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Slaughterhouse Rulez review: Pegg and Frost rule school of the dead

It's not quite Shaun of the Dead, but this horror comedy B-movie earns an A grade.

Nick Wall

Pay attention class! Today we'll be studying Slaughterhouse Rulez, a new horror comedy dropping Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in a monster-besieged school where exams are the least of their worries.

Simon Pegg and Michael Sheen have a teachable moment.

Nick Wall

You boy, are you chewing? I hope you brought enough for the whole class. As I was saying, Slaughterhouse Rulez, in UK theaters now (no US or Australia release date yet), pits a motley crew of oddball teachers and misfit teens against the terror unleashed by a fracking operation. Stop sniggering, boy, I said "fracking"!

I'm referring, as you well know, to the practice of extracting natural gas from shale rock, which is perfectly harmless if you don't mind a few earthquakes or, in this case, sinkholes into hellish netherworlds. Which is fine by me -- you children have it soft these days, and the odd blood-soaked murder spree builds character.

Right, let's take the register. Michael Sheen? Here. Margot Robbie? I'm surprised to see you in this class. Pegg and Frost? Both here -- thick as thieves, those two. I've tried separating them but they still manage to make mischief, this time under their new Stolen Picture production company.

Rulez suffers for keeping Pegg and Frost apart, except for one underwhelming meeting. In fact, other than Pegg, most of the big names -- Frost, Sheen, Robbie -- feel as if they each popped in for a day or two to film their bit. Still, they all bring an engaging end-of-term larkiness, particularly Sheen. Playing the misguided headmaster, his flapping robes and campy eye-rolls are straight out of a St Trinian's tale.

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Isabella Laughland, Hermione Corfield and Finn Cole add a touch of class in Slaughterhouse Rulez.

Nick Wall

Among the lovable misfit schoolkids, Finn Cole and Asa Butterfield are top of the class. Tom Rhys Harries also earns high marks channeling Malcolm McDowell as a sociopathic sixth former.

Back to the register. Wright? Has anyone seen Edgar Wright? He's usually hanging round with Pegg and Frost, must be bunking off. I hear there's a new boy involved. Crispian Mills, is it? Very well, Mills, take a seat in Wright's chair.

Back in the summer term of 2012, Mills directed Pegg in the little seen but delightfully odd A Fantastic Fear of Everything. Now, as co-writer of Slaughterhouse Rulez with Luke Passmore and Henry Fitzherbert, Mills dials back the weirdness for a more mainstream approach. This is obvious in music class, for example: The film is bookended by crowd-pleasing but rather obvious bangers from The Clash and The Hives.

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Nick Frost (far left) and Simon Pegg (far right) with Crispian Mills (centre right), co-writer and director of Slaughterhouse Rulez (and frontman of rock band Kula Shaker).

Christopher Raphael

Now, I trust you've all done the homework. Thanks to the presence of Pegg and Frost and the combination of horror with comedy, the key texts are Shaun of the Dead and The World's End. As well as its stars, Rulez shares those films' apocalyptic but lighthearted horror in a very British setting.

You there, keep your eyes on your own work! There'll be no copying here. What's that? An "homage"? Don't be cheeky. Rulez has fun with throwaway references to cricket bats and chainsaws, but these "homages" mainly show up the film's shortage of iconography of its own. And it's not just the presence of Pegg and Frost that suggests Mills has been looking over Edgar Wright's shoulder in class: there's even a moment when a car speeds away with a spot of Wright-lite quickfire editing that all Hot Fuzz fans will recognise.

Slaughterhouse Rulez also draws on the classic texts, which I trust you've all studied closely: a touch of 1970s Doctor Who, a tiny glimpse of American Werewolf in London-style over-the-top gore, and the simmering disaffection of Lindsay Anderson's scathing if....

While Rulez's jokey tone and comic carnage aren't as cutting as that 1968 satire, Rulez is very shrewd in exploring fracking through the lens of an elite school. It's a story about greed, centering on adults who imprint their avaricious self-regard onto a new generation of self-interested psychopaths while simultaneously ravaging the world that new generation will inherit. It's called subtext, boy, subtext!

Sit down, boy! The bell is for me, not for you. In summation, Slaughterhouse Rulez is a horror comedy B-movie that earns an A grade.

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