!”
The first hour of Slaughterhouse Rulez works as a dark comedy, dealing with the bullshit of attending an elite boarding school and the shenanigans within those hallowed halls, but as it’s also supposed to be a horror movie, we expect to see some horrific things going on as well — not that some of the stuff that goes on in this school isn’t horrifying, though on a different spectrum — but we paid to see monsters. Where are the goddamn monsters? Now, we get hints of something sinister going on — radar imaging by the fracking dudes picking up what appears to be a large mass of creatures moving deep underground — but before we get much into that, we have to shift back to Wallace mooning over the beautiful Clemsie, and Blake’s personal mission to make sure the death of his “friend” is not forgotten. Eventually, the creatures will make an appearance — at about the hour mark — and we do get a good amount of gore as these monsters (which look like a cross between the demon dogs from Ghostbusters and a giant naked mole-rat), start eating any poor human within reach.
When the film’s final act explodes in a monster fueled bacchanalia of decapitations and chewed-off limbs, it’s a lot of fun, and we also get some cool history of the school as we learn more about the mythology of the creatures, the tunnels beneath Slaughterhouse, and how they are all connected. It’s at this point that fans of the genre are going to be more than pleased, even if they had to wait a bit longer than expected for the action and horror to finally kick in. The end result is a movie that comes across as a mash-up of Harry Potter and Attack the Block, which isn’t a bad thing, and some of the social commentaries of Slaughterhouse Rulez were handled quite well, but much of the stuff with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost could have easily been trimmed so that we could have spent more time with our lead teen protagonist, and maybe given us a bit more monster mayhem as well.
Slaughterhouse Rulez (2018)
Movie Rank - 6.5/10
Slaughterhouse Rulez is a decent horror/comedy and director Crispian Mills has assembled an excellent cast to support his rather fun monster movie, and though it certainly could have used a little more horror and a little less prep school bullshit, the end result was still a rather entertaining outing.