Tom (Vail) and Dan (Wilder) have been lifelong friends and horror fans but when Dan introduces his domesticated pal to a new realm of extreme horror it triggers a chain of events that neither could comprehend nor control.
The issue of snuff in cinema has long been a fascinating one. It’s the last great cinematic taboo and the ultimate act of voyeurism. Many films dealing with the issue look at the human ramifications; how the act of witnessing such a violation of existence in part kills the viewer of the act along with the victim of the act. It’s a notion that’s interesting and well covered. What I like about Gut is that though this issue is present it almost takes a back-seat to one of greater menace. The modern age has birthed a great unforgiving beast in ‘the internet’. It is god-like, ever present all accessing and yet the citizens of the world wide web all too often do not give it the cautionary respect it deserves. In the past in order to avail of items like a DVD (or VHS more to the point) that contain a sexualised act of mortal violence one had to seek it out. You were required to venture out from the safety of your home into unknown, often dangerous, surroundings and acquire the item at your own (short term) personal risk. When Dan orders the DVDs online he breaches the safety of his own home and though he does not have to put himself in any short term risk to obtain the films he has weakened the sanctuary of his home and put himself in a more dangerous position. It’s an interesting issue, one that we never think of whenever we order something online and one you should give thought to the next time you’re ordering bondage gear from a dark little corner of the internet. Would you spray paint your address in a dodgy part of town? Didn’t think so, so what makes you think putting your information into a webpage is any safer? It’s this notion that Gut plays with extremely well and in doing so gives the snuff/horror film a contemporary edge.
Visually the film is surprisingly strong. It has a brooding tension to it that is disarmingly seductive and director Elias’ camera lingers stalker-like in shots; looking over partition walls and from doorways that all add to the feeling of menace in the household; a lack of safety in the breached castle. The effects are impressive and the DVDs are handled tastefully though given the subject matter you can’t help but wonder if the film is a little too shy in parts. Not to sound like a gore-monger but sometimes a little intestine on screen goes a long way. The score, similarly, has an impressive simplicity to it plays beautifully with the visuals and creates a real sensory treat for the audience.
Jason Vail gives a subtle performance. He’s a family man that’s torn between love and the mundane; there is a reason why he has maintained a friendship with a character like Dan and it’s because he gets something out of it too. Whether it’s a feeling of superiority or the promise of escapism is anyone’s guess but Vail is given the role of “straight man” to borrow from another genre and drives the narrative well. Interestingly some of his best work comes when he’s doing little as the reaction of events play across his face. It’s a difficult skill to perfect but he does it well. Wilder (as Dan) is an exciting performer. He has a lot of qualities that are reminiscent of Walton Goggins (The Shield, Predators) and it’s not entirely down to appearance. Like Goggins, Wilder has a quality about him that is disarmingly friendly while at the same time oozes trouble. His performance is complex; predatory yet passive and he plays extremely well with those grey areas within the narrative.
Gut has been the darling of the independent horror festival; the plaudits speak for itself and they’re very well deserved, it’s a highly skilled and accomplished horror. It will draw comparisons to films like Snuff, 8MM and most recently A Serbian Film and though it’s not difficult to see where these comparisons have come from; in particular the last one thanks to a set piece in the last act that is not only similar in construction but achieves a similar level of tension; these comparisons are bound out of the fact that there is not a lot of horror films of this ilk. Gut’s presentation of the passive explorer paints a cautionary tale like none before it, as the world of the virtual collides with the physical Gut creates a physical and psychological consequence for voyeurism that is haunting long after the film has finished.
Original Review link HERE:
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