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DIRECTED BY: Tyler Cornack
FEATURING: Tyler Cornack, Tyler Rice
PLOT: I.T. specialist Chip becomes obsessed with sticking items into his rectum; years later, he becomes an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor for a police detective who grows to suspect Chip is involved in a child’s disappearance.
COMMENTS: Butt Boy is the inverse of the bigger-budgeted horror/drama Swallow (2020), which is a very serious and psychological-minded take on a woman with pica which causes her to swallow inedible objects. (Indeed, although I’m fairly sure neither filmmaker saw the others’ work beforehand, a couple of shots of the respective protagonists studying objects with a mind towards inserting them into admittedly different orifices are eerily similar.) Superficially, Butt Boy is (almost) equally serious to Swallow in tone, but its focus on the opposite end of the digestive tract (and its title) makes it impossible to take seriously.
Despite lacking the high poetry implied in the term, “magical realism” would be a technically correct designation for Butt Boy. What makes the experiment work, to the extent it does, is its dedication to remain absolutely deadpan, never wavering, never winking. It is, most definitely, weird in its conception; but not, for the most part, in its execution. In fact, the idea of a detective who suspects his A.A. sponsor of having committed a terrible crime is so rife with inherent drama and suspense that, in a fit of spontaneous normality, I almost thought it was wasted in a movie where the chief suspect is—literally, not figuratively—an asshole.
Director Tyler Cornack tackles on the central role with a dull and detached take that suits the dry tone, but Tyler Rice, who has sort of a Joe Pesci-in-a-goatee thing going on, brings a needed burst of energy in the role of detective Fox. The perpetually defensive mannerisms of a newly recovering alcoholic mesh perfectly with the eternally suspicious nature of the archetypal career cop. (He even comes with a poignant backstory, efficiently conveyed through a glimpse at a mysterious woman through a cracked door.) Passable cat-and-mouse action takes up the second act, although there are no real surprises or standout suspense scenes to be had (at least, not until the blankly funny moment where Chip drops trou during a violent confrontation). It’s done well enough to pass the time until act three, however, when the movie goes all the way to the end of its alimentary canal of a premise.
Inspired partly by the horror he has seen, and a narrow escape, Fox falls off the wagon just as things start to get really weird. Naturally, his by-the-book supervisor refuses to entertain his explanation for the disappearance, so he’s forced to go looking for the missing boy himself. We then get into the bowels of the story, so to speak; and although thankfully things don’t get too gross, the sights are not for the meek. Then again, the meek probably won’t be streaming something titled Butt Boy in the first place.
While your attention will naturally be drawn to the Butt, but pay attention to the Boy as well. While Butt Boy may play like a simple parody, if there’s any serious subtext under the surface, it’s an attitude towards fatherhood that isn’t necessarily obvious.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“The whole thing is just a gross-out joke stretched to absurd proportions, seemingly designed to attract epithets like ‘weirdest film of the year.’ But you know what? It works.”–Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, The Daily Dot (festival screening)