Welcome Back, Everyone!
We’ve now eclipsed 21,000 hits, and for a change of tack, I’ve decided to do a review of another low-rent horror movie.
GUTTERBALLS (2008, Ryan Nicholson) was a film I was made aware of from Alan over at the Sex, Gore, Mutants site. So, my Thanks to him for bringing this to my attention! Go visit his site too, whilst you are at it. There’s some early reviews I did a few years back, that you can read, but it’s also a great site in its own right.
And just before anyone says anything, this is an alternate, longer version of a review I did for Amazon, so if you’ve seen it on there, I’m only using my own work. It’s not plagiarism, I promise!
I bought this film, having read mixed reviews on it on several websites, and I was excited to watch it. It looked like the kind of grubby, cheesy horror, that might appeal to my Troma-loving tastes. (I still think THE TOXIC AVENGER and POULTRYGEIST are two of the best low-budget horrors ever made!) Alas, this film is a real mixed bag, and one I feel saddened by.
Unfortunately, the problems start early on, in that there are numerous “versions” of the film in existence. The five most commonly-known ones, are as follows, in order of explicitness/strength:
1) A completely, uncut version, running to about 94-minutes, complete with “hardcore” pornographic elements in the rape sequence. The “hardcore” elements may or may not have been performed by the cast, and may or may not have been taken from actual porn works (rather cheekily, as it’s copyright infringement), but such scenes – if you pardon the pun – do stick out, and not in a good way. If you really need to see actual porn-scenes in your horror, then this is the version for you. (It was released in a Limited Edition, restricted to 69 – see what the director did there? – numbered copies, all signed by him, but are almost impossible to obtain now, except for ludicrous amounts of money).
2) An almost-uncut version, that retains all the violence and gore, running to about 93 minutes, but it only loses the “hardcore” porn elements, and is most commonly known as the “Balls-Out Uncut Version”.
3) An “Unrated” US edition, that is almost-uncut, and very close to the “Balls-Out Uncut Version”, but which makes minor trims just to the rape scene and the strongest gore elements. You only lose about a few seconds here-and-there, but nonetheless, it’s still cut, though barely noticeable.
4) An R-Rated US edition, running to about 89-to-90 minutes, retaining most of the violence, but reducing the gore and shortening the extensive rape scene.
5) A heavily-cut 80-or-so-minute edition, often found in Germany, that removes almost all of the gore and violence, as well as excising the “hardcore” elements.
Any version that is listed as containing the “20+ minutes of Hardgore action”, is almost certainly going to be the “Balls-Out Uncut Version”, so please be aware of this, when you buy it. However, there are numerous printings of this, many of which are merely described as the “Uncut Version”, which they probably aren’t, as the only true uncut version is the one with the “harcore” porn elements! Also, you’ll see the price vary from as cheap as £6 (about $10 US Dollars) to far, far higher sums!
I had the second version, the “Balls-Out Uncut” edition. Sadly, this is a very disappointing movie, and I really should have listened to the 1-Star and 2-Star reviews plastered all over Amazon more carefully than I did. Although this is supposedly a homage to 80’s exploitation flicks, it really isn’t. It’s really nothing more than an ultra-low budget, sleazy, explicit and very violent serial-killer film, about a group of older-teenagers/young adults being hunted-down and killed by the notorious BBK (Bowling Ball Killer) whilst they play a late-night bowling game.
At 93-minutes, the film feels long. It drags on, in many parts, and you may find your eyes and your mind wandering, with frequent ease. The acting is pretty atrocious all-round, and the fact that most of the cast are people you’ve never heard of, and are unlikely to hear of again, anytime soon, should really be a warning for you. The script is awful, with every other word being a litany of expletives. In-and-of-itself, that’s not problematic, but when your entire film consists of teenagers simply swearing all of the time, for the whole 93-minute duration, it wears thin extremely quickly and grates even faster! You’ll pray for someone to just say something vaguely interesting, without the use of the f- or c- words, just once. (According to the IMDB, the word “fuck” or a derivative, is used over 500 times in the film’s entire 93-minute duration. That amounts to more than five times a minute, or once every 12 seconds!) Tarantino’s PULP FICTION released in 1994, ran to 2hrs 37 minutes and only uses “fuck” (or a derivative) 265 times, or just under once every minute. Those stats should give you an idea of just how abundant the swearing is, in this film!) It’s overkill, and then some!
