Horror Beckoning the Butcher (2014) 8/10

Jethro

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"The Butcher wasn't bound to kill her" - Shannon Donahue

Chris Shaw is a rising YouTube star based around his show that seeks out incantations, performs them, and hopefully gets some chill factor happening. Unfortunately for Chris thus far any number of spells have failed to raise the dead, entities from another realm, or Elvis. But hey the lad isn't giving in as he has found a new incantation that promises to bring forth a demonic entity named the Butcher. Naturally to conduct the latest spell Chris will need some mates along, an isolated location, and salt and candles. Where are the Winchester Bros when you need them!

Chris' mate Brent owns a falling apart "holiday house" in the remote outback, naturally nothing attracts the ladies like dilapidation so along for the ride are Chris' girlfriend Tara, Nicole, and Lorraine. After visiting a local supermarket for supplies the group arrive at the house and duly night falls. So Chris starts the ceremony, which involves each of the group signing their names and adding some blood - Tara passes on the blood thing, lightening a candle, forming a circle, and reciting a Latin spell. Nothing appears to happen, but pretty soon the group find themselves under attack by an entity high on the psycho scale. Button the hatches kids, things are about to go freaky.

To get the elephant in the room back to the conservation park, yes Beckoning the Butcher is a found footage outing with all the entrails. Not surprisingly Director/Writer Dale Trott has been listening to the criticism aimed at previous attempts at found footage. There is an obvious reason as to why Chris is constantly filming, requirements of his job, and he does have night vision which ensures we get to see what's going down. However for those who might be wondering we get the story interspersed with statements from family, a psychic, and the police officer investigating. Now you know you're in a movie that is trying to take itself seriously when the opening card reads, "The producers would like to thank the families of those who went missing". So lock and load a serious found footage movie, dial me in to that concept.

To be honest I got a big whiff of The Blair Witch Project with a bit of the plot coming at us. Seems, according to the Psychic, that entities from the beyond can affect a small area of this plain of existence. Hence after the first day on the road its constantly night time, mobile phones don't have any connection - nice touch rather than simply saying the group are out of range, and no one can get out of Dodge as all roads twist back on the house of doom. For those who might be still scratching their heads, the Witch in Blair Project can affect the time, physical surrounds, etc. of her patch of the Maryland woods. So something very similar going down which I'm not complaining about as it adds to explaining stuff that in horror flicks is usually papered over without any attempt at presenting things logically. Nice work by director Trott right there.

The real strength in this movie is Dale Trott's approach to low budget film making. Trott keeps the scares simple, and goes more for tension and atmosphere. Sure there are some scares happening, in amongst the growing dread, but besides the odd jump scene things are being kept fairly sparse and Spartan. There are some quick flashes to screen, which will have you hitting the slow motion button to get the full shocking details, but nothing to scare the bejesus out of the young folk. All deaths happen off screen with the only disturbing aspects being enough blood splatter to keep Dexter Morgan fully occupied for the next couple of months. So don't expect another found footage movie that has been blinged out with CGI, Trott is keeping it all real so you aren't taken out of the movie.

Trott starts things lightly, we see the results of an earlier occult ceremony, which is to say nothing happens, and there's talk of the next video unearthing something a whole bunch scarier, well hopefully. Be careful what you wish for in horror folks, you are going to receive it in spades. As things progress Trott amps up the tension and keeps building atmosphere to an almost unbearable degree. Think Paranormal Activity with true venom in the fangs, simple scares drenched in enough tension to keep you bouncing in your seat. Actually the movie reminded me a lot of Phil Davison's Belief (2005) when it comes to the atmospheric; dense and unrelenting comes to mind. Don't go into this one if you are unnerved by realistic horror, everything is built to make the movie as realistic as possible.

Equally what works for the movie is the young twenty something cast who are really digging being in a horror movie. There is something dynamic working between the whole five of the main actors with some real chemistry happening. Real terror is on display and everyone is going full steam in their roles. There is a rumour doing the rounds that the girls were unaware the ceremony was made up and were actually terrified as filming continued at night with some on the spot decisions being made in regards the minor fear tactics.

While I'm not about to argue Beckoning the Butcher is the greatest movie ever made in the horror genre, far from it, I would argue that the movie has waded out of the swamp of indifferent found footage flicks and into something you really should be paying some attention to. There is some real talent on display here both in front of the camera and behind. Those POV shots creeping slowly into darkened rooms are worth the price of admission alone folks.

Surprisingly for even a found footage movie there is no soundtrack with Trott relying on ambient sounds, sudden noises, and the cast screaming on cue. It's working like a brought one, once again everything is aimed at making the found footage premise to be as realistic as possible, absolutely nothing is taking you out of the movie.

So you got this far and showed enough patience for me to award you with a creature feature description, or how does the guy in the rubber suit do. Well to be perfectly honest you are getting flashes of something, possessed victims, something, director Trott is enticing and baiting but isn't about to reel in your darkest nightmare. Guess the fanatics out there could be excused for hitting the slow motion button to gawk at what is on display, I was happy enough with the brief glimpses, added to the tension for mine.

The movie does have its share of problems, some chaotic editing, characters running around like headless chooks on occasion, and side tracks to statements by the psychic Shannon Donahue, the local law, and Chris' bother which break the pace and general flow of the movie. But nothing overly problematic that will erase your enjoyment would be my verdict.

I honestly don't care if found footage is your thing or not, Beckoning the Butcher joins a select few movies filmed in this manner that I have no problems recommending to horror fans. If you don't like horror then why are you even bothering to read this review and no you won't like the movie as it dives head into the deep end of trying to scare the panties off the audience. For the rest of us, enjoy the movie and you can thank me for the recommendation later. I had a blast with this one, yes got some chill down my spine, and have added the movie to my regular rotation to be viewed at least once a year. Bit of trivia for y'all, my dad was a butcher and yes did a bit of it myself to earn cash for University. Okay signing off, go grab a copy of Beckoning the Butcher and prepare to have a real good time.

[Editor's Note: In some territories this movie has been renamed The Butcher Possessions for no apparent reason].
 
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