(Wretched) Watching with Alex, Episode 24: An Hour of Miserable Misery

Butcher Knife (Doctor Bloodbath) [1987]
Directed by: Nick Millard (as “Nick Phillips”)
Written by: Nick Millard
Featuring: Albert Eskinazi, Irmgard Millard & a host of uncredited people
Production: Frances Millard  (I.R.M.I. Films)
Category: Video Slasher
Brought to you by B-Movie TV!

TL;DR: I suffered for you.

The previous episode featured an abortion-mutant. I’ve since been steadily editing The Suckling down, removing images and chopping up the review because, whether the numbers reflect it or not, I just thought that the whole thing wasn’t well received. I never intended to cover another horror flick dealing in abortion so soon, much less again, but the Universe has delivered a film unto me that is simply too astonishing in its level of zero-fucks-given for me not to punish it. So here we are.

What information I could find on Butcher Knife is both sparse and incomplete but from what little I was able to gathered I can say two things with some level of confidence. Firstly, the film takes place was most likely a Millard family venture as it was written by, funded by, and partially starred Millards, and secondly, the entire budget went into renting a video camera and maybe one room in a filming location. I have seen some crap-tacular examples of cost-cutting in the effects department but never have I seen anything like what Butcher Knife passes off as, “Job done.”

I had to watch this movie again, alone, to get character names and location specifics. I can not express my displeasure enough.

Title

So after a knife stabs the literal title card and somebody finger paints over the opening credits in stop motion, we join Dr. Roger Thorne as he makes a house-call on “Female Patient” (Among the myriad things that make this movie a pain in the ass to talk about is the detail that apart from the main players, not many characters are deemed worthy of either name or credit.) who I’ll call Nancy Knife. Nancy Knife lets Dr. Thorne in, concerned over “something” he called to say he found in her tests, to which he replies by asking her if she’s alone. Being asked this question in a horror movie should just instantly slay the person so that we can move on. Thorne tells Nancy that she has an infection and that he has injections to help treat it, but instead of making her feel better the injection paralyzes her! Thorne then carries Nancy into her bathroom and places her in the tub before stabbing her to death with a butcher knife while looking very bored. It’s a death which Nancy Knife also just isn’t feeling the character motivation for as it sounds more like she’s just hit the couch after a marathon.

To get this out of the way so that I won’t need to repeat it later, the sound effect for the knife and any other object which Doctor Thorne uses on anyone is *muffled wooden thunk* and all other sound drops out completely whenever the camera cuts to him in the act of killing, be it from the other actor or effects work. This gives each scene the bizarre effect that both actors were filmed separately and is testament to just how terrible the sound work is.

Thorne returns to his home and sits on the sofa like an emotionless Mr. Bean while clenching his fist. His wife Chaire (I can’t decide if it’s “Claire” or actually “Chair” because as stated before the crediting here is atrocious.) comes downstairs from spiffing herself up and comments that she’s on her way out the, “Garden-Club-Award-Banquet-Beep-Boop.” There’s several other domestic bits like this that don’t mean anything so I’ll just be skipping over them, we don’t need to know details like whether Thorne has eaten or not or the like. Meanwhile, the police are briefly on the scene at Nancy Knife’s house and “The Lieutenant” promises to get whoever killed her.

When we rejoin Chaire not a minute later, it’s pretty clear that she’s not attending any Garden Club Award Banquet as she heads up to another man’s apartment and knocks on the door:

“I’m-here-for-the-Garden-Club-Awards-Banquet.”
“Well. You-have-come-to-the-wrong-place.”
*stare*
*stare*
*stare*
“I-am-giving-award-tonight-but-not-for-garden.”

With this information in hand we can conclude that Chaire is having an affair with a human-mimicking conglomeration of wood that has turned her-

It’s been ten minutes of movie time, TEN MINUTES. Why am I getting into such deep detail on Butcher Knife? On Butcher Knife?! I’m one-fifth through this flick for the third time now to try to tease out some more information that none of the online pages bother to cover and it’s still just eighty-percent staring off into space and fist clenching. It’s that pace that’s kept this in the Draft section for weeks and it’s going to stay there if I keep trying to put actual work into it. So I’ll be skipping anything not integral to the plot.

