THE BUTCHER (2007)
Gratuitously gruesome and deeply disturbing, yet containing merit in its ability to affect, a foursome find themselves at the mercy of a pig-masked snuff film-maker
Some people run marathons, horror fans make themselves watch films like The Butcher.
Master of the format, American filmmaker John Carpenter, once said that horror is a reaction, rather than genre. It is certainly true that horror relies on evoking a certain reaction from audience members.
The Butcher is a deeply divisive piece of horror. Some will dismiss it as base torture porn, others will revere it as blood-curdling and deeply confronting work. Both camps have a point, but something it will certainly create is that ‘reaction’ the horror space so requires.
That reaction is likely to be some measure of disgust – this is a beyond black outing, the darkest of dark horror. Often gory, always confronting and likely to disturb even the most hardened horror-head. However, despite its obvious, on-the-nose play to upset viewers it deserves some respect for largely achieving what it sets out to achieve.
Yet another found footage film and yet another torture porn outing (so popular across world cinema during this period). Its success, if you could call it that, is its ability to place the audience in the shoes of the torture victim. Point-of-view shots from a camera attached to the luckless victim’s head gives us a literal view of a very confronting experience. That in itself is not entirely unique, but it is well done here.
The plot is simple enough. Four people, two of them a married couple, have been taken hostage by a trio of snuff filmmakers, two chief organisers and a third unhinged man in a pig mask.
For a short film, coming in at 74 minutes (and trust us you will not want anymore), the opening 20 minutes builds as we see the four hostages looking up at the men planning their film. The terror of the unexpected, then the pure terror of realising their plan.
We then go through to the main torture scene, which has elements of gory, but is also psychological in parts as the man tries to barter for his life and the release of his wife.
A film that from inception is trying to be infamous more than famous. For a country that has produced some profound and intelligent horrors, such as A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) and The Wailing (2016), this is a flick devoid of nuance.
It never claims otherwise though. It is a niche offering that is designed to upset its willing audience. The type of film you will want to tell people you have watched, more than you will enjoy watching the film itself.
Despite that, it should not be so readily dismissed as a cheap pirate copy of the horror genre. It has written a nasty little brief for itself and largely it meets that twisted plan. For that it deserves some measure of restrained credit. It is a deeply immersive experience, the question is... do you want that?