Movie Review - Butt Boy

Body horror films have always been a thing, going back to the 1950's. They consist of plots that involve people having their bodies affected or changed in terrifying ways. Classic examples include Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) or David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986). Sometimes, the plot involves something being inside the body that shouldn't be there, either to take over the person or do some kind of harm. Examples of this can be things like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) or even a pandemic film like Contagion (2011). A ghost story like The Exorcist (1973) or even a mind control film like Get Out (2017) could also loosely fit the bill. The year 2020 so far has two titles that are body horror films that specifically involve people putting inanimate objects, even metallic objects, into their digestive tract. In March, we had Carlo Mirabella-Davis' Swallow and this month, we have Tyler Cornack's entry, which he directed and co-wrote.

When people eat things they shouldn't, it's called pica. It's a psychological disorder and depending on what the person prefers to eat that's other than food will dictate what specific disorder they have. For example, acuphagia is when a person prefers to eat sharp objects. Hyalophagia is when a person prefers to eat glass. Pagophagia is when a person prefers to eat ice. Xylophagia is when a person prefers to eat paper or wood. Swallow was about a woman suffering from pica and those various forms of phagia. This film is arguably about a man suffering from pica, but the difference is that instead of taking things orally, he takes things inside of himself rectally. Various random objects become suppositories for him. Those various objects all become enemas of a sort.

Tyler Cornack, who looks a little like Jason Sudeikis, not only is director but also stars as Chip Gutchell, an IT manager at a company called RTM. He's married and has a baby. Yet, he seems bored or disengaged, even from his immediate family. This disengagement may or may not be due to his wife not showing him much affection. No matter the cause, Chip seems like he's depressed. One day, he goes to the doctor to get a proctology exam. The doctor makes him take off his pants, turn around and bend over, so that the doctor can stick his finger into Chip's anus or butt-hole. When the doctor does so, Chip gets a smile on his face and for the first time in probably a while, he seems happy. This causes him to want to stick more things into his anus.

However, strangely or even more strangely, things that he sticks into his anus disappear. Unlike Swallow, things that were put into the protagonist eventually came out. Here, Chip puts things up his butt and they don't come back out. Yet, the way Cornack shoots things, it's not exactly clear that things are disappearing into his anus. Objects around the house simply start vanishing. The assumption is silly and a bit funny. From the opening credits, one might conclude that this film is a comedy. The opening credits bare resemblance to the opening credits to the Zucker brothers' Police Squad! (1982), the comedy series that spawned the hilarious films, starting with The Naked Gun (1988). Yet, when a dog and even a child vanish, the assumption is no longer silly or funny but rather disturbing and grim.

Tyler Rice, who gave me "Christian Bale" vibes, co-stars as Russel Fox, a detective with the local police department in Florida. He's an alcoholic who meets Chip at a AA meeting. Chip actually becomes Russel's sponsor. They then begin to have dinners and talk to each other about their addictions. Russel still works as a detective, but clearly he is dealing with not only his alcoholism but also some underlying trauma, which probably led to his alcoholism. This manifests in him behaving strangely like stalking and aggressive actions on the job.

When another child goes missing, Russel is sent to investigate. He's surprised to learn that the missing child occurred at RTM, the company where Chip works. It's clear that Russel suspects Chip of either being the culprit or being involved. The scene where Russel interrogates Chip is probably the best scene in the whole film. It shows Russel being a good detective and Chip being a cagey suspect. Yet, after that scene, the film goes downhill rather quickly because both characters start acting and making decisions that seem either stupid or nonsensical. The decisions don't seem smart. They seem done in order to keep the plot going and to contrive certain thrilling moments. Technically, the whole thing should be over about a hour into it, but the movie keeps going and only because both characters make dumb decisions.

Essentially, the film is about addiction. At first, it seems like it's going to be about Chip's addiction. Yet, the writing surrounding his addiction is revealed to be so thin that there's practically nothing there. Cornack doesn't devote enough time to the relationship between Chip, his wife or child, so that we get where Chip's addiction originated or what's spurring it. Chip is then linked to the vanishing and practical murders of two children. The film never really reckons with that fact. Let alone his wife's thoughts about it. It's hard to care, even if the film tried to reckon with it, because Chip's actions are so dumb in terms of his trying to cover up his crimes. Once it's revealed how he's committing those crimes, it's so ridiculous that the filmmakers almost beg for this whole thing to be dismissed as a Zucker brothers-style spoof.

The tone though is so serious that for the most part it feels like it's trying to be an episode of The X-Files. Granted that The X-Files did have its silly or comedic moments, but the comedy was more pronounced. Cornack's humor here is more subtle, which isn't a bad thing, but I'm not sure it's balanced or juggled properly. Given Chip's anal pica, one would assume that he's the titular character, but, the final 20 minutes or so of this film suggests that Russel might actually be the titular character, and it's the tone in those 20 minutes specifically that isn't balanced or juggled to my liking.

At one point in that final 20 minutes, it seems like it's playing out the Internet's demented idea about how Ant-Man should have defeated Thanos in Avengers: Endgame (2019). It's cartoonish with fart jokes. At another point, it's trying to be this serious drama about a long-lost parent and child. The tone just isn't balanced to make any of it feel appropriate or cohesive. The death of an Asian boy is also not given its proper due.

Yes, this film has addiction as its text or certainly in its text. However, the way that this film began, I thought it might instead be about sexual exploration. I didn't think it would go down this dark, science-fiction route. I thought it might stay in the realm of the relative real-world like Swallow. I thought it might be a film about a heterosexual man possibly discovering the joys of anal sex or anal stimulation. In that, I thought it might be a kind of queer film in that it would touch upon a straight man's sexual fluidity, a topic that's not often explored. It's not that addiction isn't an important and relevant topic, but it is often explored. The same for child loss.

However, the mismanagement of tone and the lame explorations of its themes or characters, or rather lack thereof might not be a total deal breaker for movie-watchers who want something dark, disgusting and strange. If one enjoyed this film, a couple of others to check out include Spaghettiman (2016) and The VelociPastor (2019), which are both more comic book spoofs than anything else.

Not Rated but contains language, violence, gore, rear nudity and sexual situations.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 40 mins.

Available on April 14th on VOD.


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