Butcher Boys is the new film written and produced by Kim Henkel, best known as the scribe behind the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It revolves around a group known as the Bone Boys, a vicious gang that runs the streets and deals in human flesh as if it were drugs. A young woman and her friends are selected at random to be on the menu, and insanity ensues.
We spoke with Henkel about how Butcher Boys is an evolution of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the taboo of cannibalism, and his upcoming documentary.
Where did the idea for Butcher Boys come from?
Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” was a major inspiration. [“A Modest Proposal” was a satirical essay written in 1729 which suggested that poor parents sell their babies as food for the wealthy.] What I posited was that, some time after writing “A Modest Proposal,” a group of individuals decided to put it into effect for whatever reason, and the Bone Boys are an extension of those individuals.
The movie is bonkers. It starts out full-tilt and doesn’t let up. What went into the decision to not spend time getting to know the characters before the madness starts?
My approach was, “You can get to know someone on a slow train, or you can get to know someone on high-speed rails.” It’s just a mapper of cranking up the MPH but the same thing happens. You learn about these characters, you just learn about them on the fly. There is no attempt to make this a character study; they are almost archetypes more than they are real characters. I even named two of the characters “Ken” and “Barbie!”
There are a lot of references - some veiled, some obvious - to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Was that intentional or organic?
I originally conceived of this as a Chainsaw sequel. I looked at some basic things I was doing in Chainsaw, as well as what I was doing here, and both beg the question of what does the social entity of being a family mean? What are you entitled to do under duress, when your way of life is threatened? In Chainsaw, the family members were redneck luddites. They were victims of technological advances, and they were attempting to preserve their way of life in the face of that. The Bone Boys, whatever their origins were, they have embraced it for what it is, and made it an enterprise. In Chainsaw there was a rudimentary process of the same thing.
So this is more like an evolution of the Chainsaw story.
Yes. They look at what a social entity is entitled to do when confronted with the challenges it faces. Chainsaw’s response is, “Not only can we kill you, but we can eat you.” Butcher Boys’ response is, “Not only can we kill you and eat you, but we can harvest your unborn.”
Did you have any problems getting the film past the MPAA?
I don’t know anything about the MPAA, but I would assume that Butcher Boys is relatively tame compared to what you see today, in terms of blood and guts and gore.
Sure, but what makes it so intense is the subject matter. I think cannibalism is one of the last taboos
Well that is the whole idea: to violate the taboos. To me, it’s not that different from what is going on in the world today. Look at some of the supposedly “legitimate” and other “outlaw” regimes around the world, and what they think they are entitled to do. We’ve got Assad gassing his own people [in Syria]. This is precisely parallel to those kinds of choices - or looks at those kind of choices that social entities make.
The film feels like it is set in a dystopian, not-too-distant future.
It’s supposed to be set in our present dystopia, so to speak. It sort of imagines a bleaker, darker world than most of us inhabit on a day-to-day basis. There are many places in the world that are much kinder and gentler than in the Bone Boys’ world.
In the film, eating human flesh is presented like a drug addiction, and you have one character, Amphead, that seems very much like a Leatherface-type character. Is he the devolution of humanity as you fall deeper into addiction?
Absolutely. The idea is that when human beings deteriorate, the worst we become is monsters. In that sense, he is very much like Leatherface. What is our worst self? That is what he should be. The face of human kind at its very worst.
There are a lot of cameos by famous Texas Chainsaw actors. Can you talk a bit about bringing them in to your film?
It was just a really fun thing to do. Each of the cameos play a roll in the film - they are not just pasted in - so if you didn’t know who they were, they would function just as well. Why not use wonderful actors with whom I’ve worked in the past?
What is coming up for you?
I’m working on a documentary about Lou Perry [who played L.G. McPeters in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2]. He’s had small parts in a lot of major films. You’ll see him pop up in Poltergeist or Blues Brothers or Boys Don’t Cry, he’s an interesting character. We started shooting this documentary in 2007, and in 2009 he was murdered, right in the middle of the process. So we’ve got to find a way to pull that together and finish that up.
Butcher Boys is now available on VOD.