Didja know that the word “carnage” is derived from the French word “carne,” meaning “flesh”? And that the word “butcher” is derived from the Germanic root “bouc” for goat or deer, as in “buck”? Well, this coming Tuesday, March 14 at the New Beverly, with the help of our friends at the terrific home video label Vinegar Syndrome, Grindhouse Night is going to be an all-too appropriate description of this combo of carnage, with two horror films devoted to tender flesh and the killers that serve it. And you can feast on them both for the low cost of only 8 bucks! So as the old pet food commercial goes, please don’t bother the butcher… he already is!
First off the meat rack is Rick Roessler’s Slaughterhouse from 1987. Lester Bacon (Don Barrett) has been content to let his old meatcutting operation lay idle, initially unaware that his mute monstrous son Buddy (Joe B. Barton) has been regularly capturing and carving up the occasional trespasser. When opportunistic rivals want to buy his land and tear down his abattoir, and opportunistic teenagers sneak into the lair to film a gory music video, father and son soon find common ground, and team up to pound, press and pulverize everyone who just won’t let their cheese stand alone.
Writer/director Roessler and his producer Jerry Encoe met while making training films for the Navy, and set about making Slaughterhouse in 1983. They shot in San Diego in 21 days with a $110,000 budget, lucking into an actual defunct facility and other prime locations to add atmosphere. Due to finance and completion issues, the film was not ready for release until 1987, by which time slashers were fading from popularity in favor of lavishly-budgeted and effects-laden horror tales like The Lost Boys. As such, their indie production wasn’t initially a hit in theatres, though not for lack of enthusiastic support: the filmmakers sent star Barton to university campuses in character to spread the word, and even did their part for cinema manners by creating this No Smoking PSA:
This tenacious promotion by the young unknowns would make Slaughterhouse a regular rental favorite in video stores long after; for years, no horror section was complete without a VHS tape featuring Barton’s glaring face and his gleaming cleaver, ready for business.
Next, we offer up a drier aged cut that we think is the pick of the litter: Pigs, written and directed by veteran actor Marc Lawrence. Misanthropic cafe operator and former circus star Zambrini (Lawrence) has been frequently and quietly murdering wandering souls, then feeding their remains to his hefty swine. Despite recurring accusations from his spinster neighbors, the local sheriff (Jesse Vint) is oblivious to Zambrini’s dark activities. Lynn Webster (Toni Lawrence), a winsome and haunted drifter, comes to work for him, and will quickly discover they share some other bloody interests…
Marc Lawrence enjoyed a decades-long career of playing crooks, killers and other intimidating types, though a period of blacklisting due to the Sen. McCarthy-led HUAC hearings drove him and his family to European exile for years. He enjoyed a final burst of popularity in the ’90s before his death, appearing in high profile movies like Four Rooms and Looney Tunes: Back in Action. After writing and directing the 1965 John Derek thriller Nightmare in the Sun and some television, he conceived this project, originally called The 13th Pig, as an acting showcase for his daughter Toni, writing it under the name of F.A. Foss in tribute to his wife, actress Fanya Foss, and mortgaging his home to finance the ten-day production. Toni would go on to a series of roles on Universal-produced TV shows and in cult films, and was briefly married to Billy Bob Thornton in the mid-’80s.
Pigs has been notorious for years for its multiple reissues and recuts under many titles. After initial engagements did not do well, Lawrence’s distributor, looking to ride the popularity of supernatural horror films, enlisted him to shoot a new prologue with a different actress that suggested Lynn’s erratic behavior was due to demonic possession; this version went out as Love Exorcist and The Strange Exorcism of Lynn Hart for a few years. Then when other distributors picked up the rights, they eliminated the exorcism add-on but recut the film again, shot new opening and closing scenes without Lawrence’s involvement (one using a male stand-in wearing a wig!), and released those versions under the titles Daddy’s Girl, Daddy’s Deadly Darling and Roadside Torture Chamber.
Another memorable element of Pigs is its extremely catchy theme song, “Somewhere Down the Road” by Charles Bernstein. Reportedly, the then-rising composer agreed to do the music for the film in exchange for a painting featured in the film, which Lawrence’s son Michael had made for Federico Fellini. Bernstein went on to write many film scores, including Mr. Majestyk, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and particularly Joseph Sargent’s White Lightning with Burt Reynolds – selections from that score have been used twice by Quentin Tarantino, for the soundtracks of Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Inglourious Basterds. Basterds also featured a cue from another Bernstein score, for The Entity. The theme song was heavily sampled by horrorcore rap artist Necro for his 2011 single “Keep On Driving”
Don’t miss this night of well-done horror that’ll really stick to your ribs. Like they say in political circles, last Tuesday may have been an election day in Los Angeles, but this Tuesday the 14th is when you actually see how the sausage gets made!