“Beauty Queen Butcher” (1991) rips a bloody page from the book of high school horror

By on November 1, 2019

Jill Zurborg’s straight-to-video feature Beauty Queen Butcher (1991) reveals what happens when shy, chubby and hopelessly nerdy teenager is entered by some of the mean girls at her school into the Sylvan Slough Beauty Queen Pageant, which tragically and comedically results in a bloody murder spree you won’t believe.

Beauty Queen Butcher — the back of the DVD, released by Camp Motion Pictures, claims this film was “influenced by the horror classic Carrie and 1980 slasher favorite Prom Night” — is just one of the films we’ve recently added to our collection of “Low-Budget Slashers” on Night Flight Plus.

Rhona Brody (who according to IMDB has only one other film credit) plays the pudgy high-school misfit Phyllis.

She’s the butt of every joke, relentlessly bullied by several girls at her Texas-based high-school.

We learn Phyllis is an orphan, and her only real friend in life is her kitty cat “Eartha” (played by two different cats!).

Imagine her surprise when she learns by letter that she’s been invited to be a contestant in the annual Sylvan Slough Queen contest.

Her only other real friend at school is her big-rimmed plastic glasses school pal “Cameron ‘Fishpod’ Owens” (Steve Kollin). He encourages her to compete in the contest, figuring it will be a good way to overcome her shyness and boost her self-esteem.

It might also be a way to get Miss Brody to back off from “borrowing” food from the local school cafeteria in between her regular meals at the local Pizza Hut and her late-night snacks at home.

At the beauty contest she runs headlong into the other contestants, all snotty popular girls from school — “Muffy Fairlane” (Kathryn A. Mensik), “Elizabeth McKay” (Tammy Pescatelli), “Alison Murphy” (Kimberly Ann Kurtenbach) and “Shelley Styles” (Laura Schutter) — who, at the urging of the contest chairman “Betty Prunish” (Jim Boggess, who is just amazing in drag) do everything they can to belittle and humiliate poor Phyllis.

We learn later that the head cheerleader Muffy — pretty much a lock to win since she’s apparently the prettiest of them all (gulp!) — is the one who entered Phyllis in the pageant because she didn’t want any of her less-foxy friends to come in last place.

“Eat smart, think thin and win,” Betty tells the girls while glaring at Phyllis, who’s munching on a snack she’s brought to the meeting.

At the pageant, the girls become even more brutal to Phyllis. One even hisses in her direction: “What’re you dancing to, the ‘Baby Elephant Walk’?”

Phyllis, of course, doesn’t do well in the contest, and she’s humiliated, in fact.

The girls continue to keep picking on her after the contest, though pushing her overboard — they even microwave her cat!! — until she becomes a scheming psychotic serial killer.

Phyllis hunts down each and every one of the beauty queens and all the runners-up until there’s no question that she’ll be the last girl standing, and the true winner of the Slough Queen crown.

Read more about Beauty Queen Butcher below.

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Jill Rae Zurborg’s only IMDB credit lists her work in 1991 as a second assistant director on the jazz bio-pic Bix.

Beauty Queen Butcher isn’t even listed, although it’s generally been accepted that this was her one and only feature film.

Beauty Queen Butcher was shot on Betacam video sometime in the late ’80s and early ’90s in the midwest’s Quad Cities area, which includes Davenport in Southeastern Iowa and Rock Island and Moline in northwest Illinois.

Zurborg and the film’s producer Shane T. Partlow were both veterans of the Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse in Rock Island, Illinois.

Unlike Zurborg — who doesn’t seem to be working in the entertainment world as far as we can tell — Partlow is a working actor (he plays a “Pizza Waiter” in this film).

He’s mostly known for small roles in features like Green Book (2018), Madea’s Witness Protection (2012) and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004), as well as occasionally appearing in TV series like “Preacher,” “Claws,” and “Scream Queens.”

The Circa ’21 dinner playhouse is one of several Quad Cities locations given “Special Thanks” in the film’s scrolling end credits, along with Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard and JR’s Nightclub in Rock Island, IL; the Northpark Mall’s Ups ‘n Downs store; and, the Nautilus Superfitness Center, the Pizza Hut and fire department in Davenport, Iowa, among other locations, including several schools and colleges.

We’ve also learned (and honestly we could have guessed this much) that the Taylor Ridge, Illinois-based Zurlow Productions, Inc. didn’t have much money to spend on the making of Beauty Queen Butcher.

So, if you’d like to see Ms. Zurborg perhaps return to directing more films like this one, perhaps you can help her achieve that goal by buying copies of this film’s original soundtrack, hats, T-shirts and sweats, which are apparently available by inquiring in writing to Zurlow Productions, Inc., P.O. Box 5342, Rock Island, Illinois, 61204-5341. We sure hope the offer’s still good.

Watch Beauty Queen Butcher on Night Flight Plus.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.