By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Starring Tyler Rice, Tyler Cornack and Shelby Dash
Directed by Tyler Cornack
Written by Tyler Cornack and Ryan Koch
The title of BUTT BOY, like DEAD DICKS, might put you in mind of a different kind of movie than you get–for the most part, anyway. Neither as raucous or raunchy as that moniker suggests, director/co-writer/star Tyler Cornack’s feature, arriving on VOD today, has a sense of humor that sneaks up on you (from behind?), rather than getting in your face.
Cornack plays Chip Gutchel, an emotionally recessive IT wonk at Kritika County, Florida’s RTM company who’s not much happier at work than he is at home, where his wife Anne (Shelby Dash) avoids his kisses and treats their (clothed) sex like a chore. When he attempts suicide, he can’t even hang himself right. Why does he go to such a harsh extreme? Well, it turns out that he is troubled by an unhealthy compulsion he can’t control, i.e. to stick things up his ass. And not just objects: His bizarre urge has resulted in the disappearances of the Gutchels’ cute little dog and a neighborhood child. The, um, particulars and mechanics of this gross activity are left unvisualized for a while, as Cornack prefers to hint and suggest Chip’s anal anomaly. He also leaves this phenomenon unexplained; it’s just happening, and that sort of matter-of-factness about the bizarre premise is part of what makes BUTT BOY oddly engaging.
The majority of the movie takes place nine years after Chip’s attempt to off himself, establishing a second protagonist, hardboiled and sometimes pickled detective Russel B. Fox (Tyler Rice). Given a perfectly tuned, cynical reading by Rice, Russel enters Chip’s orbit when the latter winds up as his AA sponsor. Chip, of course, knows a thing or two about addictive behavior, but it isn’t until Russel investigates the case of a little boy who vanishes during RTM’s take-your-child-to-work day that he begins cottoning to what’s up with (and up the rear end of) his new acquaintance. How he figures out exactly what’s going on, I’m not quite sure, but it leads to a wild scene, around the hour mark, demonstrating the true power of Chip’s butt suction, signaling the point at which the film begins to embrace the crazy.
Until then, BUTT BOY is on its own deadpan wavelength that you’ll either respond to or find frustrating given the material’s outlandishly cinematic possibilities. Personally, I dug it, and enjoyed Cornack’s unexaggerated treatment of his nutty scenario, which becomes part of the humor. He and Rice play well off each other and the rest of the well-chosen cast, and visually, he and cinematographer Billy Morean build a nice tension between Chip’s interior environments, shot with clinical brightness, and Russel’s primary-color-drenched neo-noir world. Even when the movie takes an especially freaky turn in the home stretch, Cornack continues to treat the weirdness with a stylistic poker face. Only at the finale does he go for broke and let the insanity explode all over the screen, at which point the sudden switch to the extreme gives the feeling you’re watching the punchline to one prolonged sick joke. But it’s a joke that’s admirably sustained over BUTT BOY’s 100 minutes.