174 of 1001 Movies: The Butcher (1970)

Claude Chabrol did prove to be a master at building suspense especially in this French film, The Butcher. Even though it appears obvious at who is doing this, somehow Charbrol still makes it quite intense as you watch, and it fills like minutes are passing quickly. His filming style is simple, but he knows how to capture the scenery and people in a way that builds the terror. Shadows seem pretty staple of the mystery thriller genre, but this movie has done it really well in making you feel the eerie situation.

Summary: Helen and Popaul meet at a wedding, and from there they begin a friendship that is unusual. Popaul is the local butcher, and Helen is a popular, but repressed school teacher. While Popaul has feelings for Helen, she has voiced her lack of interest in a romance after heartbreak. The two are forming a close bond, but there is also a string of murders occurring, and Helen finds that she may be getting close than she thought to figuring out who is behind the murders.

Acting: The acting is very understated, and it really works to build the realistic vibe of the movie along with the chemistry is growing. No one over does their acting part. Stephane Audran is Helen, and was also the muse for the director in making the movie. She has the looks for the movie, and there is something her that just embodies that nature of the French women we imagine from the 60’s/70’s. She is cool and confident, but also has the ability to be shaken up.

Filming: What does make the movie so scary is the director’s ability to take this nice, small, bright town and give it a horror that covers it in darkness. He zooms out just to get shots of the town sometimes where all we see is the mist and whole town, and it does give the movie a suspenseful vibe. There are mixtures that work well to create this scary vibe too like the kids at the picnic and finding an unexpected scare. You also don’t have to see much gore or the murders to get the terrifying aspect, which is appreciated. There is also a good part at the end that gets you on the edge of the seat as Helen tries to lock all the doors of her living space. You just feel her terror and wonder if it’s unfounded or real.

Plot: I like how the plot feels like it could be something complex, but you can also be a casual viewer and enjoy it just the same. I think people will find the themes of love and war intriguing, and perhaps the mild evaluation of what has driven the murder to do the crimes he has committed. Then again I feel like the movie is trying to push for something deeper, but never makes it quite to it either. The length of the movie works as well, since it gets everything moving and done in under an hour and a half we don’t have anything forced trying to weave itself into the story.

The Butcher has some beautiful scenery, but the shots are simple as to not over power what the natural setting is already doing. The characters also have an odd chemistry that works. The serial killer bit is also done well, because there is so much suspense already in the unseen without having to see everything. So many movies that are slashers nowadays seem to have lost the realization that the true terror that builds in your mind is what you don’t know is there. This is conveyed well in just how Helen is trying to lock her whole living space.

Rating 7 of 10.

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