APRIL 29, 2010
I’ve had Kim Jin-Won’s The Butcher sitting at home for about a week or so now, but I had to wait for the right situation to watch it, which would be A. my wife not being home and B. it being cool enough, weather-wise, to keep the windows shut. Because, despite the lack of an IMDb page (really weird), I knew enough about the movie to know that it was 75 minutes of screaming and torture, so I didn’t want to risk a Martyrs situation where I watch the first hour before realizing that my window was open (even by horror standards, that movie just sounds like someone being murdered for real), nor did I want my wife - who once got upset enough to cry at a certain smash PG-13 J-horror remake - to put up with it.
Today, the stars aligned, and I was able to watch a bleeding man be sodomized by a guy in a pig mask in peace.
The surprising thing about The Butcher is that it actually features very little onscreen violence. Due to the nature of the film’s presentation (POV shots, very long takes, etc), it would be impossible to pull the usual camera tricks of swinging a knife toward a guy and then editing in a dummy or fake appendage to show the impact. So we see Pighead swinging a hammer around, but what he’s hitting is a mystery. Our guy makes an escape attempt, and he gets about a foot from the window before screaming in pain, but it’s not until 20 seconds later that we understand why (his foot is in a bear trap - which he escapes from via some unknown means). And two of the four victims are killed off-screen entirely.
This is not a complaint, by the way, just an observation. It’s still a disturbing movie, and should be only viewed by the strong-stomached among you. The POV gives the “this is happening to YOU” feeling more often than not, the sound effects easily take the place of the visual impact, and there isn’t a frame in the film that doesn’t have some sort of bodily fluid (puke, blood, pee, and possibly excrement) strewn about. And the “director” of the film is so casual about everything, it makes it all the more disturbing. If it was just the pighead guy doing this shit, it would just be repulsive and boring, but having a very normal looking guy in control gives it that unsettling edge. Regardless, if Hostel and its ilk disgust you, then this won’t change your mind. But if you, I hate to say ENJOY, but I guess, can stomach these movies, then this one is at least one of the more interesting on a technical level.
I just wish Jin-Won had stayed with the main victim’s POV the entire time, since the film is ten times more effective when we are seeing it through his eyes. Whenever the camera POV switched from him to one of the villains, or (briefly) one of the other victims, I totally snapped out of the movie, and also started to feel a bit bored (there isn’t really any plot - the director kidnaps folks and kills them for his movie, and our main guy is trying to avoid being next). In these shots, it’s just another generic torture film. I’m sure there is some intentional “Now YOU are the killer!” metaphor that I’m supposed to learn from in these moments, but to me all it does is disrupt an unnerving but successful experience in favor of making a generic point.
I liked the little jab at America though. At one point the director is saying that he’s having a tough time getting his movies picked up for distribution, but notes that it won’t be an issue in America, because they’ll buy anything. Hahaha, yes! USA! USA! USA!
Another issue with the POV is that it’s sometimes difficult to know who is talking. We hear disembodied voices often, and even when the characters are on-screen the POV is moving around too much to really make out which one’s lips are moving. That said, for the most part the camerawork is very easy to follow, but largely realistic in terms of how much it shifts around. Sometimes the guy will look at things for no reason other than to make sure we see them, but otherwise it’s one of the least headache-inducing “found footage” movies I have seen.
The DVD is pretty slim, just some stills and storyboards, and a deleted epilogue in which Pighead prances around in a field, sort of like the end of Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It was a good decision to cut, since it doesn’t seem to be from anyone’s POV, but since it’s the only extra of any real note, I’m glad its here. Tartan used to put more effort into their DVDs; it’s kind of a bummer to see so many on the bare-bones side of things. Then again, since the movie doesn’t even have an IMDb page, I guess I should be satisfied they released it at all.
What say you?