Fantastic Fest 2019: Butt Boy
Butt Boy’s initial premise is a joke: After a prostate exam, a man becomes obsessed with putting random objects up his butt. He starts out small, with a bar of soap here and a TV remote there. But things escalate when he moves to bigger objects, and eventually living things, namely people. Before the main title credits roll, we’re introduced to this man, Chip (Tyler Cornack, also the co-writer and director), and how his fixation with insertion comes to a head. Those first ten minutes do feel like a perfectly serviceable short film, and it does make sense that Cornack made a few quick Butt Boy web shorts in 2016. But after the credits roll, the film jumps forward in time and we’re introduced to a new character, Russel Fox (Tyler Rice), a strung out detective who stumbles into his first AA meeting where he meets his new sponsor, Chip, who has kept his dark secret at bay for years now. What follows is a mystery-thriller involving a missing persons case with all signs pointing to Chip as the prime suspect. And yes, this is still a movie about a man who shoves things up his butt.
Butt Boy rarely winks at its audience, it also doesn’t stray into full-out comedy. It makes you believe in the very serious turn made by Detective Fox and Chip, and this is thanks to the performances and heightened visuals. There’s an undeniable indie film disposition, of course, but Cornack and crew make the small budget work. Butt Boy is more in the vein of Manhunter, Se7en, and any other serial killer crime drama of the ‘80s and ‘90s. It never lets you forget that the ‘killer’ is a man who sticks victims into himself via butt, and the punchlines come when the absurdity of it all breaks into the real world of these characters. Chip has a wife and child at home and for obvious reasons he keeps his habit from them. Cornack plays Chip as the quiet-white-man-who-clearly-is-a-killer type, and just by looking at him, it’s no surprise he has bodies hidden in the basement, so to speak. Not to say it’s a deep dive into full out drama, but the film rises to its serious turns rather smoothly.
Meanwhile, Detective Fox is drowning in the bottle as he grieves over the dissolution of his family. These are standard cat-and-mouse, cop-hunts-criminal film motifs, but in Butt Boy the script hits each point with assurance and that extra layer of butt stuff kept me interested just to see how this was going to end (no pun intended).
It does goes beyond the serious tone in the third act, thankfully. It would have felt unbearably stretched thin if it played it straight for its entire runtime. When the climax of the film all leads to a man’s rear end, that’s when things get taken up a notch in a hyper-visual way. Butt Boy does fulfill the shock aspect of its initial premise, but it doesn’t revel in it for long stretches, which is refreshing when it really could have squeezed the life out of a one-line gag. The experiment works, and Butt Boy goes beyond the joke; it takes us to a brutal reality of life after the punchline, when the laughs have long died out. There’s drama there, sure, but you still have that thought in your head, of a man shoving objects up his butt and you can’t help but laugh in the face of it all.