The End

 

 

 

fine. The pole holding this video tribute to Pod People up is Thorne’s profession. He works at the [unintelligible] Pregnancy Counseling Center (All I keep hearing Mrs. Carmichael, one of the many uncredited actors, say when she answers the phone is, “Darn- ” and even if the town/city where this is supposed to take place sounds a little like “darn”, I’m not going to call it that. This is aggravating enough, thank you.) where he performs, among his other medical practices, abortions. Thorne dials the desk and asks her to bring him the files for all the women the Center has performed abortions on in the last month. If Nancy Knife’s fate is anything to go by, nothing good will come of this. Thorne then fiddles with his thumbs and stares off into space as the camera zooms in on the oily skin of his eyes and nose for longer than necessary.

There’s then a brief scene of Thorne speaking with an unnamed woman. Has she had an abortion before? Has she ever had a reaction to anesthesia? We then needlessly cut to Chaire telling the housemaid, Juanita, that she’ll be home late because of “Garden Club” business in what’s probably one of the most awkward exchanges in a film already filled with awkward exchanges (“Grahciass.”) before going back to following Thorne as he gets off work. He’s not going back to his place but rather to that of Mrs. Stanley. I am unsure if she’s supposed to be the same woman he was just talking to but her reaction seems to rule this out. He says that one of her tests came back “positive”.

Stanley: “Test? What kind of test?”

Thorne: “One of the standard tests that we do. May I come in?”

Stanley: “Yes, sure.”

Thorne: “Are you alone?”

I shall refer to this level of Okay-Done writing as “jumping into the Serial Bowl” to eliminate redundant paragraphs. Thorne takes a meat cleaver out of his bag and hacks away at Stanley’s neck while calling her a murderer, the act also cutting between Thorne striking a two-by-four off-screen and Mrs. Stanley being struck with a blunt plastic cleaver. Yes, we all know that’s what it is and, no, I don’t care; there isn’t even any wound makeup applied! She’s also as convincing at being killed to death as Nancy Knife was.

We’ll cut to Chaire and her paramour, whose name might be “Jersey” if I’m not getting the spelling wrong from the woody dialogue, a couple more time discussing money and stuff but I’m going to keep to Dr. Thorne. Mr. Detective is on the scene at Stanley’s house while Thorne is back at home washing the blood off of his hands and not directly upstairs like the cut makes it seem. Then he’s standing somewhere at night doing an impression of a goblin.

The following day Thorne sees his latest patient, Mrs. Rodgers. He asks a few times if she’s considered other options but Rodgers is set on having this abortion: “This is the easiest way.” I’m starting to wonder this time around if there’s more preaching going on behind the scenes here but I couldn’t find a damn thing about this movie online so I’m not going to bother. Our original audience of viewers was then treated to a truly baffling sequence: Thorne squeezes multiple loads of water into the woman on the operating table with a fucking turkey-baster while images of a large toy doll spattered in stage blood next to a butcher knife on a table and Thorne “stabbing” the doll flash onto the screen. Our collective reaction to this was a country-wide, “What the fuck?” We all thought that it was some kind of metaphor at first but no, that’s the actual depiction of the procedure here.

doctorbloodbath
I’d love to be making this shit up, I really would.

Thorne goes home and blankly clenches his fist again before going back to the dark place again, the background of which makes me assume now that he’s supposed to be in church. The next thing he does is call another past patient, Linda Andrews. He gives her the same “positive test” story over the phone and she eventually agrees to jump into the Serial Bowl. Of course he’s really there about “something very evil” and attacks her with an ice pick. Even in a turd like this I have to give credit where credit is due because the actress playing Linda gives a profoundly better performance of being horrifically attacked by someone she trusts. Doc then goes back to the dark place/church for three seconds before arriving back home. Chaire ask for money, which she intends to give to “Jersey”, blah blah, Thorne plays with his thumbs some more.

