By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.
Butcher the Bakers (2017), the third full-length feature from writer-director Tyler Amm, is a uniquely entertaining and spectacularly inventive medley of humor and horror. Part contract killer tale, part buddy comedy and part slasher saga, the 94-minute arrangement is pure fun. Much of this endless enjoyment derives from Amm and Virginia Campbell’s sharp and briskly-paced script. Filled with well-timed gags, smirk-inducing dialogue and retro (primarily 1980’s influenced) terror elements, Amm and Campbell’s previously stated contribution also winks at audiences with a few genuinely inspired self-referential moments. One of these is a nod to Amm’s debut picture, River City Panic (2015). There are also subtle alignments to numerous big screen classics wisely placed throughout the affair. John McTiernan’s action masterpiece Die Hard (1988) and Steven Spielberg’s timeless science-fiction epic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) are the most easily perceptible of these allusions. There is also a frenetic and infectious energy the likable cast radiates throughout the undertaking. When unified by the stellar performances that only continue to reflect these terms, the rousing success of Amm’s latest genre crossbreed is increasingly distinguishable.
Amm chronicles Dragomir ‘Drag’ the Reaper (in a stupendous turn from Mike Behrens that drips old-fashioned macabre). Having recently lost his job, Drag begins the arduous process of killing members of a small town. The reason for his behavior is to collect souls. Why he needs to amass these internal mechanisms is an answer that Drag keeps to himself. Soon bakery shop laborers Sam and Martin (Sean Walsh and Ryan Mathew Ziegler respectively) are hired to permanently disrupt Drag’s massacre. Because of this, the lead villain of Amm’s effort finds it progressively difficult to keep his plans and reasoning for his wicked measures to himself.
It’s a great set-up. Such is one that is molded with crowd-pleasing flare from its commercial-like opening, which is spliced with flashes of tense brutality, until the satisfying conclusion of the exertion. The narrative is given further life by Amm’s stylish and efficient guidance of the project. His editing is just as proficient. Adding to these qualities is Zach Shaw’s alternately rich and appropriately gritty cinematography. Billy Niebuhr’s music beautifully echoes the offbeat, grim and gut-busting tone of the piece. The camera work is exceptional. Moreover, the special and visual effects enhance the joy of the enterprise. This is with their decidedly antiquated veneer. Nicholas Swartz’s costume design is terrific. The sound department work is top-notch. Relatedly, Lisa Wojcik is remarkable in her portrayal of Pat. The post-credits sequence is hilarious. It brilliantly expands upon the commencement of the story.
Co-executive produced by P.J. Starks (2015’s Volumes of Blood), Amm’s exercise has its share of exceptionally crafted instances of gore. Yet, it is never overblown. The same can be said for the sum of Butcher the Bakers. Amm’s endeavor is daring, delightful and unabashedly tongue-in-cheek. Still, it hardly ever feels excessive. Such is a fine balancing act. It is one of the various essentials of Amm’s opus that I admired throughout its trim runtime. Another constant source of esteem would be Amm and his filmmaking participants’ palpable chemistry. It resonates through every merry frame of his most current outing. These high-functioning components combine to form a wonderful B-movie. Such is especially evident when considering the several smartly done twists which encompass the labor. Recorded in Ottawa, Illinois, this Petri Entertainment distribution release is brimming with the glorious, can-do spirit of independent cinema. I highly recommend seeking out Amm’s cleverly titled flick. It will be unleashed on select digital platforms in the U.S. on January 16th, 2018.
(Unrated). Contains scenes of graphic violence, adult language and adult themes.