NYAFF Report: THE BUTCHER Review and Teaser

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NYAFF Report: THE BUTCHER Review and Teaser

As is evidenced by films such as The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Cloverfield, Five Across The Eyes, and [REC], there has been a resurgence in video vérité horror in recent years. While skeptics may question the aesthetic qualities of this approach, there is no denying that video cameras can add a sense of immediacy and heightened realism to a horror film that cannot be achieved under normal circumstances. South Korean director Kim Jin-Won's feature debut The Butcher, which has basically popped up out of nowhere, illustrates this point by boiling horror conventions down to a raw, wet core, and using the agility of video to furiously rub the audience's face in it.

The Butcher documents the creation of a snuff film from two vantage points: the perspective of the victims and the perspective of the creators. The protagonists include someone identified as "the director," his assistant, and the film's titular lunatic. The film's first act begins with four victims. Two of the victims are quickly dragged off-screen to the set where the snuff film is created. As the distant sounds of screams and blurring chainsaws filters into waiting room, one of the victim's unsuccessfully tries to escape. Eventually, he and his wife are dragged off to meet the Butcher face-to-face.

Once the film moves from the antechamber into the Butcher's abattoir, the film awakes from a logy fog and comes into lucid focus. The attempted escapee is presented with a challenge that pits his survival instincts against his affection for his wife. The introduction of this game triggers a wave of ultra-violence that brings new meaning to the phrase "squeal like a pig." The head-cam footage directly places the audience in the position of the victims as they are furiously beaten, hammered, pulped, raped, sawed, and stabbed. These scenes carry a relentless soul-sapping energy that might give even the most jaded horror fans pause. Where all of this bloodshed and mayhem ultimately leads is as mysterious as it strange.

The Butcher makes few attempts at contextualizing the events that are presented. Specific lines of dialog allude to larger themes but there is no standard narrative to drag the viewer along. There is no eerie music to tell the audience how to react. The pacing is atypically slow for a modern horror movie -- the first 30-45 minutes roll along with little sense of progression or development. To some, these aspects of the film will be seen as a failing but the lack of narrative thrust, combined with slow pacing, help shift the film further away from conventional entertainment and closer towards the illicit film it tries to replicate. The Butcher will offend many people but those who embrace the experience will get a serious shock that will linger long after the film is over.

This teaser may be considered offensive by some. Viewer discretion is advised.

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ChevalierAguilaJune 12, 2008 3:49 AM

The problem with all these "shaky camera" horror flicks is that many are done in the laziest way possible. It's just a gimmick that tries to hide the director's lack of skill with a real camera.

GundeJune 13, 2008 3:22 AM

Of course it is. It doesnt have to be deep but if it's NOTHING but "guy tied up while tortured" it's not enough

ForgottenFilmsJune 13, 2008 10:11 AM

I'm with you Gunde!
Iacus, Just because I noted plot, doesn't mean I meant abyssal depth.
I agree with you ChevalierAguila, but there are efforts that have been made
with hand helds that have held prominence.

iacusJune 13, 2008 10:53 AM

I was mostly thinking of all those horror films that try and jam in as many plot twists as possible to make up for the lack of any tension or scares when I made that comment. Also the fact that most of what scares me in a movie is normally completely separated from it's plot.

I didn't say it before but this film looks really good.

MikeOutWestJune 13, 2008 2:39 PM

From the looks of the trailer this isn't going down the "shaky-cam" route, rather utilising the techniques developed by Kathryn Bigelow for the opening sequence of Strange Days. The idea being that the viewer is watching through the victim's eyes, not over his shoulder.

There's a lot to like from the trailer - the totally dispassionate film-makers giving directions ("beat him, but watch out for the camera", "we've got nine minutes left" - i assume refers to the running time). What we see in the trailer is obviously just the warm-up.

It's not so much the gore that would put me off watching this, but the first half: the psychological torture of the two victims awaiting their fate while listening to what's happening to the first set of victims. It'd be like the worst trip to the dentist's waiting room ramped up to 11. Its the sort of thing that made Funny Games excruciating to watch.

There is obviously a plot of sorts here even though its not following a conventional narrative. I don't think its just gore for gore's sake, otherwise it'd be on a level with August Underground. As interesting as it looks, I'm still more interested in seeing Martyrs.

Rodney PerkinsJune 13, 2008 11:41 PM

As there will be a follow-up on this film, I only have a few comments. I purposely leave out a lot of details in my writing (e.g., I addressed the final act in one sentence). I do this because it provides enough info for people to get a sense of whether they might like a film while providing enough mental space for people to bring their own impressions to the works.

Without saying too much, I think MikeOutWest's comments get closest to what is actually going on. The teaser is actually from the middle of the film, and signals the stage where it goes completely off-the-rails.

Ichi-The-KillerJune 19, 2008 4:06 PM

LOL hopefully Charlie Sheen does see this and call the FBI.

bro_moleJune 20, 2008 10:59 PM

Nice Guinea Pig reference Ichi. That actually made me laugh out loud. This seems like the kind of movie that could be quite meaningful or could be trash. I think the Funny Games comparison is quite accurate.