Direct to DVD: the horror of William Butler

william butler

Makeup, special effects, acting, writing, directing. WILLIAM BUTLER is one of those “under the radar” horror guys that has done it all for decades, from the 80s to today.

He has appeared in loads of horror, including:

Terror Night (aka: Bloody Movie)

Friday the 13th Part VII

Ghoulies II

Spellcaster

Buried Alive

Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III

Night of the Living Dead 90

Watchers III

Mothman

Freddy’s Nightmares TV show episodes

He has even appeared in gay films Lost in the Pershing Point Hotel and David DeCoteau’s Leather Jacket Love Story.

He has written films like:

Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis, Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave, The Gingerdead Man, and Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust.

And finally, he has directed films like Demonic Toys 2: Personal Demons, Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver (in which he also voices Gingerdead Man), and these two films – Furnace and Madhouse.

FURNACE (2007)

furnace cover

I’m going to save the best for last, so I’ll cover this one first. Despite its sizable cast, Furnace feels much more like an indie film than Madhouse. Great horror cast aside, it just looks like the usual direct-to-DVD digital effects supernatural ghost flix they pumped out for a quick buck back in the first decade of the 2000s.

furnace paul

The plot revolves around mysterious deaths/suicides at a prison. Rapper Paul Wall – yeah, the white guy who rapped on Brooke Hogan’s “About Us” track back when she was hot for a hot minute and saying “hot minute” was hot and Paris Hilton used to say “That’s hot” – gets the opening suicide, then Michael Paré is a detective on the case. Yeah, that Michael Paré, the white guy who starred in Eddie and The Cruisers but didn’t actually sing “On the Dark Side,” which was performed by John Caf—eh, fuck it. I could do this all day.

furnace leads

Paré begins poking around the spooky prison with the help of a psychologist (Sharon Stone-esque Jenny McShane of The Devil’s Dozen) and forensics expert (Kelly Stables, who played Samara in The Ring Two!). Inmates include Danny Trejo, Ja Rule, and hottie Taylor Kinney (The Vampire Diaries, The Forest), and Tom Sizemore works at the prison.

furnace ja rule trejo

There are some creepy exploration scenes of the dark basement, and it all keeps leading back to the furnace area, plus there are good, cheap jump scares provided by two freaky ghosts—a man and a girl.

furnace choke

But like I said, they’re mostly presented in cheesy digital form. Also, these ghosts have a weird ability to travel outside the prison, which is kind of ridiculous.

furnace girl ghost bed

However, it does make for probably the scariest scene in the film in Paré’s bedroom…with the added bonus of Paré being shirtless.

furnace pare

The film is rather slow as Paré investigates and the truth of what’s going on at the prison begins to unfold, but the final act is kind of fun, with Trejo and Ja Rule at last getting some screen time, a thrilling chase scene in the tunnels of the basement, and a total riot in the prison.

furnace ja rule trejo

But overall, Furnace won’t wow you, and you won’t feel a need to ever revisit again. And yet ironically, you’d probably watch it every time it comes on cable and there’s nothing else to watch.

furnace man ghost

MADHOUSE (2004)

madhouse cover

Now this is my kind of horror flick. Madhouse opens with a nightmarish sequence of clips that puts The Ring video to shame.

madhouse window freak

Our main man is none other than Josh from The Blair Witch Project. He plays an intern at a mental institution where the staff is almost as off as the patients.

madhouse prisoner grab

Lance Henriksen is the sinister head of the hospital (of course he is), Leslie Jordan (Will & Grace, American Horror Story) is a doctor, Dendrie Taylor (Sons of Anarchy, True Blood) is the evil head nurse, and Jordan Ladd (Club Dread, Cabin Fever, Grindhouse; Death Proof, Hostel: Part II) is a staff nurse.

madhouse leslie

Josh immediately notices things are weird at the hospital. Patients reference some sort of unseen presence (particularly Natasha Lyonne, who has a small role in the film), there are strange noises, Josh keeps catching glimpses of a little boy, he finds literature about the supernatural, and…staff members and patients starts getting gruesomely murdered!

madhouse body drop

Along with some wickedly eerie supernatural visuals, there are some whacked death scenes in this film! Plus there’s a hellish basement where the most disturbed patients are kept. Josh begins to consult with a mysterious patient down there that chooses to stay hidden in the shadows, but seems to know a lot about what goes on in the hospital.

madhouse boy

The film is atmospheric, suspenseful, and fast-paced with some great twists and a classic final chase. Imagine being chased through a mental hospital by someone with an axe, and no one gives either of you a second glance because they’re all fucking crazy!

madhouse trans

From a queer POV, there’s a patient down in the basement listed in the credits as “Trannie” that makes it a habit of talking dirty to the guys and disgustingly licking the glass window on the door of her room. There’s also an adorable bearded patient who it can be presumed is gay by a few simple lines of dialogue.

madhouse gay

First, the evil nurse actually calls him a faggot, and second, when he’s speaking with Josh and reminiscing about his childhood, he recalls being really bad at dodgeball and getting hit with the ball a lot. On top of that, his character is a gentle, kind soul and very protective of Natasha Lyonne, the ultimate fag hag…

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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