Gut is a study of two friends, nondescript Tom (Jason Vail) and nerdy Dan (Nicholas Wilder), who have known each other from adolescence and now work together in stultifying office jobs. Tom has graduated to conventional domesticity, with an attractive wife (Sarah Schoofs) and child, while Dan appears to be charmingly stuck in goofy immaturity, more interested in consuming horror movies and junk food than in making anything identifiably adult out of his life. When Tom develops an enigmatic case of ennui that threatens to drive a further wedge between the two men, who have clearly lost a previous closeness, Dan makes the seemingly harmless but actually momentous suggestion that Tom should visit his home to watch an unusual DVD he has received in the mail. Is the content of the disc, with what appears to be footage of an actual murder, real or merely a simulated snuff film? Whatever its source, the (disturbingly graphic) imagery haunts and fascinates Tom, who has nightmares and is uncomfortable with what he and Dan have discovered, both on the internet and in themselves as more films arrive in the mail. The stakes and danger, furthermore, are more than simply psychological when it becomes apparent that the party responsible for the snuff DVDs is active where they live. Gut is not torture porn itself, but ponders the genre’s sources and ramifications; squeamish viewers are, however, advised to approach Gut with extreme caution.
Gut demonstrates an intimate knowledge of cubicle-bound despair and succeeds in giving the horror genre its Office Space, with perhaps a bitter tincture of In the Company of Men. As is true of the music for the latter, Chvad SB’s minimalist score for Gut, which builds from subtle, bare, and repetitive to unnervingly abrasive as the film progresses, forms a compelling and integral component of Gut‘s personality and is indispensable to its storytelling. The story told, tastefully if tenebrously lensed, is not an uplifting one, and if Gut can be called a horror film, it is, like last year’s Sinister, something of an odd, self-loathing example, with horror and porn the gateway drugs that lead to other, darker preoccupations and initiations.
Gut earns 4.5 stars and is highly recommended, with Nicholas Wilder one of the year’s most interesting faces and “Elias” a definite directorial talent to watch. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that this film is:
3. Un-p.c./state-skeptical. Dan claims his regular mail carrier has been replaced by a mentally retarded man – affirmative action gone postal and run utterly amuck!
2. Family/marriage-ambivalent. With emotional and genetic investment in humanity comes not just affection, but responsibility, insecurity, boredom, and, for men, diminished home entertainment sovereignty.
1. Effectively anti-feminist. Tom and especially Dan are representative of the catastrophe wrought in American society by women’s liberation. Dan personifies the national epidemic of unmanned men more interested in pop culture distraction, nostalgia, and mischievous male camaraderie than in honest work or mature relationships with women. He finds, therefore, a less grim sociological cousin in Ed, Nick Frost’s character in Shaun of the Dead.
Dan dwells on the drawbacks of Tom’s family life and calls him a “pussy-whipped motherfucker”. Lending potential credence to this assessment and to his characterization of Tom’s balls as AWOL is a scene of an inwardly smoldering Tom doing the woman’s work of washing dishes. Tom approvingly describes his wife as “old-fashioned”; but later, when he becomes rough with her, she straddles and slaps him until he relents and apologizes to her, indicating that their relationship is not as “old-fashioned” as he has perhaps convinced himself. Earlier, he is irritated when his wife takes the sexual initiative. “So, what, I’m supposed to flip whenever you want me to?” he objects. Television, as in Poltergeist, serves as an occasional babysitter.
Torture porn appears to be Dan’s principal sexual outlet. The snuff films that captivate him are meaningfully misogynistic, with women’s bellies – the center of traditional womanhood in its reproductive capacity – targeted for mutilation and vivisection. Motherhood is incompatible with women’s chosen roles as professionals and/or shamelessly pierced and tattooed fornicators. Although a friendly waitress, Sally (Angie Bullaro), obviously likes him, a brief exchange with a chilly coworker suggests how women are probably more likely to respond to Dan. The typical unavailability of the women he desires has fostered in him a deep resentment that sublimates as horror fandom but finds a more direct expression in his enjoyment of torture porn and snuff films.