[[quoteright:300:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/slingb02_9501.jpg]]

A 1996 drama directed, written and starring Billy Bob Thornton, based on a short film called "Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade," in which he also starred.

The story's about a mentally challenged man named Karl Childers who, around the age of 12, butchered his mother and her lover with the titular sling blade, because he had always learned from his parents that having sex was wrong (a detail shown [[AllThereInTheManual in the script and seen in the short film]]). He was put up in a state mental hospital in Arkansas; our observation of Karl begins 25 years later, when he's about to be released.

----
!!Provides Examples Of:

* AbsurdlySharpBlade: [[spoiler: Karl cleaves Doyle's skull "damn near in two" with just two chops of the lawnmower blade he spent all night sharpening.]]
* AllLoveIsUnrequited: Poor Frank; Karen Cross (only shown in the extended version) just shot him right down. Gender-flipped and somewhat averted with Karl and his would-be girlfriend, Melinda: Karl: [[CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming "Flowers is purty."]] [[spoiler: Of course it doesn't go anywhere because shortly afterwards, the rest of the story happens...]]
* AbusiveParents: One, being Frank's adoptive father, Doyle. Also, [[spoiler: Karl's own father, also (unfortunately) named Frank, who made Karl sleep in the barn because he didn't want him with the rest of the family and [[MoralEventHorizon made Karl throw out his premature younger brother like he was trash]].]]
* AllThereInTheManual: Many details about Karl's upbringing are only in Thornton's short, which only covers the initial interview.
* ArmorPiercingQuestion: ''"Will you ever kill anybody again, Karl?"''
* AssholeVictim: [[spoiler:That Doyle, mm-hmm.]]
* BerserkButton: Don't push around Frankie's mama in front of him, if you don't want everything within his reach thrown at you. Even Linda seemed shocked by the sudden ferocity in her son.
** Don't lay a hand on Frankie in front of Karl either. The second Doyle raised his hand, Karl caught it like it was nothing, politely telling him not to do that again.
* [[spoiler: BittersweetEnding:]] [[spoiler: Sure, the horribly abusive monster is out of our protagonists' lives for good, but Karl is, again, locked up in the state hospital. At least he [[TookALevelInBadass can now stand up for himself]] against the pervert Charles Bushman.]]
* [[spoiler: BloodlessCarnage]]: [[spoiler: You'd think with the force Karl uses with that blade there'd be a little splatter or at least a little on his hand, but there's none.]]
* {{Bookends}}: The movie opens and closes with Karl in the mental hospital, gazing out of the window.
* {{Bookworm}}: Karl. He's got a whole bunch of books he carries with him bound by a leather strap; one Literature/TheBible, one a book on carpentry, one Literature/AChristmasCarol...
* CallingTheOldManOut: Subverted two ways, as first, [[spoiler: because of Frank Childers' senility, he's regressed into a childlike state and unable to respond in a way befitting this trope;]] and second, [[spoiler: Karl doesn't have a vehement bone in his body, at least by the standards of other people; he still summons a good deal of anger, also seen elsewhere, and we do see the rage he could have if he were not retarded, but it's not blatant.]]
* CannotTellAJoke: Karl fails terribly at reciting the two-men-on-a-bridge joke.
* CaptainObvious: Frankie borrows one of Karl's books, A Christmas Carol; Karl: "That's that book on Christmas I was tellin' you about."
* ChekhovsGun: [[spoiler:Books, all of which he gives to Frank before he leaves. Literature/AChristmasCarol has a carefully lettered bookmark in it reading "[[CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming You Will Be Happy]]," [[GenreSavvy eliciting an]] OhCrap moment from Frank as he realizes that Karl knows the only way Frank can be truly happy is if [[KarmicDeath Doyle is dead]]]].
* ChekhovsSkill: He's really good with machinery, especially [[spoiler: lawnmowers and other things with blades...]].
* ChildrenAreInnocent: Averted with Frank. [[TheWoobie You wish it weren't that way,]] but Doyle has made it so.
