After a child goes missing, a newly sober detective suspects that his sponsor has a super power that makes animals, objects, and humans disappear in his butt.
*** Read my interview with writer / director / star Tyler Cornack ***
As Sherlock Holmes said, “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” It’s an impressive-sounding if fallacious basis for Butt Boy, the improbable debut feature from writer-director-star Tyler Cornack.
The improbable-yet-true premise of this gobsmackingly odd yet genuinely compelling howdunnit is that IT engineer Chip Gutchell is responsible for the disappearance of two children, who have been sucked up into his bum.
Even now it sounds just as absurdly surreal as when I first heard about it – but despite my initially wrinkled nose, Butt Boy is no stinker. Instead it’s the colonic tonic a constipated, meta movie world has been waiting for.
(By the way, though I’m a fan of keeping a little mystery in the bathroom, I have discussed the ending below the trailer – scroll to the, um, bottom.)
On Chip’s tail, so to speak, is Detective Russel Fox (Tyler Rice), a greasy, chain-smoking, alcoholic cop who is prepared to think the unthinkable, and delve into the abyss.
Playing out initially like an enjoyably trope-filled B-movie thriller, while the idea is bizarre much else in Butt Boy looks normal, if with an edge. Life is slightly heightened but in ways we might recognise – Chip (Cornack) and his wife Anne (Shelby Dash) living in a boringly magnolia house they’ve enlivened, like many of us, with some identically coloured accessories to think themselves stylish.
Later the visuals catch up with the premise, as we are treated to an extended stay inside Chip’s very spacious colon. (“Hmmm, pretty loose back here” comments one of his doctors after an internal examination, with colossal understatement considering he’s on a par with the Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly for consuming objects of ever-increasing size, even if his go in the other end.)
Chip’s habit begins after a prostate examination which he finds unexpectedly pleasurable. With his wife focused on their new baby, Chip – whose expression of dazed bemusement mixed with can-I-stick-that-up-my-bum curiosity barely changes throughout the film’s 100 minute running time – tries to replicate that initial feeling as soon as he gets home.
First to disappear is a bar of soap, then the TV remote control and then even poor Rocky, the family dog (what can I say? It was one of the smaller breeds).
Then a trip to the local park ends with a baby disappearing; Chip even helps with the community search, before self-disgust almost overwhelms him.
All of this takes place in the few minutes before the beginning credits, and this set-up does feel like a perfectly intriguing short (apparently Butt Boy did start life as a comedy sketch). It could have been left there – with the disappearance of the baby in the park – with no resolution, just a did-he-didn’t-he-urgh pay off.
Instead we skip forward nine years, by which time Chip is a mentor at an Alcoholics Anonymous group. He’s tasked with helping new arrival Russel, who is also investigating the recent disappearance of the son of one of Chip’s co-workers on Take Your Child To Work Day.
Luckily for us, eager to watch the hows, whys and wherefores unfold, expanding Cornack’s original joke idea into a feature works pretty successfully, with the caveat that its admiral determination to present the story without schoolboy gags, combined with Chip’s never-changing demeanour, results in a finished product that feels too long. (There is no scatalogical humour until we actually venture into Chip’s Hades-like colon; mostly, calling someone an asshole is as knowing as it gets.)
Cornack is a great writer and a steady and focussed director, his flair for bold, extended flourishes tempered with impressive restraint in other areas. He’s less effective in character as Chip – his demeanour is just too glazed for too long.
With Cornack not really acting, it’s left to the committed Rice to underpin the drama, and he’s very good – making it seem perfectly possible that after some surveillance and a couple of scene-of-crime clues a detective might indeed consider the possibility that a suspect is kidnapping children by absorbing them up his bottom.
The implication is that Russel, an addict, can spot another addict. (Chip’s methods are still understood within the story to be decidedly unlikely. Russel’s boss is as sceptical as I was when I first heard about Butt Boy‘s generally positive reviews before watching it myself.)
Visually Butt Boy looks like a 1980s cop thriller, but it buries itself deep in the aesthetics rather then presenting its production choices as homage or even mockery: diners, red and blue lighting, Russel’s lank hair and brown leather jacket, a police raid shot through the windows from the darkness outside.
The colour turquoise is everywhere: knick-knacks, clothes, Rocky’s dog collar attachment, even a Cluedo piece. I don’t know why that particularly eye-wincing shade is used so much, or if it even has a meaning beyond its mainstream ugliness. Maybe its overpowering hue signifies the strength of his urges – Russel notices that when Chip gives in to them they, and Chip, become stronger.
He and Russel are extremes: Chip clean even without the now-missing soap, in his pristine home, enlivened only by those turquoise highlights, compared to Russel’s sweaty sheen. All they have in common is dedication: Russel to catching the kidnapper, Chip to putting things up his butt.
The denouement is immensely satisfying, and, dare I say it, rather moving – and shouldn’t leave you with too many bu… questions.
Butt Boy is available in the UK and US on digital, and in the US on DVD and blu-ray
Watch the Butt Boy trailer:
Spoilers… After pursuing Chip to Laster Tag where Chip’s son is having his birthday party, Russel shoots him but is then is sucked up into Chip’s cavernous hellscape-like butt. Inside, he finds both Andrew Lee, the boy kidnapped from Chip’s office, and his own son, who was kidnapped as a baby but is now 9 (and Rocky the dog!).
Russel deliberately irritates the inside of Chip’s butt, leading to various objects reappearing back out of his bottom, including their pet dog Rocky. At a special event where Chip is being honoured by the police for his bravery at Laser Tag, Russel manages to use his lighter ignite Chip’s colon, exploding him from the inside. The film ends with Russel rushing his son to hospital, and the boy being reunited with his mother.