Squealer (2023)

Squealer (2023)

A gorefest based on a true story that's both icky (good) and problematic (bad)

6.7

Movie

United States of America
English
Horror, Thriller
2023
ANDY ARMSTRONG
Danielle Burgio, Graham Greene, Holly Kaplan
99 min

TLDR

Here's to hoping that one day we'll have a slasher that's not *that* misogynistic.

What it's about

In a small town where sex workers regularly go missing, it's only Lisa, a social worker, who cares enough to trace the evidence back to a local pig farm.

The take

A first feature by stuntman-turned-director Andy Armstrong, Squealer is supposedly based on real events that shook Canada in the 1990s. Robert Pickton or the Pig Farmer Killer was perhaps the inspiration for the eponymous Squealer in the 2023 film; the physical resemblance is uncanny. Extraordinarily cruel serial killers make good gore material and we love to see it, but the problem is that the audience today wants something new and fresher. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a classic, but it's hard to make a film as misogynistic and hit the same charge as it used to. In Squealer, it is only female bodies that are shown dismembered, cut open, sliced, and diced; for men, all this happens off screen. This is only one example of how the film reiterates some of its onerous tropes, without really updating them. It's not exactly good taste to hammer bits of comedy in the dialogue too, as it feels  disconcerting amidst the rivers of blood and cruelty. 

 

What stands out

Actress and stuntwoman Danielle Burgio not only plays the film's main character—the conscious social worker Lisa—but she also co-wrote the script of Squealer. Burgio's involvement cannot be understated and it seems like all the good parts of the film are either of her, or because of her. A sympathetic, resilient character who still puts others first (importantly, women in precarious circumstances rather than men in power), Lisa is proper final girl material. With her character, Squealer shows that the tropes of slasher don't need to rely on a young and virtuous woman to be the last one standing; by giving the spotlight to someone more mature, the script provides an antidote to some of the reductive cliches it features. It's a shame that Burgio is effectively erased from the film's posters and marketing campaign despite her prolific work and crucial role.

 

 

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