A psychological thriller requires some psychology as well as thrills, two things almost entirely absent from “Gut.” Its title isn’t the only terse thing about this monotonous quasi-horror tale, which aims for a minimalist intensity by providing precious little character detailing or location color. But those deprivations only make this an unusually dull, suspenseless movie about the fetishistic disemboweling of women, not necessarily an improvement on the lurid, exploitative qualities such films typically sport. Already available on VOD, mono-monikered Elias’ debut feature will do better in home formats than in limited theatrical release starting Oct. 26 in Manhattan.
Nondescript protag Tom (Jason Vail) lives with his adolescent-voiced wife (Sarah Schoofs) and young daughter in a generic town, working an unspecified office job. Annoying jokester-nerd type Dan (Nicholas Wilder) is his co-worker, as well as his best and seemingly only friend, one he’s known since they were kids making amateur horror films together.
Luring the increasingly family-focused Tom over with the promise of a special movie night, Dan shows him a DVD of an anonymous, bound woman being eviscerated, claiming he got it from some underground website. Tom flees in disgust, but can’t get the stuff out of his mind, even borrowing and secretly watching the discs later by himself.
Where Tom’s urges come from, or why indeed Dan does the things he does, are left not so much enigmatically mysterious as simply blank by writer-helmer Elias, and the just-adequate performers do nothing on their own to enlighten us. The story heads exactly where one would expect, imperiling first a woman the two men both know, then Tom’s loved ones — hardly a shocker, since they’re pretty much the only other people in the movie.
The film makes almost no attempt at suspense and delivers scant insight into the central relationship; the viewer has to accept Dan’s dependency on Tom and jealousy toward his wife on the same terms as the creep’s homicidal mania — which is to say, “Well, it’s cuz he’s a weirdo, right?” “Gut” is so stripped-down there’s almost nothing left, least of all a reason for making or watching it.
Tech aspects are competent. Droning electric-guitar-based score by Chvad SB, aka Chad Bernhard, might be unsettling in another context, but here it’s just another way in which the film takes itself very seriously while delivering very little.
Camera (color, HD), Trent Ermes; music, Chvad SB; production designer, Monique Hazeur; costume designer, Gabrielle Vincent; art director, Catherine Taft; sound, M. Parker Kozak; re-recording mixer, Eric Elterman; assistant director, Sharifa Williams. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Oct. 22, 2012. Running time: 90 MIN.
By Dennis Harvey