DOUBLE FEATURE RETROSPECTIVE – Lunch Meat (1987)/Slaughterhouse (1987)

Lunch Meat (1987): SUMMARY
Cannibals who roam the San Bernardino Mountains in search of victims! PAW & THE BOYS! BENNY, ELWOOD and HARLEY! Psychotic, meat-eating mutilators who get their kicks by ambushing young men and women, hunt them down, and cold-bloodedly. tear their bodies apart!

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There’s HARLEY, who get his kicks by chopping off people’s heads with his AXE! There’s ELWOOD, his younger brother, who likes to DRILL HOLES in his victims with his PICKAXE! PAW’S favorite tool is his stainless steel MACHETE! He gets his thrills by tracking his prey down, taking a couple of swipes with the machete to draw BLOOD, and then likes to see them beg for mercy. He’ll move in with a chuckle and CHOP THEM UP into many pieces of BLOOD-DRENCHED MEAT and BONES to be thrown in TRASH BAGS and taken down to the nearest greasy spoon to be sold as lunchmeat!!!! Then there’s BENNY! Deaf and dumb and MANIACAL with an insatiable thirst for human blood and raw flesh!!!! BENNY does his best work with a shovel!!!!

BEHIND THE SCENES/PRODUCTION
The film is the culmination of three years work and a virtually lifelong dream of its 39 year-old writer/director Kirk Alex. With a background that includes film school training, Alex had been making his living driving a cab. Eventually the frustrations of that job, and the passion to make movies, overrode the instinct to make a living and he sold his cab to raise the money to start filming LUNCH MEAT.

Alex is understandably reticent about discussing details that might affect the film’s value on the marketplace but it seems likely that it was shot on 16mm with a budget probably below $60,000. The film was made on a 14 day shooting schedule, most of which was haphazardly scattered over an almost three month period. “We’d shoot a couple of days here, a couple of days there,” recalled Alex. “Sometimes we’d stop because we ran out of film and had no money to buy more. Other stoppages were for schedule conflicts for cast or crew. The worst delays were for hassles from the law.”

Cast & Crew
Cast & Crew

Alex’s cast and crew frequently had to change filming locations due to run-ins with Southern California police or Forest Rangers. “The whole system is set up for big budget productions,” complained Alex. “If you’ve got a movie camera in your hand you’ve got to have a permit to breathe, and everybody is out to make a buck off you. I was supposed to have a police officer and a fire marshal on the set at all times, at $40 an hour. A piece! There’s city, state, and county permits you’ve got to have, insurance and lawyers and paramedics. I could have spent my entire budget without ever exposing a foot of film!”

Instead Alex opted for true outlaw filmmaking. He and his group would shoot in one location until the forces of the law showed up. They would feign ignorance of the rules and regulations and then leave, promising to return with the proper paperwork and cash. In reality they would simply move on to the next suitable location and go through the whole process again.

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Surprisingly, few of the film’s problems arose from the cast. “They were all pros,” said Alex. “It was 95° to 100° every day we shot and they spent most of their time running around or falling down in the dirt. Sure, they complained, but they all kept showing up and doing their best.”

Chuck Ellis, who portrays the gargantuan, cannibalistic mute Benny, was the only member of the cast whom Alex knew before shooting. “I always knew Chuck was a fine actor, and his size creates an undeniable screen presence,” said Alex. “I think he did a great job as Benny. He manages to create some sympathy for this pathetic sub-human even while we’re watching him engage in some pretty barbaric acts on screen.”

One staple of low-budget exploitation films that LUNCH MEAT lacks is sex or nudity. “It wasn’t a conscious decision to leave it out,” said Alex. “I just didn’t see any place for it in the script and I wasn’t going to bring the entire film’s pace to a halt just to have some girl take her top off.” The film’s special effects, the backbone of any gore film, also suffered for the lack of time and money. “A lot of good effects sequences were dropped because they were just too time-consuming, or costly,” recalled Alex. “I think Lori Drucker and her effects crew did a real good job on the throat ripping that kicks off the crazies’ attack, and on the miscellaneous body parts. They could have done even more. It’s the classic story: all we needed was time and money.”

Post production of the film was even more protracted than its filming. Over eight months, in increments of a day here, a day there, were spent before the final project was ready to market. Many of the delays were in order to raise additional money to deal with the next phase of the postproduction chores.

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Alex bypassed any thoughts of theatrical exhibition and shopped the film around to various video distributors. He had several offers, some of which appeared more lucrative than those of Tapeworm Video, but he felt he could trust its owners because they were struggling dreamers like himself. To date, LUNCH MEAT has sold over 2500 copies for Tapeworm. That’s a pittance in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of copies a blockbuster title might move, but it’s not bad for an unknown film, with a no-name cast. It is, in fact, Tapeworm’s top seller to date.

