The Butcher DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Palisades Tartan
Beat him, but be careful with the camera. – The Director (character)
Written and directed by Kim Jinwon
2008, Region 1 (NTSC), 75 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on October 27th, 2009
The Butcher's plot is mediocre, at best: A group of random people are kidnapped by some "filmmakers", helmets with video cameras are strapped to their heads, and they are systematically killed. Right off the bat, The Butcher is going to be a love-it or hate-it film for most, due to the fact that its sole purpose of being nothing more than a torture horror film at its most basic level. While The Butcher's official site says it is "...reminiscent of Saw and the The Blair Witch Project.", Butcher is similar to those films only at a very basic level. It shares only the torture aspect with Saw (and makes Saw look very tame in comparison) and the pseudo-documentary aspect with Project. That's it, nothing more, nothing less.
This film from Korea is a combination of extreme hits and misses. Where it succeeds, and big time, is the novel approach of giving the viewer the point of view of one of the victims — literally — for most of the movie. This adds a certain tension to the movie, because you watch, almost as with your own eyes, as victims are taken into a room and you hear only their screams and there is an anxiousness to know what all the ruckus is about. Finally, when the character whose inevitable demise you are following gets pulled into the room, you realize that maybe you don't want to know what all that screaming was about afterall. Yet, at the same time, you are compelled to watch to see what happens next.
Butcher also has a stellar baddie in the only antagonist who wields weapons instead of a camera. Donned in a butcher's apron and hog head, and communicating with only grunts and squeals, he is Leatherface's cosplaying Korean opposite. While the filmmakers cross the line of showing too much of their true star, he's still a beast that would be a welcome new edition to the family of Kruegers and Vorhees'.
Yet the film's strengths are also its weaknesses. Where the victim's POV cam brings a tension to the table that otherwise wouldn't be there, the loose editing and extreme instances of shaky camera work make some of the scenes drag on and on. At one point, our protagonist is "allowed" to escape, and as he tears off through the warehouse looking for a way out you are stuck with him in his journey as he tries various doors and windows in his effort to get free. At first this is interesting, but as the time goes on and nothing is happening, you quickly get bored and reach for the remote in order to get this thing moving again. There are many sequences like this, scenes that go on too long with nothing happening. It's an obvious effort to build anxiety, but often it crosses over into boredom.
Also, there is the aforementioned showing too much of the killer. As badass as the killer is, he loses a little of his novelty because instead of chasing his prey through a slaughter house, he is confined to a small room. Sure, set design of the room is awesome with its blood-soaked walls and floor, but the element of surprise is completely lost because you know where he is at all times.
However, while the lack of plot and suspense will alienate many people, the gore hounds will love The Butcher with its ample amount of unrelenting violence and pain. This film is not for the squeamish, by any stretch of the imagination. While there is a lot of relying on the viewer's own creativity to fill in the blanks of what's not being shown, there are plenty of instances that are equally shocking — such as one particular scene that involves a victim's eyes.
The Butcher is a tough movie to grade. On one hand it deserves a solid four stars for its effects and unapologetic nature, but on the other it deserves one star because of its complete lack of story. It's not quite a fresh enough idea to go beyond those similar films before it (August Underground, the Guinea Pig series), so it falls somewhere in between. If you have a healthy appetite for films that don't flinch from the grue, you'll definitely enjoy some of what The Butcher has to offer, but if you are searching for something that's more plot-driven, look somewhere else.
Video and Audio:
Shot on DV, The Butcher's 2.35:1 anamorphic presentation is solid. Colors are rich and blacks suitably deep. The usual suspects of a DV pic were not found (muddy blacks, compression, etc.) here. It's not a demo disc, as most of the movie takes place in a darkened slaughter house, so aside from the blood, there isn't much color to begin with, but it more than gets the job done.
The Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is a disappointment, as this is a film that begs for a 5.1 mix. I don't fault Palisades Tartan for this, though, as it may very well be a source issue and 5.1 just wasn't available. The audio is suitable, but there are a few instances — especially during the louder screams — where things become a bit tinny.
English subtitles are offered.
- Alternate Ending
- Behind the Scene Photos
- Storyboard Sketches
- Original Theatrical Trailer
For a Tartan Asia Extreme disc, the features are surprisingly light. The biggest feature worth mentioning is the alternate ending and how I'm so glad they didn't use it. Rather than spoil it, I will just say that enough with the Texas Chain Saw Massacre homages. They never work.
Apparently the filmmakers agree, as they cut the scene.