In Darren Lynn Bousman’s newest film Abattoir, Julia (Jessica Lowndes) is a curious and plucky reporter, the type you would find in the films of the 30s and 40s; her character, reminiscent of the fast-talking Hildy Johnson, played by Rosalind Russell, in His Girl Friday. Grady (Joe Anderson) her male confidant and police detective, is first introduced to us in trench coat and fedora, like he walked out of a Bogie picture; think Casablanca or The Maltese Falcon
Right off the bat you get the impression that this film is set decades ago, in a nostalgic past of fast and tough talking gals and fellas who don impressive outfits, solving crimes with flair amid the darkness of the world. Except, Abattoir is not set in the past, but in the present, and as it turns out, the film is a pretty dark multi-layered horror noir.
Abattoir is an eclectic blend of neo-noir, horror, murder, and mystery– the anachronistic look and dialogue never really feels out of place, it’s jarring at first, but something you can easily get accustomed to. Immediately, the film’s bombastic style captivates us, reeling us into a world that pays homage to the film noir style of filmmaking, while remaining palpably modern in the process. The story follows up-and-coming reporter Julia, desperate to cover a real story; and she gets one alright, however, not in the way she had hoped. When her sister and family are murdered in their own home, Julia is convinced that the murders weren’t as random as they appear. Her theory is confirmed when the room that the family was murdered in is completely extricated from the house, leaving behind the skeletal frame of the room– walls, furniture are all gone.
On a tip from the realtor, Julia receives an enigmatic card with the name Jebediah Crone (Dayton Callie), who may have answers and something to do with the bizarre mystery. This leads Julia and a reluctant Grady down a dark path to New English, Louisiana. New English is the type of small town where everyone knows each other and outsiders are looked upon with skepticism. Her quest for Jebediah takes her deep into the smalltown where she seeks a haunted house that is built with the rooms of the dead.
Up to this point, the film has set-up its stylistic tone of chiaroscuro and low-key lighting, reminiscent of the film noir style. But once in New English, the film begins to tread into heightened and stylized visual territory apropos to the film’s narrative path. Not only does the film, pluck at tenets of film noir and plants them in its own narrative, like the use of pervasive fog, Bousman’s direction methodically leads us into this much more visually sumptuous experience that gets exceedingly complex and visually captivating as the film unfolds. As Julia’s journey descends into the eerie, the film’s cinematography (Michael Fimognari)– and production design (Jennifer Spence) becomes incredibly evocative and macabre and it never feels forced or out of place. The film’s stylistic cohesion and consistency escalates to an exciting and revelatory third act that slowly envelops you as the film marches towards the film’s denouement.
Apart from a visual feast, Abattoir is full of wonderful performances. Dayton Callie shines with his enchanting and enthralling voice as Jebediah. Lin Shaye has a small appearance, but her presence is grand and monumental,– resonant even– her lines delivered with such a calm and collected sense of humor and mystery. Lowndes and Anderson are the brilliant partners who encompass that duality of man and woman in the films of classic Hollywood, with Joe Anderson appearing comfortable with the stylized dialogue of the film, delivering his performance with ease and cool.
The film’s anachronistic dialogue is delivered with overall naturalness aided by a talented cast who understands the nuisance and cadences within the language. Which is essential because the dialogue in this film is heavy and wordy with each utterance carrying a pertinent piece to the puzzle that is Abattoir. Despite its wordiness the dialogue is essential to the narrative– and almost the single most important component of the film– which is both engaging and aesthetically pleasing.
Abattoir is a beautifully realized sumptuous visual feast that will both captivate your aural and visual senses. Matched with dialogue that serves the film’s style, this horror noir stands out as a magnificent and well realized film, that is both unique and captivating, and a refreshing and daringly ambitious modern horror, with a killer third act.
Abattoir recently had its world premiere at the L.A. Film Festival on June 7. The film is based on the graphic novel of the same name created by Darren Lynn Bousman
Below you will find an exclusive clip from the film released by Deadline Hollywood. We Are Indie Horror will do our best to keep you up to date on all things Abattoir as it will making its rounds shortly. Also keep an eye on the We Are Indie Horror YouTube channel as Darren Lynn Bousman made a stop to Candi’s Lab to visit with Hound and discuss his story along with Abattoir