And hopes are high that things may get better still. The tape’s incredibly graphic cover, offering a wild-eyed Benny gnawing on a severed human arm, was an undeniable eye catcher but has proven too bold for many video stores. A new, tamer cover was eventually offered.

CAST/CREW
Directed/Written
Kirk Alex

Produced by
Kirk Alex
Mark Flynn
Al Goodrum
Robert Oland
Pamela Phillips Oland
Ashlyn Gere (credited as Kim McKamy) as Roxy
Chuck Ellis as Benny
Joe Ricciardella as Frank
Elroy Wiese as Paw
Robert Oland as Harley
Mitch Rogers as Elwood
Rick Lorentz as Cary
Bob Joseph as Eddie
Marie Ruzicka as Debbie
Patricia Christie as Sue
Ann McBride as Waitress

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Slaughterhouse (1987): SUMMARY
Lester Bacon is an old nut-case farmer living with his simple-minded, obese son Buddy. Both of them lament the fate of the old skilled hog farmer, now giving way to modern factory-type slaughterhouses. The father and son go on a killing spree against people who trespass on their property. In the opening scene, Buddy kills two teenagers, Kevin and Michelle, who are having some time alone in their car on a remote area of Lovers Lane.

The next day, Harold – Lester’s attorney, along with his law partner Tom and the local police chief, Sheriff Borden, visit Lester at his house to offer him $55,000 to buy his property, along with the closed-down slaughterhouse next door. Lester is told that the demolition of the slaughterhouse would create employment opportunities for many people in town, as well as get the county tax assessor off his back. Lester grumbles about Tom’s equipment and bad meat and says that he could do better with his hands, knives and fewer men. The sheriff tells Lester that the assessor’s office is foreclosing his property and he has 30 days to vacate it.

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Meanwhile, Liz – Sheriff Borden’s teenage daughter – is with a group of high school friends planning to shoot a “horror video” and suggests that the area around the Bacon Slaughterhouse would be perfect. Her friends – Skip, Annie, and Buzz – wonder the whereabouts of Kevin and Michelle. Back at Lester Bacon’s property, his son Buddy takes Lester to a room and shows him the dead Michelle and Kevin. Lester is a bit unsettled, thinking that they’re neck-deep in trouble, but he tells Buddy that Tom, Harold, and Sheriff Borden deserve such a fate.

Deputy Dave, after being informed by the worried parents of Michelle and Kevin, checks out the docks and then goes to the slaughterhouse. He walks inside and calls for the two teenagers. As Dave finds a dead hanging cat, Buddy appears and kills him by shoving large metal sliding door on Dave’s gun-toting hand, chopping it off.

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Lester then calls Harold to tell him that he has accepted his sales offer. Harold goes to the slaughterhouse where both Lester and Buddy kill him. Buddy then puts on the dead Dave’s blood-stained police uniform and goes for a drive in the squad car. Dave’s girlfriend, Sally, sees him driving past and waves, but Buddy chases her and runs her car off the road. She tries to escape on foot, but Buddy catches up to her and slices her neck with a butcher knife. When Tom arrives at the slaughterhouse, Lester lures him to the processing room, where Buddy drops him into a saw machine.

That evening at the Pig Out, a town dance, the power goes out due to a rainstorm, and many people leave. Buzz says it’s the best time for filming at the slaughterhouse. Skip then makes a $20 bet that the girls cannot last one hour at the slaughterhouse. Liz and Annie are dropped off at the place while the boys are sneaking around with masks used in Liz’s video. Elsewhere, Sheriff Borden finds Sally’s car with the damaged windshield and Dave’s patrol car with the door open. The sheriff then goes back to his car and calls for backup.

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Back at the slaughterhouse, Liz and Annie realize that the boys are outside trying to scare them. Liz looks for a way to get behind the two guys and scare them instead. The boys split up and Buzz gets inside the building. Skip is at the window, and Annie laughs until Buddy suddenly appears and whacks Skip. Annie screams and runs, but Lester appears and grabs her.

Liz walks to the front door and sees that everyone is gone. At the same time, Buzz walks into a room, hears a noise and gets hit in the face by Buddy. Liz finds a hanging Annie (still alive), as well as the dead bodies of all the other victims. The father-son duo is there and Buddy grabs Liz. Meanwhile, Sheriff Borden learns that Tom and Harold have mysteriously disappeared.