* CloudCuckoolander: Karl. He likes them French-fried potaters, and the way Frank talks. Also, Morris of Doyle's band and his very weird song.
* ComicallyMissingThePoint: A very dark example here: Charles mistakes Karl's grunts and headshakes as amusement at his perverted stories. Fortunately, Karl [[spoiler: [[TookALevelInBadass is able to set him straight by the end]]]].
* [[spoiler: DropTheHammer]]: [[spoiler: Karl sure does want to, right on Doyle's head, but he had horrible timing. He changed his pre-emptive strike into the BLAM mentioned in YMMV.]]
* EverybodyKnewAlready: Vaughan wants his homosexuality kept quiet amongst his friends, but they tell him practically the whole town knows already.
* FacePalm: When everyone's all together for dinner, Melinda related how she heard about how Vaughan and Albert are a couple; Albert seems a bit amused, but Vaughan's quite embarrassed; fortunately, Linda suggests that Karl and Melinda go out for a walk at that moment; Irony considering she admonished Vaughan for not being too pushy when he suggested that same thing.
* FriendToAllChildren: Karl, natch. Of course Frank comes to love him, and the [[PapaWolf feeling is mutual]]. Frank's friends also don't really seem to mind him when they [[spoiler: finally play football together]].
* {{Gayngst}}: Poor Vaughan is constantly angsting about all the dirty rumors and lies circulating about town of his behavior.
* [[spoiler: HopeSpot]]: [[spoiler: Near the end of the movie: about three or four minutes are spent with no dialog, simply Karl walking around contemplating the situation: he knows if he goes through with it, he'll at the very least be put in jail, but standing at Doyle's house he decides it's in Frank and Linda's best interest. The extended version draws this out by about a minute, to very tense effect.]]
* IDidWhatIHadToDo: Karl's final decision about Doyle. He gets his affairs in order with the people he cares about and spends a long time contemplating the choice, but in the end he feels it's the only way he can help them.
* IdiotHero: Deep down, Karl is a good man at heart, but has the intelligence of a brick and seems to recognize this about himself.
* IdiotSavant: Despite his mental limitations, Karl has an unnatural talent for fixing lawnmowers and other machines that trained mechanics have given up on.
* InspirationallyDisadvantaged: Very much averted. The film frequently shows how Karl not only lacks basic social skills but is almost incapable of caring for himself. He also never displays any [[TheRainman Rain Man]] type abilities aside from being an excellent mechanic. Some characters, such as Vaughan, seem to view him as deep and wise, likely to lampshade this trope.
* IntergenerationalFriendship: Karl and Frank.
* JerkAss: No doubt, Doyle Hargraves himself. His Crowning Moment of Jerkass mixed with (only one of) his personal Moral Event Horizons is when he [[spoiler: brutally ejects his band from his house and threatens Linda and Frank]].
** Even during his PetTheDog moment where he speaks calmly to his family and Karl, he fails to see that psychological damage is real: "I didn't hit you, did I, Karl? So no apology necessary, I guess." By the way, that's the scene where Doyle discusses moving in with Linda and Frankie for good.
** [[spoiler: Wouldn't be too much of a stretch to call Karl's father one, though his actions before the story are more severe than those of a standard JerkAss.]]
** Charles Bushman from the beginning and end; this behavior is carried over and toned down a bit from the original short, in which he actively harassed other inmates besides Karl; his stories in both -- well, see YMMV.
* JustJokingJustification: Seems to be a favorite of Doyle's, to try to make himself seem less of a JerkAss. It doesn't work.
* KickTheDog: Doyle shoves Terrence, his wheelchair-bound bandmate, against the door of his house while kicking them all out.
* LockAndLoadMontage: The scene where Karl sharpens the Lawnmower Blade.
* MamaBear: Linda. Unfortunately, Doyle's sheer meanness and stubbornness prevents her protectiveness from working very well.
* ManChild:
