Martyrcycle, The – Chvad SB “Gut” (2014)

I’ll just start this out by stating the obvious: sometimes I lag. I can get so caught up in the day to day activities of being married, having kids and just being a badass, that sometimes things can unfortunately be put on the backburner, without me realizing it. Such was the case with Elias Ganster’s horror thriller GUT. I was sent the film a few months ago, but with the hectic schedule that followed (covering Fantastic Fest, moving, etc), I just accidentally forgot about it until recently. Lucky for me, it was well worth the wait, as it’s a well written thriller, with great pacing and some very solid execution. Childhood friends Tom (Jason Vail) and Dan (Nicholas Wilder) live different lives than when they were younger. While Dan spends his time doing the same thing he’s always done (watching horror movies and acting silly), Tom has settled down, gotten married and has a young daughter now. Feeling less and less like someone who wants to be friends with Dan, Tom continually makes excuses when asked to hang out with him, until he feels sorry one night, and agrees to come over. When Dan tells him about a bootlegged video he recently acquired, Tom sits there and watches it, sicked by what plays out onscreen: a woman tied up, getting sliced from stomach to chest,  Repulsed yet somewhat obsessed, Tom isn’t able to shake the video, and what Dan begins to get more, Tom withdrawls from the friendship even more. Pretty soon, Dan begins to get more videos of the same thing, but with different women (including one that he’s dating), and both men are caught in a mystery of what’s going on, until a pretty intense ending that leaves their friendship forever changed.

It’s a cleverly crafted thriller, full of moments that when combined with the minimal, guitar-driven score, gives off an off-kilter feeling, one that gets under your skin and stays there. Like Tom’s character, as a viewer, the imagery of the videos stays with you, long after the film is over, raising different opinions in your head. The overall theme of the film seems to be one that is relevant to a lot of today’s horror culture , with some fans having the desire to want to push the envelope one step further than the last person. Though somewhat subtle, the film raises questions regarding that desire, and successfully puts GUT into the pool of films that get under your skin, and make you think of how you feel regarding just how far you want to take your obsession with what’s being played out in front of you. It’s a testament to the direction by Elias Ganster, showing viewers his skill of establishing a mood, and providing a slow-burn approach that has made some of the great thrillers work so well. I’m definitely anxious to see what’s next from the filmmaker.

-Jerry Smith

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