October 24, 2009

The Butcher (2008)

"The Korean Horror Film Too Brutal and Shocking to be Released in its Own Country."

Those words are emblazoned across the DVD cover. I did not think much of it. Aside from a quick Google search there is very little information about this movie online. I could not find any news regarding it being banned or other way unreleasable. For that matter, I could not find any information about it at IMDB.com. I guess this could be considered a good thing. I went into my experience completely fresh. I had no idea what to expect when I pressed play.

The Butcher is a mere 75 minutes long, but it packs a wallop. As I was spewed out the other side of my viewing, I was left battered, abused, and very very confused. This is not a movie you watch for entertainment value. If you are entertained by this, you may have bigger issues. Still, there is nothing wrong with being curious and curiosity is the biggest reason to subject yourself to this.

It is not much of a movie. There is no real plot to speak of nor is there much in the way of character development. While the elements traditionally associated with film are not present, this is an experience you will not soon forget. Of course, this assumes you make it all the way through. Yes, the movie is short, but it is so brutal that I suspect a good number of people will turn it off before reaching the climax.

butcher01Taking the aesthetic of films like [REC], The Blair Witch Project, and Cloverfield, The Butcher gives you a first person view of the action. The style may be getting a little cliche, but it can still be used effectively and I dare say The Butcher does just that. It is unlike anything I have seen before and will likely see again. Some will call it daring, others brave, while others will label it trash. It is destined to show up on cult film lists for years to come, just as it is likely to be used as an example of the degradation of society, the sicknesses that lurk within the human mind, and a poor excuse of a movie whose only purpose is to torture its audience.

Well, let's give you a quick idea of what you will find when you watch The Butcher. As you already know, the film is told first person style. Where it differs from those already seen is that the cameras are mounted on the heads of the victims, with a second camera being manually operated by the director (not the films actual director, but we will get to that). This style lends a certain intimacy to the proceedings. You are right there in the middle of the action, there is no relief and there is no escape.

Why would these people have these attachments? They are the stars of a new snuff film. Yes, you read that right. These people have been trapped and chained up in an old slaughterhouse that is being used for a new type of slaughter. The cameras are to capture every moment of their experience. The tapes are then sold to those who like this sort of thing, but the story is not about that. This tale is about the nitty gritty of making one of these films.

The film depicts the systematic, gruesome torture of two human beings by a guy in a pig mask and butcher apron as filmed by the director and his assistant. Throughout, they get the people they are torturing to talk. This discussion reveals much about the people involved on both sides of the bloody instruments. This all happens in between the screams, of which there is plenty. I swear, half of this movie is people screaming.

I really don't want to say much more in detail of what happens. Suffice to say it is seriously twisted and I am sure the makers of said film are rather demented. From dismemberment to bludgeoning, from rape to disembowelment, there are no taboo subjects and nothing to torturous to show in more detail than anyone should want.

As I sit here and reflect on what I have seen, I have come to the conclusion that his is either a brilliant look inside the mind of the twisted, or it is one of the biggest pieces of trash cinema ever created. It is not for the faint of heart and is sure to test the limits of anyone who dares watch. Saw and Hostel have nothing on The Butcher.

The film was shot on digital video and has that distinctive "video look." The film maker is a new voice on the scene, Kim Jin-won. I wonder what else he may have up his sleeve or if he will be a one hit wonder type of director. I cannot see many studio types knocking on his door after this.

It is almost like Kim Jin-won wants to torture the audience, to implicate them in what is happening. In a way, this is reminiscent of what Michael Haneke did with Funny Games. There is no relief, you either leave, turn it off, or go along with it.

I have read that this film may have been made as a reaction to the disintegrating South Korean film industry. Perhaps to show the industry that you have to be committed to your craft, through everything you have at the screen. I am not really sure, but I believe the "I Love Korea" tee shirt has to mean something, no?

Audio/Video. The image is 1.78:1 widescreen. It has no studio sheen whatsoever. It is an unapologetically grimy digital video look, which only adds to the authenticity they were aiming for. For what it is worth, the look works, there are no flaws to be noticed. Everything looks real. All right, a couple of the gore effects standout, but they are minimal to the overall effect. The digital video soaks the blood and gore in reality. You will believe.

The audio is what it is. It captures the sound right off the on camera mic. You here it pan from one side to the other, fading in and out. It is effective in conveying that sense of realism. They clearly were not aiming for this to look or sound like a traditional movie. They set their goals and went for it.

Extras. There are a few extras included here. None of them are particularly special.

  • Alternate Ending. This is different from what they used and less effective. I am glad they chose not to use this one. You will see why.
  • Trailer. This is essentially just a clip from the movie.
  • Storyboard Gallery. This is kind of cool. Storyboards are always interesting to me.
  • Making of The Butcher Gallery. A series of stills from the set.
Bottomline. I am still not sure if this is brilliant exploitation or just trash. It is a film that is bound to garner a reaction. It will also be sure to sit with you for a long time, whether you want it to or not. It is definitely an experience. I would not give it up now that I have had it. I guess that means this has to be somewhat recommended. My head hurts.
Recommended with Reservations.


(depending on how the wind blows)

Here is the trailer:


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