Friday, 21 October 2011

Gutterballs (2008)

I have to admit that I was not sure if I was going to like this movie at all. Other horror fans had told me that Gutterballs was impressively sleazy but that's not always a good thing, depending on the tone of the film and how many other aspects it gets right. Gutterballs gets quite a few things wrong but I have to admit that I was impressed and entertained, overall.

The evening after a particularly nasty and brutal gang rape, a local bowling alley is the scene of a number of revenge killings committed by someone who seems particularly handy with the trappings of the ten-pin world. As is so often the case in these movies, the survivors continue to remain implausibly oblivious to their potential appointment with death long after normal people would have figured out that something was amiss.

Where writer-director Ryan Nicholson succeeds here is in his unabashed, unflinching depiction of some downright nasty nastiness. The effects on display here are often eye-wateringly impressive and many moments will make you wince. There's also some good humour here and there, some of which is obvious (I, personally, enjoyed the banter coming from the Wax-o-matic machine) and some of which I just hope was intentional so am giving the benefit of the doubt to (e.g. most of the script in the latter half of the movie, the movie is listed everywhere as a horror comedy so I think it's fair to say that most of the laughs were intended).

Sadly, the negatives really drag things down. The acting on display here is pretty atrocious and it seems that the women were just chosen for their willingness to show their breasts (not that I'm complaining TOO strenuously about that, mind) and the guys were picked thanks to their ability to swear, act like the worst kind of misogynists and endure whatever makeup work was required. Candice Lewald deserves some praise for being especially brave in her portrayal of Lisa, the victim of the graphic sexual assault while the other actresses deserve praise for their severe underwear allergies. To be fair, Mehola Terzic is preety good as plucky Sarah. And Dan Ellis is just generally pretty damn fantastic so that almost makes up for the rest of the actors struggling to generate any real screen presence.

The script is truly awful for a large portion of the film, none of the characters are worth caring about and it's only when the killing starts that the movie starts to feel like a movie. Okay, I suppose you could say the same about many low-grade slasher flicks so it's not the end of the world. Many of the lame lines can actually be construed as amusing but the constant profanity and derogatory comments in the first half of the movie just feels like someone asked the actors to improvise before checking their vocabulary levels.

There is also the occasional, lazy mistake such as a girl grabbing a guy round the throat with her right hand while grabbing his crotch . . . . . . . . with her right hand. Unless there was some body-transforming, Cronenberg-esquire stuff going on here that I wasn't aware of then that's just impossible. These things happen.

But with a nice line in sleazy, grimy, nastiness this movie should please those who think most horrors have nowadays become too tame compared to "how they used to make 'em". Ryan Nicholson is a horror film-maker who makes the kind of stuff that he loves/loved as a fan and that's clear in almost every scene. Sadly, so are some of the limitations but I'm going to let my horror-loving heart overrule my head this time round and rate it accordingly.



  1. I saw this one only recently - about two months ago or so as a matter of fact. I enjoyed it but your review is pretty spot on if I do say so myself. I wasn't deeply in love with it and there was quite a lot of silliness that yes, gave me a headache, but overall, it was a nice way to kick back and shut my brain off for an hour and a half.

  2. Thanks Alan. I didn't like it quite as much when I first saw it a year or so ago but it's grown on me since and certainly shows that Ryan Nicholson just goes all out to create the type of crazy movies that many fans grew up watching in the home video boom of the early 80s.