FILM REVIEW: Gut (2012)
We usually try our best to champion great independent films deserving of exposure around these parts. However, a poor film is a poor film…no matter how big or small the budget is. And while Gut is not a poor film…it certainly isn’t a good example of great independent filmmaking. Which sucks because this film should have been nothing short of great. Let’s begin our review…shall we? Upon my first viewing of Gut, the latest feature from writer/director Elias, I found myself wanting more. So, I watched the film again and realized that it wasn’t necessarily more Gut that I wanted, but more goddamn story. I felt a bit cheated because, for the most part, the film presents such an intriguing and original premise that I really wanted to get lost in this provocative world of body horror and snuff mystery. I wanted to feel the impact when it counted. And I wanted to be left trembling after the film’s bleak conclusion. Unfortunately, none of that stuff happened…so, I was left starved with a rumble in my gut. But, that’s not to say that this is a bad film. Not entirely, anyway.
Gut opens with a disorienting display of our main protagonist, Tom (Jason Vail), doing something really bad to someone. It’s a pretty dramatic indication of what’s to come and it’s enough to catch your interest and start your Gut journey on the right path. Quickly, the film then cuts to a normal start to an ordinary day in Tom’s life. He says goodbye to his wife and daughter and he’s off to work at his very plain desk job where he types stuff on his computer while his life-long buddy, Dan (Nicholas Wilder), attempts to entertain him with his spot on impersonation of zombie Carl Weathers. Which makes you wonder how this guy manages to maintain a decent desk job. Especially considering his rather lengthy hiatus from his job later on. Dan is a mousy kind of individual who speaks to the “horror fan” because….well, he’s a horror fan in the film. It’s just a shame that he’s a rather irritating horror fan. Anyhow, they work together, eat together and watch mysterious snuff films together. Rinse, repeat. With the obligatory side plot of Tom’s family thrown into the simplistic mix.
The film certainly takes its sweet time to get going, which isn’t a bad thing. There are amazing films that slowly build into a truly harrowing conclusion and the set-up is usually the framework in which you settle into the entire story. In conjunction with the visuals and script, a slow burn can really be extremely effective and work wonders for a low-budget independent film. However, when Gut finally gets going…you’re treated to a low-budget independent film with a highly interesting original concept strung together by a mediocre script and haphazard execution. So, the slow burn in this film can sometimes seem a bit tedious. Especially when you’re given mostly unlikeable characters to work with…like Dan.
Speaking of the highly interesting original concept, the centerpiece in the film are these peculiar artsy videos of a gloved hand using a really cool knife to slice open seemingly innocent females through their bellies…or, rather…their “gut”. The videos are in DVD format that are evidently sent to Dan’s home unlabeled in plain white sleeves. Which presents many theories as to whom may be behind the horrific deeds presented. It is a truly compelling thread that could unspool into many directions…and could offer several different outcomes. Instead, the script settles for loosely developed cliches and takes the entire film to a place that should have been gut-wrenching (pun intended) rather than a place we’ve been to before in much better films. What if the antagonist was Carl Weathers? That might’ve been pretty goddamn awesome. Just a suggestion.
The best performance in the film belongs to Sarah Schoofs as Tom’s wife, Lily. She is a unique beauty that holds the entire family together. I’m not quite sure what she does all day, as the film never reveals that sort of detail. It’s kind of alluded that Tom and Lily are working on another child due to them banging all the time and Tom never pulling out…but, you’re only left to assume such a thing as the idea is never truly fleshed out. Sarah gives Lily such a sincere nice person quality that Tom comes across as a complete self-absorbed unengaged dick for most of their interaction which never really gives the film the necessary emotional connection for the final act. The chemistry, simply, is not there. Still, Schoofs is the best thing in this film. Hope to see much more of her in the genre.
Aside from Schoofs, the soundtrack is amazingly effective in the film. It helps create the dread for most of the running time. Props to Chvad SB (Chad Berhnard) for providing the disturbing soundscapes that complete the feel of the film. Also, much respect goes to the SFX department for creating some pretty awesome looking slices of gore for such a low budget affair. Really impressive stuff…just wish there was more of it.
I also loved the allusions to addiction and obsessive friendships. While it is never really hinted that Dan’s friendship for Tom goes deeper than it is, you sort of get the impression that this guy might actually harbor some broader attraction for Tom…like in a “I wanna spoon with this guy and lick his earlobe while we watch horror movies together” kinda way. The obsessive nature in which our characters deal with the mysterious videos also help add to the depth of the story. Had Elias delved much deeper with these themes and committed to them rather than prance around them, the film would have been all the better for it and the result would have been much more transcendent and memorable.
Gut is not a bad film. It’s just not very great. Perhaps the most irritating thing about it is that it could’ve been something really special if Elias really spent some time fleshing out the details. Maybe giving more weight to the conclusion of the story instead of just randomly putting these characters in convenient situations for the final act. Like, what if Lily told Tom that she was expecting? That might’ve been a true gut-wrencher considering what happens at the film’s conclusion. You’ll find much better examples of bleak independent horror films out there but, I do respect Gut for at least trying something different. You can do much worse these days.
Thanks for reading,
Original Review posted here:
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