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Buddy and Lester hold Liz down on a table, and Lester says that a meat cutter like himself and Buddy have the skills like a surgeon. Lester slices one of Liz’s fingertips to prove to her that it is one of the most sensitive parts of the human body. When Lester turns and hears Sheriff Borden enter through the front door, Liz kicks Lester and runs away. She finds her father and runs to him. Buddy appears and the sheriff tries to shoot him, but he hits the blade of his meat cleaver. Sheriff Borden and Liz run outside into the rain. As Sheriff Borden pauses at his squad car door, Lester appears and stabs him in the back. Liz picks up her father’s gun and shoots Lester. She then helps the wounded sheriff into his car. She also gets the keys to start up the car, just as Lester rises and knocks at the car windows. She turns around, shifts the car into reverse, and runs over Lester, crushing his head and finally killing him. The sheriff tells Liz to drive away and radio for help. Buddy suddenly sits up from the backseat and swings his knife at Liz. She screams, and the film suddenly ends.

BEHIND THE SCENES/PRODUCTION
Even before the new slasher movie Slaughterhouse  played in its first commercial theater, it was in the black. Slowly squealing its way around the country, the film was a testament to the new Hollywood, where independent companies outnumber major studios eight to one, and where home video and foreign sales can more than pay for a film’s cost. Slaughterhouse, for example, was sold to 60% of the foreign markets, including Germany, England, and Japan, before its domestic fate had been determined. Embassy’s Charter Entertainment is distributing the video cassette

It helped that the movie was made on a very tight budget; in fact, only fifteen full-time crew mcmbers were employed. As a result, writer director Rick Roessler was faced with the task of making up credits to increase the film’s prestige. The first two weeks of a four-week shot were done without any days off. and at that point, Roessler joked, they had to pick a few people off the floor and take some time off.

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The film marks a major launch for American Artists, in which Roessler is one of three partners. The San Diego-based production company was set up four years ago primarily to produce films. The partners proceeded to work on other people’s movies until they could raise enough capital, mostly from private investors, for their own venture.

They even wanted to distribute the movie themselves, but felt they were not adequately prepared for such a challenge. Instead, they gave that job to Castle Hill in New York, which splits the grosses 50/50 with American Artists. “They don’t normally do horror films,” Roessler explained. “It worried me in the beginning. because I wanted to go with a company that knows horror films. New World wanted to buy it out for the ridiculous figure of $400,000.” Castle Hill’s involvement marks a continuing trend: prestigious “art house” distributors who are resorting more and more to handling low budget horror films as well. In their case, they put the name of a subsidiary on it. JGM Enterprises.

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“The name of the game is you have to make a living, suggested Roessler. “I know I dug into our bank account heavily to help bankroll this film. I got into the horror genre not only because I like it but because there’s a base audience out there. Being horror fans, the one thing we didn’t want to do was absolute schlock. We didn’t want to do porn. You won’t see any gratuitous sex.”

One thing Roessler did play up was the comedy element. “We enjoy tongue and cheek stuff,” he said. “There must be a measure of comedy to make the film more horrific; otherwise, it would be too dull. Some films have so much blood, like EVIL DEAD, that they become funny.”

Roessler said he used the FRIDAY THE 13th series as an example of what he was trying to avoid. “It started out well, I think. The first one was low budget, and I think a lot of effort went into it. But look what’s happened to the character in the next five. It’s just gone blithering on they haven’t really identified who this guy is. The last one, six, was this huge slugger walking around with huge boots, whacking people for. I guess, no reason.

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For Slaughterhouse Roessler developed his own character, Buddy, who in the ads is described as “360 pounds of Cleavermania” (in real life, Joe Barton, who plays him, is 372).

“With Buddy, what we tried to do was establish a character. He’s human he’s not some abstract. There’s hopefully some sentiment, some pathos in this character. Doesn’t say word one through the whole thing, and he’s the so-called star. He snorts like a pig.”

The film works as a sort of revenge picture, with Buddy killing those who provoke him or try to evict him and his father out of their condemned slaughterhouse. Thus, the title provides an ideal double entendre for the movie. The film has played in Detroit, Nashville. Denver. Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh and Phoenix, with other cities to follow. Roessler is expecting Embassy to be pleased with its release path. “Embassy put money into it because they want it to get out there. The best advertising for home video obviously is theatrical release, and the best theatrical release for home video is the one-week hit ’em and then leave, because not everybody gets to see it. The word gets around, and then they rent the video.”

Poster for Unproduced Sequel
Poster for Unproduced Sequel

Roessler said raising the money to make the film, over a period of eight months, was the hardest part of getting his project on the screen. “We put on presentations for several investor parties,” he said. “We went door-to-door. We made phone calls.”

CAST/CREW
Directed/Written Rick Roessler
Produced Ron Matona
Joe B. Barton as Buddy Bacon
Don Barrett as Lester Bacon
William Houck as Sheriff Borden
Sherry Leigh (credited as Sherry Bendorf) as Liz Borden
Jeff Wright as Deputy Dave
Bill Brinsfield as Tom Sanford
Lee Robinson as Harold Murdock

CREDITS/REFERENCES/SOURCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
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