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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