Director – Dale Trott
Starring- Damien E. Lipp, Tristan Barr, Stephanie Mauro, Sophie Wright, Tilly Legge
UK Release 13th October – Monster Pictures UK
Acting as almost a cautionary tale set in the digital age, BECKONING THE BUTCHER, takes its scary basis from a hidden internet ritual, combining it with the found footage and mockumentary genre, and at least coming off as something original, despite holding all the traits we expect for shaky cam horror.
It documents the unexplained disappearance of Chris Shaw (Lipp), and 3 of his friends, with only one survivor, who was found deeply traumatised, after they practised a ritual at an abandoned farmhouse in the outback. You see Chris has a website dedicated to performing rituals found on the internet, a site slowly developing a big fan base. Desperately looking for a ritual that will drive even more fans to his site and make him an internet star over night, Chris’s brother gives him the beckoning the butcher ritual.
The film cuts between interviews with a detective involved in the case, Chris’s brother and a psychic who is there to provide or give the filmmakers some hint of what went on that fateful night. The film mainly does focus on the found footage angle, so we get scenes of Chris along with his mate, Brent (Barr) and Chris’s girlfriend Tara (Mauro), and their friends Lorraine (Legge) and Nicole (Sophie), making their way to the farmhouse, and naturally like any found footage film scenes of them joking around, drinking beer and partying are feature along with the ritual itself. The farmhouse is in a rural setting and the word rural can read as out of bounds for our characters, and this being horror, placing them in a vulnerable setting and the film starts to kick into gear when one of the group starts displaying weird illness and leaves in the middle of the night, signifying the start of the supernatural mayhem.
There’s much to appreciate in BECKONING THE BUTCHER, despite the lapses into un-originality, and the usual set pieces we’ve come to expect from this sub-genre, the film displays a quality sheen to it, that belays its apparent 3,000 Aussie dollar budget. This is through its use of the documentary elements, which add a humanistic side to the film, particularly the interviews with the detective and the brother, the latter whom feels slightly guilty in giving his brother the ritual, after finding it on the ‘deep web,’ an apparent underground no-holds barred element to the internet where dubious material can be found, including this ritual, which in itself lends the film an extra level of effectiveness, in that the origins of the ceremony is not fully explained and becomes a cautionary tale of messing around with the unknown and the supernatural but from sources found in the digital matrix of the ever accessible internet.
The documentary elements, do remind me very much of the superb LAKE MUNGO (2008), and no doubt this film will owe element of influence from that previous Aussie classic, and which if you haven’t seen then see it. But along with the talking head interviews, the initial attacks on the group of friends are also well handled and do bring up a few jumps, and are handled extremely well, becoming slightly intense towards the final conclusion of the film. There is also a nice slight in-joke/attack on the Chris’s insistence of filming everything and one of them replies back “You don’t after to record to get night vision,” to which he replies “We have to record everything.”
The only overall negative effect though is, and this is with any found footage flick, is a sense of we’ve seen it before, and no doubt we will see it again, and it’s a great scenario for any independent filmmaker (as its cost effective genre filmmaking), but it’s at the step and probably has already crossed that step of any sub genre in horror, in tiring itself and becoming a parody of itself, which it pretty much has with the Marlon Wayans starring spoof A HAUNTED HOUSE (2013).
Maybe the parody’s are indication that the sub genre has achieved some form of cultural significance, maybe it won’t be long before we see feature length documentary’s about it, and even academic essays written about its significant voureyistic angles etc, just maybe it will be around for longer, and then it will be revived, or it will die off soon. Either way for the time being it’s going to be around and at least with BECKONING THE BUTCHER, despite the typical and predictable motifs of found footage, there is at least some originality on display in this film and the director displays some nice inventiveness and tricks up his sleeve to at least bring out the necessary scares for the audience.