A fracking operation releases subterranean creatures on the grounds of a public school. RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES looks at Slaughterhouse Rulez (2018).
Although the topicality of the subject of fracking would not have been lost on the writers behind Slaughterhouse Rulez, they probably couldn’t have predicted just how topical it would be, come the week of the film’s release.
With reports in the media of earthquakes around Blackpool, purportedly linked to shale gas explorations nearby, this timely film has another team of frackers disturbing something more visually tangible beneath an elite boarding school.
Don (Finn Cole) is a Yorkshire lad who has been pressured into attending the delightfully named Slaughterhouse school by his aspiring mum, and finds himself sharing a room with Willoughby (Asa Butterfield), a snuff-snorting pupil who seems to be having an existential crisis.
Don also has to contend with brutal and sadistic sixth-formers, and his developing crush on the seemingly-unobtainable Clemsie (Hermione Corfield).
Such schoolboy angst is rather overshadowed by the discovery of a giant sinkhole in the nearby woods, which is giving off an unbearable stench.
Despite the concerns of the pupils, the headmaster (an entertainingly slimy Michael Sheen) simply shrugs off their worries, probably due to the fact that an old pal is behind the firm doing the digging, but even he can’t ignore things any longer when a group of slug-like creatures with deadly choppers and an appetite for human flesh emerge.
As most of the school’s inhabitants head off for a weekend at home, those who remain find themselves under siege from this subterranean menace.
The sending up of public-school life doesn’t quite come off as well as you might hope, but there is nonetheless an enjoyable vein of establishment-bashing humour which is endearing, although most of the gags are more of the knowing grin variety than real belly laughs.
Once the action proper gets going, director Crispian Mills keeps things moving briskly, making the best of some lavish locations, and showcasing the delightfully yucky creatures to great effect.
Perhaps the main failing of Slaughterhouse Rulez is that it isn’t especially scary, and its gruesome moments feel somewhat muted, giving the niggling feeling that all concerned have held back somewhat to get the desired 15-certifcate, when an all-out, tongue-in-cheek assault on the senses in the vein of The Evil Dead II (1987) might have given proceedings that extra punch.
Nonetheless, it’s an enjoyable enough outing, and a promising debut from Stolen Picture, the production outfit of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who have supporting roles as a lovesick sports master and a psychedelically-fried eco-protester respectively.