It’s no secret that the likes of Eton and Harrow are breeding grounds for the country’s one-percenters. Power begets more power, and nowhere churns out future world leaders and business magnates like England’s top private schools. These institutions have fascinated filmmakers for years, from the high spirited mischief of St Trinian’s to Lindsay Anderson’s seminal ’60s satire, if…..
In this sense, Slaughterhouse Rulez has a rich providence, and indeed enthusiastically nods towards its predecessors – a photograph of young Malcolm McDowell as Mick Travis is pinned to a dorm wall. This awareness of its influences and place in the wider canon could elevate Crispian Mills’ film into a beast as revolutionary as Anderson’s film was some 50 years ago. If… only.
Young Don Wallace (Finn Cole) is sent to the titular Slaughterhouse Academy following the death of his father, where he soon encounters the school’s pompous headmaster (Michael Sheen), mopey cricket-loving teacher Meredith Houseman (Simon Pegg), his snuff-snorting roommate Willoughby Blake (Asa Butterfield) and a psychotic pupil named Clegg (Tom Rhys Harries). Of course there’s the requisite ‘fit girl’ too, in the shape of Clemsie Lawrence (Hermione Corfield).
But beyond all the high school drama playing out at their boarding school, there’s also some fracking taking place on the grounds, sanctioned by the headmaster and protested by a group of drug-taking hippies who have set up a protest camp nearby, led by Woodrow ‘Woody’ Chapman (Nick Frost). Said fracking leads to a gruesome discovery, adding to the myriad of problems the students face at the archaic institution.
If this all sounds a bit confusing, it speaks to a plot strained by too many ideas and not enough steam to see them through. Combining a (largely) male twist on St Trinians with the likes of Greek mythology and creature feature horror, while as previously mentioned borrowing very heavily from if…, it’s a derivative sum of its parts, with the environmental subplot a particular low point in the film’s attempts to be relevant to today. The young cast are marred by a terrible script, and even Simon Pegg and Nick Frost don’t get much of a chance to be funny given that their characters are such boorish caricatures.
In fact, the film only seems interested in painting with broad brushstrokes. We have the token Northern student, the token gay student, the token hot girl, the token smart Asian student, the token bullied nerd, the token bully. Even the creatures which the students ultimately find themselves up against feel generic, like they were thrown into the story as an afterthought. The film sets up all the dominos, but never manages to knock them down, and the result is an underwhelming, unmemorable paint-by-numbers horror-comedy that fails to deliver on either part of that promise.