I’m sure several folks who have been fans of horror and it’s wicked stepchildren have been on the same hunt I am. That hunt is to get off. I need a little bit more push to get me off, nowadays. Basically, I need something that steps a little further out there to get me. There have been many films over the years that have pushed the boundaries of good taste and acceptability. Those films have been some of my favorites. Whether it’s classics like Cannibal Holocaust or Passolini’s Salo’, or new far out classics like the French are making (Martyrs and Gaspar Noe’s mindfuck, Irreversible), the edge is the place I have to go. There’s been no shortage of film makers who live there but more often times than not, their films are unintentionally involved in the horror genre. Sure, we adopt these as our own, but the fact is, these film makers are setting out to make art films. Example: David Lynch is amazing and terrifying. David Lynch doesn’t make horror (intentionally).
The point here is all based around that one word-intention. What is the intention of the film? Some are to invoke emotions and make you think beyond the boundaries of the film. Others are there merely for entertainment. I enjoy both sides of the film. My collection, you’ll find Combat Shock, Nekromantik, and Man Bites Dog nestled lovingly with The Toxic Avenger, The Gore Gore Girls, and Night of the Creeps. It’s the 2 extremes that make the quest to get off exciting. While on this journey, you’ll come across some of those little gems that are just SO over the top and SO outlandish, you can do nothing but shower them with praise. Enter: Kim Jinwon’s The Butcher.
You take the all too familiar premise of “snuff for art” and mix it with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, throw some really gross gore in there, and you’ve got yourself a film ripe for the video nasties list. The film opens in a rundown slaughterhouse (ahem). A handful of victims sit bound and gagged in their underwear and have what appears to be cameras attached to their heads. This aspect of the film is the ONLY thing that sets them apart from the other snuff-oriented torture porn that’s assaulted our senses.
We meet our “film makers” not long after the introduction of the “cast” (I’m using quotations because we’re to believe in the film within a film). My take? I think the director of our snuff film has failed in his chosen line of profession and now thinks he’s forging a new frontier. And as an audience we’re expected to believe it. The first two victims to get the star treatment, are a loving couple. The man and woman are set in chairs directly across from each other and have their POV cameras fastened to their heads. It’s here where the film takes on a totally different turn. The torture room looks fairly stereptypical: plastic sheeting, crudely constructed chairs, bloodstains and splatters everywhere-the kind of things we’ve come to expect in the post-Hostel world.
After some time spent making plans on what would be shot and threats made to the soon-to-be victims, we meet the Leatherface/Gimp styled character who does the dirty deeds. He dons a pig’s head for a mask, butcher’s apron, and appears to have beat the curve as far as height and weight, when we think of average Koreans. I was preparing to role my eyes, but the movie threw me a curveball. Did you know that the sight of blood invokes a sexual rage that will cause a half-retarded serial killer to throw the legs of his victim over his shoulders and give him a Deliverance-style lesson in humility? Yeah, apparently.
From here, gutteral grunts and moans, beatings, guttings and all things vile take place. But there is a different pulse here that we don’t find in other films of this nature. Not only do we see the film in the POV setting ala’ first-person shooter games, but we see the only redeemable aspect of the film. Our male victim tries to barter with the killers, begging them to take his life over his beloved. Before the film maker makes a deal with him, he points out the fact that the gentleman had already tried to flee their holding without his lady. Why would he now be concerned with her fate? It’s actually kind of a smart element to throw in. Would you only look for an escape for yourself when faced with the idea of mortality? Who are you willing to leave behind to save yourself?
The climax of the film is kind of predictable if not, effective. Though it seems odd that this subgenre has become passe’, The Butcher does take it’s rightful place in the shock line. It’s got a reality to it that’s similar to the Guinea Pig films, but is still enough of a fantasy that it keeps it’s movie status. Plus, it’s got all the right marketing gimmicks going for it-banned it’s home country? OOOHHHH!!!! Shocking!!!!
As much as I detest the idea, I did have fun watching this movie. This movie is entertaining in the same way that those messed up internet videos are. You shouldn’t watch it, you don’t want to watch it…but you just HAVE to. It’s too hard to look away. Jinwon wanted to make a statement with this film and he achieved that. But I’m not sure if it’s the statement he wanted to make. What he did accomplish, was making a gory, somewhat campy, shocking torture porn. What he didn’t accomplish was making a social statement. It’s going to take a lot more, story-wise, to make a potent mark on your viewing audience. In a movie such as this one, you aren’t able to accomplish both. You get one or the other, and while I don’t claim to know what Jinwon was after, it seems as if swinging for the fence may have cost him a bit.
Now, if you decide to watch this movie, then watch it in the proper context. If you like chaos, and filth you will fall in love with The Butcher. There’s some really great gore and guts tied into the perfect set pieces. We get to see the ingenuity that went behind a smaller budget and see if play out effectively. It’s definitely reality/snuff-based, but you still get this completely over the top slasher character. It gets frenetic and messy, you don’t like the victim, but you still cheer for him to escape the clutches of his captors. There is a conscious effort to make the other characters seem very plain, which only amplifies the outrageous look of the killer. It’s an absurd film and it’s offensive in a lot of ways, but for the gorehound, The Butcher is a real treat. Don’t look for art, because there really isn’t much there. There is, however, a super gory reality that will make you cringe and giggle all at once.