There’s a lengthy, and horribly-tasteless gang-rape scene very early on. Considering the victim, is a woman we’ve just been shown as wearing no underwear, the implication that because she chooses to dress in the manner that she does means she almost deserves to be raped, is a reprehensible part of the film I cannot tolerate. The rape is unjustified! It’s explicit, and it’s sexualised so that the men are shown as manly kings, and the woman is shown as deserving of her attack. The woman is afforded not one piece of dignity, in the whole sequence, and you really do feel violated as a viewer, at watching this occur. Even by Trash film standards, the rape is clearly designed to titillate and excite the audience – something I really feel impacts in an extremely negative manner on the director!
Clearly, the director feels that rape is acceptable as entertainment. Actually, it isn’t! If there’s a real point to having any character of any gender being raped, then maybe, just maybe, I can accept it. But in the case of GUTTERBALLS, the director is clearly doing it, because he’s a man (in the literal sense), and because he thinks it’s sexy and cool to show it. Probably because he’s aiming his film at 18-35 year old men!
As a film, it’s merely okay. It’s fairly cliched, and the reason for the killing is explained in the film’s final few moments, but by then you really won’t care that much. The characters are so reprehensible as people, that you will be glad of the few on-screen murders you see…
…And the murders, are the film’s sole, saving grace. They are very, very gory and nasty! You can see why this film often gets cut around the globe. It certainly wouldn’t pass the BBFC or MPAA anytime soon, but then again, the whole reason for this film, is to push your buttons. If you want taste-and-decency, go rent a Merchant Ivory film instead!
The special effects are very good, and it’s obvious that most of the film’s budget went on them. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but they are very tough to watch at times. The “bowling-ball-cleaner” murder is particularly tasteless, though also very amusing at the same time. (I won’t elaborate further, as I feel if you are going to see this movie, you should at least have one thing to look forward too, for your money.)
Alas, this one scene, and the SFX in general, aren’t enough to save the film from a deserved critical drubbing. The director, Ryan Nicholson, has made a few films now, but having seen two now (GUTTERBALLS and the diabolically awful LIVE FEED from 2006), I really can’t see him improving, unless he has someone to help him write a substantially better work. Screenwriting is not Nicholson’s forte, at the best of times.
Which brings me to one more issue: the unnecessary homophobia that runs rampant in the film. I know I’ve talked about this subject in a previous article – see Welcome To Redneck Central from last month, but it seems US film-makers are determined to find (and keep) one section of society that they can take the mickey out of, and denigrate. As it’s no longer cool to denigrate non-whites, and it’s uncool to include excessive amounts of deep-rooted sexism, it seems the only school of people that are now left open to take the piss out of, are gay men and women. I’m sorry, but this is not acceptable! Regardless of your sexuality, the constant, non-stop use of derogatory homophobic terms, such as “fag” and “faggot” (by both men and women in this film), really annoyed the hell out of me.
It’s really not necessary, but for some reason, US-directors especially (and that includes mainstream ones like Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino as well) seem to delight in debasing this particular community of people, just for the sake of the fact that they can debase them. Why they’ve decided that rampant homophobia is okay, I don’t know, but you know what? The only people it reflects badly on, are the film-makers themselves. It makes you look like infants and schoolyard bullies. Homophobia isn’t cool. It’s certainly not clever or smart. And it absolutely is offensive. I could tolerate one or two jibes, but in GUTTERBALLS, Nicholson has decided that constantly deriding gay people is necessary. Well, it isn’t, and it makes you look really pathetic.
So, do I recommend this film? In all honesty, no, I can’t. It’s mediocre at best, but the expletive-riddled dialogue, combined with the unsavoury amounts of sexism and homophobia, coupled with dire acting, just don’t warrant your time or money being given to this director. Yes, the effects are very gory, and very good, but watching the five or six minutes of them, and then suffering through the remaining near-hour-and-a-half, just doesn’t seem like a recommendation in my books. Save your money, and your IQ level. Look elsewhere for your horror entertainment, because this film is frankly an insult to the genre and treats the viewer with extreme disdain.