The Butcher is as sick and repellent as movies come. There are no characters and there is no story – it is an endurance test. It also happens to be an exceedingly well made endurance test, most likely because it was made by people who love this stuff.
There is a snuff film being made in a slaughterhouse somewhere in rural South Korea. Four people, one wearing a pig’s head as a mask, are torturing and killing four other people and filming it all to sell to those who seek out this kind of material (as The Director points out – “We can always sell it to the U.S. They’re always looking for more bloody things.”) The four victims are strapped with cameras so we can see from their perspective what it is like as these bloody things – including rape, bludgeoning with a hammer, chopped with chainsaws, etc. – happen to them. There is no cutting away or flinching, least of all by the matter-of-fact production crew, who seem to be only interested in seeing if they can make the next kill a little more artsy.
Sadly, much of the movie is ruined by the constantly shaking camera work that is necessary for this kind of thing. It makes sense that the camera shakes so much, but 30 minutes in, you wonder why an operation like this doesn’t at some point employ a tripod. Are they just lucky that the victims tend to look around at exactly what needs to be seen by the audience? Indeed they are, it seems, as this is how most of the shots are delivered.
No doubt there is some criticism – or maybe it is homage? Or both? – being hurled at the U.S. The film tosses in references to several American movies, chief among them being Hostel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Saw. And the criticism/homage seems to be that we are some scary, bloodthirsty people who require a whole lot of sickness to be entertained. But it can’t be seen only as a criticism considering how well made the film itself is. You can’t abhor this kind of violence and have this much fun with it at the same time. While some may see the makers of the film as being psychopaths, more likely it is a youthful game of one-upsmanship. How far can we take this? How far are we willing to go? Imagine if the crew from Jackass were handed fifty thousand buckets of blood.
That is a question for everyone involved, whether on the production or in the living room, holding this DVD. Is this a comment on bloodlust at the cinema? Or on the growing desensitization of movie audiences? Or is it pure exploitation? The answer to all three is yes, which doesn’t make for a very clear message coming from the movie, but then this is not exactly the kind of movie you learn things from. This is the kind of movie you put on and watch with your friends to see who has to leave the room first. And in that regard, it is excellent. As high art, as a sea change in horror or even as an involving story, it is not.
The video is noted as being presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, though it is clearly not. More likely it is 1.78:1, as the movie was shot on video. Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in Korean with occasionally incorrect English subtitles.
Alternative Ending – A couple minutes of an alternative ending that changes nothing you’ve seen, but references a popular American film. (2:09)
Making Of The Butcher Gallery – A gallery of bloody production photos.
Storyboard Gallery – This movie was story boarded? (3:20)
Upcoming Releases – Four previews of upcoming Palisades Tartan releases. (7:15)
The Butcher Trailer – (1:10)
The Butcher is built to shock and offend and it hits that mark. Extremely hard.
Palisades Tartan Asia Extreme presents The Butcher. Directed by: Kim Jinwon. Starring: Kim Taeksoo, Kim Sung-il, You Dong-Hun, Ha Yooyie, Lee Moonyeong, Seo Myeongheon. Running time: 75min. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: October 27, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: gore, horror