Just a heads up before I jump headlong into my review of Beckoning the Butcher (2013), I noticed the film is playing in the Viewster Film Fest that is currently going on. So if anything I write here piques your interest or you just can’t get enough of found footage horror flicks, check it out here.
Beckoning the Butcher is an Australian found footage film, impressively made on what looks to be a miniscule budget by director Dale Trott. Even after my not too enjoyable last found footage experience which was Creep (2014) at MIFF a little while back, I was pretty keen for this. The 10:30pm on a Friday night scheduling seemed perfect for a little low budget high concept horror action and I conveniently had a beer in hand.
In terms of setup, you will have seen a vast majority of what Beckoning the Butcher does a few times before. There is the obligatory thank you to the families of those who had gone missing and some after the fact ‘interviews’ delivered direct to the camera which were very reminiscent of another Aussie found footage film The Tunnel (2011). Actually that was a film brought to mind quite regularly whilst watching this one. There were however some nice original touches in the film’s construction. The fact that the main character Chris is a Youtube star, thanks to his videos of undertaking various supernatural rituals, is an interesting way to explain away the presence of the cameras. And an ominous reference to the Deep Web sparked interest early on, but unfortunately is not really taken anywhere. The setting was also something a little different. Sure it was isolated and rural, but that is actually a relatively unique setting I think. Aussie farmland is not as done to death as house in the American woods. Also generally impressive were the performances from the younger cast members. All unknowns to me, they grounded the film well in its sillier moments and managed to set up believable interactions between one another. Some of the cast members in the interview segments were a little more stilted unfortunately. It was hard to pick if that was an issue with the performance, or the way in which those sequences were directed. But the result was that the suspernatural found footage horror elements actually felt more realistic than the ‘interviews’.
At times the low budget was a bit of a distraction, though for the most part on that front, the filmmakers have done impressively. It is just frustrating then that every so often something would take you out of the world of the film. One example is the logos on various objects (a package of salt for example) being fuzzed out. It sounds silly sure, but every time that happened, I started thinking about why the filmmakers had needed to do that, was there some disagreement with the folk at Saxa. And if I’m thinking about corporate interactions with large salt companies, I am not thinking about where the film is taking me. The major flaw and the one that means the film really fails in its aims, is the total lack of frights that it delivers. I was expecting to be scared out of my brain, because for all its flaws, found-footage as a filming style does allow for jump scares a plenty. Here though, the tension was never built up enough for the big terrifying moments to actually hit home for either me, or the audience that I watched the film with.
Verdict: Overall, despite definitely respecting the effort made and the achievement on a really low budget, not much about Beckoning the Butcher really works. The lack of real scares is pretty terminal for a film so reliant on frightening its audience to succeed. If you are on the lookout for some Aussie found footage goodness, you are probably better off turning your sights back a couple of years and picking up a copy of The Tunnel. Schooner of Carlton Draught
Don’t forget to get commenting away to go in the draw for a couple of sweet Madman DVDs. Details here.