** Karl, perhaps, by a combination of his mental slowness, his sheltered and backwards upbringing, and his incarceration.
** [[spoiler: Frank, his father, has some elements of this, probably from going senile; he mutters to himself and claims not to know Karl or what he's talking about, but this latter may be due to his being a JerkAss.]]
* MeaningfulEcho: "Karl?" All four times spoken by [[spoiler: characters seeing him for the last time. [[KarmicDeath The fourth, chillingly so]]]].
* MoralDissonance: Invoked for the audience, as it is for many films like this. [[spoiler: Karl's killing of Doyle is indeed illegal and will get him sent to jail (or back to the state hospital as it turns out). For the safety and security of his new-found loved ones, it is not immoral, and indeed we cheer for Karl at this act.]]
* OrbitalShot: Thornton thought that a half-circle version of this would be a pretty effect, and it's a good establishment for the beginning of the 5+ minute tension building to the climax.
* PetTheDog: Doyle actually seems capable of a facade of sweetness from time to time. Too bad he can't [[BecomingTheMask hold it too long]].
* PoliceAreUseless: (in the extended version) Because they're Doyle's friends and are a bit lax towards him regarding drinking and driving.
* RantInducingSlight: Doyle sure is a mean drunk, and he likes things quiet when he's "hurtin'". When his band talks about the technicalities of being a band a bit TOO much[[ClusterFBomb ...]]
* RealMenLoveJesus: Karl carries a Bible with him everywhere he goes and wishes to be baptized later on in the film. By contrast, JerkAss Doyle is shown to be as hostile to Karl's beliefs as he is towards everything else.
* RestrainedRevenge: Karl tells his father he contemplated killing him, but decided that letting him live in his own misery until he dies alone is fair enough.
* SeeminglyProfoundFool: Karl is seen as wise by Vaughan and a few others, but he's really just simple (and single) minded. Also {{Subverted}} a few times when Karl shows surprising wisdom. Despite his own personal discomfort with homosexuals, he recognizes that Vaughan is the only decent man in Frank's life and implores him to be a father figure to him. This insight moves Vaughan to tears at the end.
-->'''Karl''': That boy, Frank, he lives inside of his own heart. That's an awful big place to live in. You take care of that boy.
* ShutUpHannibal: Perhaps a more minor example, as Charles was not really a major villain, but Karl [[spoiler: [[TookALevelInBadass lays into him good at the end]] when he talks pervertedly about his friendship with Frank]].
* StraightGay: Vaughan, played by the late JohnRitter, [[ActorAllusion who]] once played [[ThreesCompany a man acting like he was gay]]. Averted with [[CampGay Albert Sellers]], who despite having only a couple of lines, surely shows his personality.
* VerbalTic: Karl's guttural tone, and his use of "Mmm-hmm."
* WhamLine:
-->'''Doyle''': What are you doing with that lawnmower blade?
-->'''Karl''': [[spoiler:I aim to kill you with it.]]
* WhatTheHellHero: [[spoiler: Frankie's criticism of Karl for burying his barely-alive premature brother takes on this tone, despite Karl's being much too young (and mentally challenged to boot) to understand about caring for a child.]]
* WifeBasherBasher: How Karl responds to Doyle who is brutalizing Linda and her son Frank.
* WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds: In a decidedly more metaphorical sense than the common usage, Karl. We do have a great deal of sympathy for him, for his naivete and his just seeming lost in the huge world (near the beginning, he even [[spoiler: goes back to the asylum and requests to stay there,]] because he has no idea how to be a free man), but he still exerts a large amount of influence on those he meets. Linda, Frank and Vaughan are changed positively for their experience with him (they get a new appreciation for people who are a little different), while [[spoiler: [[KarmicDeath Doyle's life is cut short]] simply because he refuses to change]], and Karl's protector instinct kicks in (for an example of this, see the CMOA above).
* YourCheatingHeart: Apparently the reason for Karl's acts (his mom cheating on his dad, that is) which landed him in the state hospital, but as mentioned in the description, a bit more detail is given [[AllThereInTheManual in the script and short film]].

----