While I love a good horror comedy, BUTCHER THE BAKERS fails to fully satisfy; A tasty idea, but it needs more time cooking.
Horror fans, for the most part, love a good horror comedy. There is a lot of humor to be mined from the stereotypical situations that arise in horror films. BUTCHER THE BAKERS, directed by Tyler Amm, is a new horror comedy that brings the tried-and-true formula of the affable, slightly dumb, best friends duo caught in some supernatural drama that they stumbled into.
Think along the lines of TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL, JOHN DIES AT THE END, and even the BILL AND TED movies.
In BUTCHER THE BAKERS we meet our heroes Martin (Ryan Matthew Ziegler) and Sam (Sean Walsh), employees at a bakery who make the put-upon Quick Stop employees from CLERKS seem sweet and customer friendly.
Despite their habit of stealing money from the bakery owner and widow, Mrs. O’Connell, and serving their customers water-soaked loaves of bread and cookies with penis-shaped icing, Martin and Sam are destined to save humanity…or at least their town.
Stumbling upon Lance the Commissary (Alex Dittmer), who is a kind of Human Resources Manager for grim reapers, Martin and Sam are tasked with finding and killing a rogue grim reaper. Deemed too extreme for his job as the local area Death, Drag the Reaper, has been fired from his position as a Grim Reaper.
Now mortal, Drag has begun killing humans and collecting their souls. With Drag’s ultimate plans unknown to his former employers, Martin and Sam must stop Drag from his killing spree and free the souls he has trapped.
Generally, I’m of the Stephen King mind when it comes to explaining too much of a supernatural story. Viewers don’t need to have everything explained, and a little mystery helps build the suspense and the horror.
King gives an example of this in a forward to one of his early short story collections. Writing about a story of a man tortured by the sight of a finger growing out of a bathroom sink, King theorizes that it doesn’t really matter where the finger comes from. The horror is that there is a finger there, and neither the protagonist of the story nor the reader is aware of its origin.
Sometimes the audience’s imagination does the work for the author or the filmmaker. This, however, does not hold true for the machinations of Drag.
We, the viewers, must know what Drag’s plans are to care about why he has to be stopped. For about the first 30 to 40 minutes of the film, Drag’s plans are kept in the dark, aside from the fact that he’s killing humans and collecting their souls. In the next 30 minutes or so, the movie explains at least three times that Drag is collecting souls to open a door to the Netherworld.
BUTCHER THE BAKERS gives us multiple half explanations of Drag’s plans. We’re told Drag wants to enter the Netherworld and bring his collected souls with him, but that’s it. There doesn’t seem to be a greater plan, like unleashing the myriad of demons and monsters trapped there on Earth or becoming the new Lord of the Netherworld.
The lead characters of the story, Martin and Sam, aren’t treated much better than Drag. It’s not easy for a comedy to establish characters who are both likable and prickish. While the actors are good, the script doesn’t help them come off as the lovable buffoons that they should be. There’s very little about them that is likable, which isn’t necessarily a problem. Dante and Randall in CLERKS aren’t likable, but they are relatable and funny. Martin and Sam in BUTCHER THE BAKERS are neither relatable nor funny.
Comedy in movies is not easy to pull off. Even slapstick comedy can come across as forced if not written and performed in a somewhat exacting manner.
BUTCHER THE BAKERS tries too hard. Everything is thrown at the screen with the hope that some comedy will stick, but it doesn’t — and that makes for a painfully unfunny movie.
It doesn’t help that nearly every character delivers their lines by yelling. Aside from Lance the Commissary, all these characters are shouting their dialogue for much of the movie. The dialogue ends up lacking any kind of nuance, and the acting is, for the most part, stilted.
BUTCHER THE BAKERS is a movie that I wanted to like and champion. There’s quite a bit to like in the movie – it’s well shot and looks great. The movie’s score by Billy Niebuhr compliments the movie and is a standout electronic composition.
But it feels like writer/director Tyler Amm, along with co-writer Virginia Campbell, threw up every idea they had onto the screen and never bothered to pare the story down to a simple, concise, and funny story.
While BUTCHER THE BAKERS didn’t work for me, I am interested and hopeful in what comes next from Tyler Amm.