It was about sixty minutes into Tyler Cornack’s one-hundred-minute feature film Butt Boy when I wondered aloud, “How can there be so much time left?” At this point, the culprit behind the disappearance of a child had already been identified as IT professional Chip Gutchell (Cornack) in the prologue. The person positioned to take him down (Tyler Rice’s Detective Russel Fox) was more than ready to pounce. Both men were heading towards their climactic convergence point as a result of the script’s unabashed use of narrative convenience and everything seemed primed to be wrapped up with a bow despite almost half the runtime remaining. What else could happen? How much more absurd could the film get while retaining its unwaveringly confrontational straight face? The answer: a lot.
I shouldn’t have been surprised considering the crime Cornack and co-writer Ryan Koch’s mystery hinges upon. It can only be labeled as a kidnapping in the most general sense of the on-screen scenario since the way Chip steals this young boy is via his anus. All it took was a single prostate exam to turn this depressive father of one in an increasingly loveless marriage into an addict shoving numerous things up his rectum for pleasure. First it was a bar of soap. Then it’s the television remote. Eventually it’s the family dog and finally a child in the park. How does he do it? Not even he truly knows. One minute he’s moving the object (or living creature) closer to his butt and the next it’s gone.
I’m not kidding about the straight-faced nature of the whole either. More than this wildly surreal conceit itself, the blanket tonal severity is the impetus behind so much of what works comedically with the film. Do we laugh because Chip has shoved a child where the sun don’t shine? No. We laugh because he’s distraught over his abhorrent actions enough to think about committing suicide to quiet his conscience’s silent screams. He has a son too after all. How would he feel if someone ripped him from his life without a shred of evidence to provide the necessary closure? All he can do is be better—try and live outside the addiction by promising he’ll never fall prey to those urges again. And it almost works.
A majority of Butt Boy is therefore expository set-up for the inevitable confrontation between Chip and his pursuer Detective Fox. Cornack takes an hour to provide this set-up specifically because he’s leaning so hard on presenting his characters’ peculiarities in earnest. That means creating an artificially off-putting atmosphere of corporate camaraderie for Chip’s office (courtesy of Austin Lewis’ Rick Sanders as his boss). It means putting protagonist and antagonist together under a secondary pretense (Alcoholics Anonymous meetings) to ensure they grow close enough to allow Chip’s underlying dark secret to escape. And it means drawing melodramatic backstories of lost love (Russel’s reason for going to the bottle) and infidelity (Shelby Dash’s Anne Gutchell isn’t stupid, she just would never think her husband’s proclivity is what it actually is).
Would you believe Chip if he confessed? He can’t even be honest during group since Shoving Things Up My Bum Anonymous doesn’t exist. So he improvises by molding “normal” tools used to combat impulses to his unique case while also trying to keep his anus clear from contact of any sort. It only takes one misstep to fall into a full-blown relapse; just one board-game piece inserted past his sphincter before he finds himself knowingly and guiltily reading a newspaper article about another missing boy a week later. Will Chip have the constitution to keep himself hidden when it happens? Will Russel be able to look at the evidence and believe his insane theory about a vacuum butthole? How does he convince Chief Lazarra (Brad Potts) it’s true?
These are the questions Cornack and Koch answer with those final forty minutes I couldn’t believe were still on the clock. They take us to places (figuratively and literally) that I should have expected with such a nonsensical premise and yet didn’t because it unfolds in such a familiar way otherwise. Where most work of this nature would augment the absurdity of the crime, Butt Boy amplifies the rote nature of our law enforcement instead. It’s like we’re watching a self-serious episode of whatever random police procedural CBS airs each week with an impossibly odd perpetrator rather than the opposite. That’s why the start can feel boringly redundant despite what Chip’s ass is doing throughout. It’s also why flipping the switch so depravity can reign late still entertains.
The final result features dumb inconsistencies (Chip can shove a person up his buttocks but not a three-and-a-half inch floppy disk containing damaging evidence?) and a greediness to be so overwrought that it eventually turns frustrating to endure, but the “you have to see it to believe it aspect” is a powerful enough selling point to render those truths inert. While the start and finish definitely have a better handle on the tonal tug-of-war Cornack utilizes than the middle, there are ample double-take moments of WTF bizarreness during that latter portion to prevent us from quitting outright. We ultimately must know whether Chip can be stopped or if he’ll simply suck the entire world up his derriere. It honestly could go both ways.
Butt Boy hits VOD on Tuesday, April 14.