2020, NR, 100 min. Directed by Tyler Cornack. Starring Tyler Cornack, Tyler Rice, Angela Jones, Tyler Dryden, Shelby Dash, Brad Potts.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., April 17, 2020
A lot of indie horrors can be broken down into two categories.
There are those that read like a pitch for an episode of The X-Files that never got out of the first writer's room meeting because it was too weird.
Then there are those that play like an episode of The X-Files, but it's just the first five minutes, before Mulder and Scully appear, and something weird and hideous happens to some local cop in Deluth.
Butt Boy is both of those at the same time.
Think of it as a weird cousin to Swallow. Both titles played at Fantastic Fest 2019. Both involve someone with a compulsion to insert unusual objects into their digestive tract. But where Swallow was a psycho-drama about a woman suffering from the unusual condition of pica (the desire to eat inedible objects) as a way to gain some degree of control in her life, Butt Boy is an off-kilter noir following a cop (Rice, coming off like a more dissolute version of Out of the Furnace-era Christian Bale) pursuing office worker and regular family man Chip Gutchell (director/writer Tyler Cornack, playing the baffled-everyman-with-a-secret like a break-glass-in-case-of-emergencies fill-in for Jason Sudekis). There's been a spate of disappearances around town, and it seems overly-related to Chip's compulsion to insert objects into his rectum. Clue pieces, remote controls, missing dogs, missing children and - if he gets too close - a certain nosy police officer.
Pitched somewhere between the studied weirdness of Quentin Dupieux's more amiable Wrong and the art house grossness emanating from Jim Hosking's The Greasy Strangler, Butt Boy balances an inherently ridiculous premise with a surprisingly straightforward and heartfelt narrative. There's even a dash of cat-and-mouse in the middle act, as Rice's Detective Russel Fox discovers that his AA sponsor is also his prime suspect.
There are hints at some more serious discussions about addiction, and using external props to fill metaphorical (and literal) holes in ourselves, but they're never more than skin deep. Instead, Butt Boy leans on quirky, weird, and surprisingly non-scatological humor. There's nary even a fart gag for much of the first hour, or really until the final act showdown takes its inevitable trip into the unmentionable. It doesn't make a lot of sense then, but then expecting logical consistency from a film about a magical sphincter would always be expecting a lot.
Instead of a gross-out gag fest, Butt Boy is a surprisingly tender bizarro comedy that works because it plays the strangeness straight. Charming may be the wrong word, but it's got a misshapen heart that's kept pumping due to the smart decision to move focus from Chip (who is increasingly shown as kind of a jerk) to the resolute gumshoe Fox. The pair may be no Mulder and Eugene Tooms, but that's still no reason to think this fun oddity should be flushed away.
Butt Boy is on VOD now.