Butt Boy isn’t the worst film of 2020 – but it won’t be far from the bottom.
A few times every year, you’ll see a low budget horror comedy transparently begging to be considered a new cult classic by festival audiences, taking a quirky and grotesque premise and pushing it to extremes that feel calculated to disgust, feeling tiresome in the process. When placed next to films of this ilk, credit has to be given to director Tyler Cornack, for taking an idea about a man who kidnaps people by shoving them up his arsehole and transforming it into a cop thriller played with extreme sincerity – mostly refusing to mine any jokes out of this nonsensical premise.
Yet Butt Boy still ends up feeling tiresome, playing down the absurdity and utilising so many cop drama clichés that the most impressive thing about the film is how little an impression it leaves. There is an uncanniness to it, like we’re peering into a bizarro world where a film like this could pass as a run of the mill crime drama. But with so little of the grotesquerie or dark laughter a film with this storyline should be packed full of, it winds up becoming nothing more than a tedious filmmaking exercise, an attempt to take a ridiculous idea and bring it down to earth that suffocates the ridiculousness needed for the film to truly work.
Chip (Tyler Cornack) has his life turned upside down when he goes for a prostate exam, and discovers that he has suddenly acquired a taste for increasingly large objects being shoved up there. After anally consuming his pet dog, he tries to die by suicide out of shame – but we flash forward nine years, and his life is seemingly on the mend, attending AA to talk through his demons.
But soon after meeting his new sponsor, Detective Russel Fox (Tyler Rice), his demons struggle to stay under control, and suddenly, he kidnaps a child by inserting him up his anus. By some unexpected coincidence, Detective Fox is assigned to work this case, and soon develops a theory that Chip is somehow absorbing people who disappear – a theory that sees him at risk of being anally absorbed himself.
Although not particularly good, the big relief with Butt Boy is that it is smart enough to not fall prey to homophobic clichés – this compulsion to anally absorb increasingly large objects is never conflated with a suggestion that Chip is somehow hiding his sexuality, nor could it easily be read as a similarly outdated allegory. This is particularly relieving considering that, if this premise fell into the wrong hands, outdated fear mongering stereotypes about gay men preying on young children could easily be read into a story where a man kidnaps a child through his bum. Butt Boy is a dumb movie, but thankfully made by people with intelligence.
This is also, to Cornack’s credit, a film with more heart than arse. Detective Fox’s alcoholism may be a stereotype of the grizzled cop genre, but he manages to find a unique angle; we are shown this from the point of view of a recently sober man who is struggling largely because his sponsor has become an absent presence in his life. Butt Boy may not offer any deep insights into his battle to stay sober, but there are clear signs this wasn’t just another cliché thrown in to make this feel like a parody of the genre – and this is where Cornack’s attempts to play the entire premise straight have the most successful pay off.
Cornack also manages to create memorable action sequences on a shoestring; there’s a shoot out at a laser tag venue that feels indebted to Michael Mann, while the bulk of the third act is set within the confines of Chip’s anus. But this third act, when the film starts revelling in its own silliness, comes too late, after the amount of standard cop drama clichés have worked only to fatigue before the imaginatively disgusting moments begin to surface. Those expecting something in the same vein as The Greasy Strangler are likely to be disappointed by the dearth of laughs, while any mainstream viewers hoping to see something weird are likely to be similarly disappointed by how the film rarely goes as off-kilter as you’d hope.
Butt Boy is available to VoD from 14th April