What came first…the chicken or the egg? The eternal question is not really a question at all. It depends on your own point of view. What you have as your foundation dictates the answer. With that in mind, what dictates that a scene or action is a trademark as opposed to being an homage (or a rip off for that matter)? It depends on our point of view. This thought process comes heavily into play for the viewer when watching Butcher Boys aka Bone Boys, Kim Henkel’s most accomplished work to date, brought to life by directors Justin Meeks and Duane Graves.
Animal Rights protesters gather outside a seemingly upscale restaurant. Sissy (Ali Faulkner), Mickey (Phillip Wolfe), Barbie (Tory Tomkins), and Kenny (Matt Henserling) are out celebrating Kenny’s birthday. While at a convenience store, they end up getting into trouble thanks to the incredibly troublesome Barbie (yes, I’m being nice but she really needs to be “experienced” spoiler free). The kids end up in a car chase with some other young locals that leads them into an all but deserted part of town. A part of town where death lives and breathes, in fact, it may even be a business. As a result of the chase, they end up stranded in this Twilight Zone-eaque world with no escape and even worse, they are being hunted by a group of young guys with no moral compass…and a horrifying addiction.
Butcher Boys is a brutal film. Not in the usual Hollywood way, but in the way that makes you jerk and cringe with every blow. The saving grace is really that most every character is deserving of what they get. I think I simply choose the least reprehensible person to side with. What is nice is that this film is an exercise in absolute depravity much like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but without the baggage and structure attached to that franchise. In fact, this film existence goes to show you that Kim Henkel has some bite left in him as long as he distances himself from that seminal work. It visually references that film as well as 1994’s ‘Next Generation but in a much more organic way that seems less forced. Again, is it a lack of originality or a personal style?With that question posed, let’s look at the cast of crazies, a well-crafted collection of Texas Chainsaw alums. Edwin Neal, Marilyn Burns, Teri McMinn, and Leatherface #2, Bill Johnson all make appearances, some larger than others.
Director Justin Meeks even turns up in a key role and looking at him in action, he bares more than a passing resemblance to Jeffery Combs. Not only that, but his character, Ceaser, is a character that screams Jeffery. Interesting.
So what else does the film have to offer besides a revisionist tale of madness? A whole lot really. Basically, check your senses at the door and hold on. The entire town is populated with crazies’ straight outta the original Crow comic. Not to say that the film is dated, it’s simply that they don’t really tell these kinda urban decay stories anymore. The film is a kin to classic (or not so classic fare) like Future Kill, but with a more gruesome M.O. In looking at it in terms of a throwback film, this is definitely the way to do it. It’s definitely a retro film, from plotting to style, but it doesn’t rely on cheap gimmicks, film scratches, or obvious visual cues to remind you of its origins.
Should you check it out? Is it another blatant reassembly of favorite scenes or is it an original work with traces of the writer’s personal tastes? Each person must decide for themselves and this is one of those films that will split people right down the middle. It may have nothing to offer some and others my find its madness exhilarating. The performances are certainly unhinged and played to perfection, which is what this type of film calls for. All in all, you could do worse for your time. I guess in the end I will just say this. If you want to see a film like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, just see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If you want to see a film like Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, just see this. You will feel much better about your viewing choice.