It certainly wouldn’t be a stretch to say that if the majority of the cinema-going British public heard there was a new horror-comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost coming out, we’d all be rushing out to see it. Slaughterhouse Rulez, however, is not the joyous reunion we had all hoped for. Director Crispian Mills, working under Pegg and Frost’s production company Stolen Picture, has fully exploited the pairs place in our hearts to pedal this lacklustre posh boy picture.
Despite the fact that comedy about wealthy snobs rarely falls anywhere outside of utterly obnoxious, Mills thrusts himself headfirst into the class-based humour that weaves itself throughout the film by having the new student arriving at prestigious public school Slaughterhouse to don a heavy northern accent. Of course, because no one above the Watford Gap is smart enough or rich enough to go to a school like that! Obviously! The boy in question is Don Wallace (Finn Cole) whose mother (the always charming Jo Hartley) wants to send him away for a better education now that a last-minute spot at the school has been made available. Not long after meeting his new roommate Willoughby (Asa Butterfield), Don quickly learns that the room become available because the previous roommate, a gay viscount, hung himself due to bullying and died the previous year.
The pecking order of the school becomes apparent from this information, with rivalries between the different houses within the school and the Upper Sixth claiming themselves to be ‘Gods’, things don’t much improve when introduced to headmaster ‘The Bat’. Played by Michael Sheen in a parodic scene-stealing role combining the worst amalgamation of Tory ponce and those people that are still obsessed with Winston Churchill, Sheen derives the best qualities from his performance as Aro in The Twilight Saga and applies them to great comedic effect. The Bat wants to elevate the school to the next level of superiority and has been criticised for his harsh techniques, certainly by Simon Pegg’s House Master Meredith, who misses the good old days of the school and spends most of his time love-struck over his long-distance cheating girlfriend (Margot Robbie). Pegg is his usual routine of nerdy and charming and it largely works, much to the detriment of the students surrounding him whose comedy moments and few and far between.
Upper Sixth vs First Years seems to be the jagged crutch upon which the film leans, there is essentially no real reason for the love interest introduced for Don, the hazing rituals thrown by Upper Sixth or many of the meandering scenes within the films core. These meaningless character interactions are dispersed by Nick Frost however, playing an anti-fracking environmentalist, Woody, protesting on the schools grounds in regards to a fracking venture approved by The Bat to make way for “a dry ski slope and prefect’s spa”.
Tremors caused by the fracking drills then cause subterranean creatures to start prowling the grounds of Slaughterhouse, which is supposed to be where the ‘horror’ element comes in. Armed with some pretty cheesy practical effects that don’t sit too kindly for a cast with this much star power, the creatures are simply too little too late. With characters that are for the most part intolerable it’s at least a joy to finally watch them get picked off one by one.
Slaughterhouse Rulez suffers from a lack of balance, its comedy is deafening unoriginal and its horror barely exists. It does manage to thrive during rare elements of satirical critique of the “unelected, imperialist elite” (as Woody calls them), and it’s during these moments that the film works well as a high parody of the traditional conservative institutions of England. In some ways Frost’s character and his hippy friends are the much-needed counter-point to the excessive nature of Slaughterhouse, for without their critique, it seems that Crispian Mills is just revelling in being a school clown behaving badly, except nobody’s laughing.
Dir: Crispian Mills
Scr: Crispian Mills, Henry Fitzherbert
Cast: Finn Cole, Asa Butterfield, Michael Sheen, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Margot Robbie, Hermione Corfield, Tom Rhys Harries, Isabella Laughland
Prd: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Josephine Rose, Diego Suarez Chialvo, Charlotte Walls
DOP: John de Borman
Music: Jon Ekstrand
Run time: 104 minutes
Slaughterhouse Rulez is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now.