By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Jason Vail, Nicholas Wilder, Sarah Schoofs, Kristianna Mueller, Kaitlyn Mueller
More than any other genre of film, horror is extremely divisive. There are so many sub genres within its confines that it’s easy to get lost in the horrific shuffle, throw up your hands, and reach for the chick flick to watch that night instead. Some people like haunted house horrors. Some like the Saw inspired ‘torture porn’ sub genre. Some like supernatural haunted houses. I must say that I enjoy horror films that speak to the mind. Films that ask you to look in the mirror and really think about the person that is staring back at you. Sure, I have moments where the ‘other hand reaching for the light switch when I am home alone’ type horror works me into a sweat. But to get inside my mind, you have to explore it. Which is why I thought the film Gut was intended for people like me. Meaning, I seem to get turned off by gimmicky horror movies such as The Human Centipede and tend to magnetize toward films that actually have something to say. So where does Gut fit in?
Not a film as much as a horrific exploration of the human psyche, Gut goes right for its namesake. It marks writer/director Elias’ first narrative feature as director. More than anything, the film proves how much he can do with so little. However, there are times when Gut’s instincts in storytelling should have been more, shall we say, fleshed out before cameras rolled. It’s all not for nothing however, as Gut also marks Elias as a director that is finding himself in the process of needing to be followed. Some of his directorial decisions throughout Gut are spot on (a particular scene involving light being shown on an on-her-side Schoof’s eyes as Vail lays behind her is beautifully shot.) It’s just too bad the film’s tremendous premise does not quite live up to its full potential.Gut explores the division of two friends, and what is done in order to once again bond them. Tom (Vail) represents those who have grown up. He lives what many could see as the perfect life. He has a beautiful wife and daughter, both of whom he kisses each day before he heads out the door and towards his desk job. Dan (Wilder), on the other hand, represents those who refuse to. He is still transfixed on the horror films he and Tom used to watch growing up, and resents what Tom has become. In order to bring Tom back into his life, Dan presents a series of mysterious DVDs he received and invites Tom over to watch them. What he sees on the DVDs, which seems to be a series of real life murders involving women being gutted by a man with white gloves on camera, awakens something inside Tom that he did not know existed. The result of this awakening is handled magnificently, as Vail conveys many emotions. He is disgusted yet fascinated at the same time. Where the film goes from here I will leave for you to see. But let’s just say that if you are looking for a happy upbeat ending, you will be sorely disappointed.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. What struck me most about Gut is just how great of a premise for a horror film it is. Elias also seems to relish in the old school ‘slow burn’ style of filmmaking. A style, I might add, that I feel is a lost art, and I respected his instincts. But a frustrating aspect that I ran into over and over while watching Gut were questions as to why. Why were Tom and Dan still working at the same place while at the same time drifting apart? Why was said place of employment so willing to let Dan go on self-imposed hiatuses? Elias is tremendous at tearing the two apart but not as keen to show even a sliver of what made them come together to begin with. Which would have added so much to an already well thought out premise. But premise does not include execution. And that, unfortunately, is where Gut really falters.There is so much to like here, however. The way the home videos are shot is enough to send shivers down your spine, and Elias is great at executing shots such as one of Vail watching the videos and having the light of nothing but the hardcore piece of media spliced across his face. But by the time the film’s seeming shocking conclusion happens, I didn’t feel an ounce of sympathy. And that really bugged me.
The film’s best performance belongs to Schoofs, as she is tremendous at depicting the role of Tom’s wife that I frankly wish was a tad better written. She gives certain looks throughout the course of Gut that speak wonders without even opening her mouth, and I enjoyed every minute she was onscreen. However, once again, the question of why a warm-hearted person such as herself would become the wife of a self involved jerk like Tom kept coming up in my head. However, make no mistake. There are very good ideas on display here. Elias’ allegory of sex, depravity and violence brilliantly asks questions that most horror directors are scared to ask. All of which are handled beautifully. It’s the answers part that gets Gut in trouble. But so goes horror. And I am sure a talented director such as Elias still has many more questions he would like to ask us. As someone who likes seeing directors such as this get their shot, I for one can’t wait to see what they are. Let’s just hope he has resolutions next time.
3 out of 5