An important bit of plot does end up happening with the two adulterers: Chaire’s pregnant. She wants to get married and raise their child, a plan that “Jersey” is definitely not into. Chaire storms home, throwing her shoes and calling him a, “no good son-of-a-bitch Pollock.”, like she even needs more negative characterization at well over half-way through. Meanwhile, Thorne heads off to another patient as visions of graveyards, Linda’s body, and filtered stone walls play across the screen. At one point they give way to this friggin’ spook:

ButcherKnifeSpook1

This is easily the scariest thing in the whole movie, I can’t stand his/her/its spade-headed non-body as it walks closer to the camera while a high buzzing tone plays. I saw this asshole in my dreams for the remainder of the night. Moving right along, he shows up at Mrs. Rodgers’ patio door and she opens it, hopping right into the Serial Bowl. She lets him in and offers him some coffee, but while she’s seeing to that Thorne takes a hammer out of his bag and starts beating a basketball in a wig with it. When the camera cuts to him, there is no sound at all. Rinse. He goes back to the dark/church and then home where Chaire is waiting for him, obviously still fuming over being jilted by her lover.

I seem to have used up my Blockquote. I only used it twice, is that even a thing? Well, Chaire tells Thorne that she’s pregnant. They go back and forth lifelessly about the details while Thorne looks drained, and then you know what happens? Can you guess what happens? What does Chaire say? That’s correct, she wants to make use of his particular medical skills, to which he flatly agrees. Mr. Detective pops up for a moment at the scene of Mrs. Rodgers’ murder and according to him it’s been an entire week since she died. Even when the timeline feels like showing up it doesn’t mean anything. He does feel that all the killings are the work of the same person though so I’m willing to go along with “Job Done” since we’re almost out of the woods.

Thorne does go through with performing the abortion for Chaire, complete with ridiculous large doll stabbing. Seriously, she said she wanted it gone, “before it gets any bigger”, how big is that thing going to get?! Thorne winds up at in the dark/church again and then visually wanders through the graves and walls, but did we really need the spook again, too? I hate that damned thing. That night Thorne lies restlessly in bed next to his sleeping wife. He gets up and wanders around for a bit before retrieving a butcher knife from the kitchen and heading back upstairs. What happens next is predictable but the effort and effects are just a laughable, leading me to make the “winning comment” on that movie’s comment stream: “Can’t even penetrate the sheets, no wonder she cheats on him.”

The movie isn’t over yet, either. There are still six minutes of material that I am at an utter loss to break down in any way, they can only be experienced. This is partly because you have to be familiar with this director’s other movies to get the references and partly because I can’t even.

Favored Ability: None. The warrior got killed in the tutorial and wizard shot the food.

Rating: 1/5 (Ramen’s Too Expensive) [+1 Group Riffing]

Butcher Knife is one of those movies that one must go into with a full knowledge of what to expect, and I lacked any knowledge whatsoever. It was fortunate that I had the rest of the B-Movie Nutz with me as some were just as equally flabbergasted as I was while others were familiar with the director and able to explain the weirder stuff and point out references to their earlier films. Seriously, I must have spent several days searching for who this “SOV” guy was until I made the connection that SOV stands for “shot on video”.

Dense

 

So what does Butcher Knife have going for it? Well, that’s both a question of, “What kind of mood am I in?”, and, “How strong do I want my drink?” When viewed both completely straight and given benefit of the doubt, it’s a long stretch of “actors” looking grim in a grim and lifeless setting with brief interruptions of “slashing” and that stupid doll. However, when watched in the right frame of mind with at least thirty other people and a good buzz going, the multitude of shortcomings, the robotic dialogue, the terrible sound work, the drawn out instances of staring off into space, the Party City effects work, the references that end up making no damn sense, the fucking doll, all come together to form a crazed burrito that’s kind of alright as long as you don’t ask what’s in it.

I don’t- fuck, just hit Play.

 

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