The strongest film in FrightFest’s Halloween line-up was Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ Swallow – a psychological drama about a woman with a compulsion to swallow random objects. Butt Boy is about a man with a mirror image problem, which also turns out to be a dark form of super-power.
At the mid-point, when Detective Russel Fox (Tyler Rice) has put all the pieces of the case together and taken it to his chief (Brad Potts), we get a splendid ‘so you’re telling me …’ speech that lays it out … ‘a white, married male who happens to be a father, living in the suburbs of Kritika county who also happens to be your AA sponsor, which I might add has been secretly running around putting objects, animals and children up his asshole, then he somehow digests them, and he does this in sprees – almost in serial killer fashion. Is that about it?’ And, yes, that’s the premise of the film, suggesting you’re in for a miserable spell with yet another excruciating gross-out comedy horror that doesn’t stretch one joke out to feature length (remember Bad Milo?). However, director Tyler Cormack – who also co-wrote with Ryan Koch and plays ‘butt boy’ Chip Gutchell – works a small miracle and turns this into something bizarrely effective, slightly in the mode of the films of Jim Hosking (The Greasy Strangler) with a fractured, off-center vibe all of its own.
We meet the glum, hangdog Chip in a long prologue, where he’s an unenthusiastic IT drone in an office where everyone is in thrall to a corporate culture defined by the boss (Austin Lewis) leading rapping-clapping circles whenever someone is promoted. At home, his wife Anne (Shelby Dash) is distracted by their new baby and barely notices his dissatisfaction. A routine prostate exam awakens anal cravings which he finds a way to satisfy – though the shower soap, the TV remote and the Gutchells pet dog mysteriously disappear. Then, the craze goes too far and even Chip can’t live with what his ass urges make him do – prompting a suicide attempt.
Nine years later, we meet Detective Fox, as out of control and intense as Chip is uptight and even-keeled, working off a personal issue that later dovetails into the main plotline. The spine of the story is the unusual relationship between the antagonists. Turning up at an AA meeting to get control of his drink problem, Fox is assigned Chip as his sponsor, though Chip has somehow managed not to let the group know what his real addiction is. When a boy disappears during the firm’s bring-your-child-to-work day and surveillance footage is wiped in a way only an IT guy could manage, Fox investigates and zeroes in on Chip who has been remote and unhelpful as a sponsor, making for an edge in confrontation scenes that would be solid enough for a thriller without a disappearing-up-the-ass premise. A battle of wits ensues, and – in the last act – the film goes exactly where you think it will in a ruthless, surprisingly nightmarish journey beyond Chip’s sphincter.
Yes, it has fart jokes, but refrains from real gross-outs until the final scenes.
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