If Hammer House Of Horror had produced “Spaced”, the result could have been a lot like “Slaughterhouse Rulez”. A common room home brew of British Boarding School classics like “If….” and “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (the 1969 version specifically) mixed with “Ghostbusters” and dash of “Harry Potter”, this intoxicatingly lowbrow comedy horror offers a novel spin on the idea that British education has gone to the dogs.
When a space opens up at Slaughterhouse, a prestigious private boarding school, Don Wallace (Finn Cole) is enrolled by his mother to ensure the best start in life. The school itself is riddled with elitism and hierarchical traditions and Don’s ‘new money’ roots don’t do him any favours, especially in the eyes of malevolent head boy Clegg (Tom Rhys-Harries). Thankfully, his roommate Willoughby Blake (Asa Butterfield) is more welcoming but just as Don is settling into life at school, a nearby Fracking operation (permitted thanks to a lucrative donation to the school) accidentally releases a ferocious pack of subterranean monsters.
There’s a leisurely, tongue-in-cheek approach to the first hour of the film, where the occasional reminders that there be monsters a-coming, feel like a bit of an intrusion into the ongoing comedy-drama of life at Slaughterhouse. There’s enough satirical material and intriguing characters to make this a pretty good story of boarding school life in its own right before it gleefully descends into the gross-out slapstick horror/ action hell-scape that forms the film’s third act.
There’s a lot of fun to be had just from the film’s young and appealing cast, navigating the corrupt and prejudiced social politics of the school. The ever-watchable Asa Butterfield is great as the deceptively eccentric and insouciant Willoughby Blake, the perfect sidekick for Finn Cole’s square-jawed hero. The veterans, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Sheen and – incongruously – Margot Robbie, are kept occupied by side plots until they’re needed in the main story, mostly for monster-fodder at the most comedically appropriate time. The creature effects are great – and satisfyingly practical, too, which gives the production a nostalgic old school feel, in amongst the knowing pop culture references.
If you’re looking for a searing, allegorical indictment of the cruel elitism inherent in the private school system, then this isn’t the film for you. Likewise, if you’re after an all-out blood-and-guts horror gore-fest, then it might also disappoint. But if you’re open for something that’s tonally not too far from “Shaun Of The Dead” or “Attack The Block” (with the council estate residents swapped out for the 1%) with likeable performances, a smart script and some unexpectedly effective pathos, then “Slaughterhouse Rulez” deserves a place on your movie watching curriculum.