Butt Boy is the type of utterly singular film that is so adamantly committed to its premise that it completely cuts through its initial absurdity. A presumptive hit at Fantastic Fest; where films are always lauded for their quirks above all else, Tyler Cornack’s film is so purposefully outlandish that it practically weaponizes this attitude against its audience.
While it faithfully presents itself as an oppressively sterile neo-noir film, practically a zealous style parody of Nicolas Winding Refn, it dares its audience to just go with its farcical plot by flatout informing them nothing that transpires in Butt Boy will be played for laughs. The dissonance over this split between tone and content makes for one of the most peculiar and frankly unforgettable cinematic oddballs to be released in recent memory.
The steadfast commitment to the bit begins with milquetoast IT engineer Chip Gutchell (played by the director himself) — whose bland, mundane existence is altered after his first prostate exam awakens something inside him. Far from being a sexual awakening for Chip, he instead develops a psychotic, all-consuming obsession to insert things into his anus to experience that same strange euphoria once more.
Instead of being played for laughs, as the repeating scenes of Chip lustily eyeing inanimate objects behind his family’s back speak to, Cornack — through his austere performance and his restrained, minimalist directing style — paints this as a debilitating compulsion. As he becomes more controlled by this sudden insertion fetish, he escalates from household objects to small animals to children and then to full-sized adults (don’t ask how, just go with it), and the film becomes like that of a psychological, serial-killer drama as Chip tries and fails to contain his obsession.
This is where the film suddely transforms into a gritty, neo-noir thriller as Chip’s anal spree gets onto the radar of grizzled detective, Russel Fox (Tyler Rice). An intensive and awkward cat-and-mouse game plays out between the two as Fox becomes the only one capable of peering through the absurdity of the premise and understands the rash of missing kids is connected somehow to a man’s ass.
Necessary as it is to just peer past the “butt stuff” at the core of this film, the effectiveness of the neo-noir aesthetic lies entirely on the feet of Butt Boy’s commitment to its premise. What draws you into the back and forth of Fox and Chip and what makes it feel like an earnest life-and-death struggle even as more things find their way into Chip’s colon, is the uncharacteristic severity Butt Boy gives to it all.
If you are wondering whether or not Cornack’s camera shows Chip’s insertion obsession, thankfully the film exhibits this restraint in both its visuals and performances. Displaying an impressive stillness in its overall presentation, the film co-opts the hypnotic and monotonous rhythms of a Refn or a Yorgos Lanthimos film, lulling you into a sense of security to present its inanity as normalcy.
There is no denying Butt Boy is strange, but the film has the pitch-perfect tonal atmosphere to make it work despite itself. When the immediate threat of another child finding his way up Chip’s ass is a credible mark of his deteriorating sanity and the severity of the detective mission’s to capture him, the film has effectively conquered its own absurdity.
Butt Boy will most likely act as a litmus test for most audiences who endeavor to give it a watch, a test of how much they are willing to take a film at face value. Far beyond being its only selling point, Butt Boy’s odd anal premise works as a trojan horse: suckering you in with its weirdness to surprise you with its expertly delivered, atmospheric, crime-thriller plot.