“Torture porn” horror, awkward diner conversations, and uncomfortable sex scenes – that’s what Gut does, but not with much enthusiasm. When you think torture porn, you think over the top gore and mind-invading usages of torturous acts which offer some variety or differentiation among kills. Elias’ film is quite the opposite, never switching up what sick acts are being depicted on the strange videos, giving us the same shot over and over again as what creative spark there was slowly flickers out. Seeing the same slice becomes old and tiresome, losing the danger and suspense typical sub-genre films hold by never knowing what torture device will be utilized next, questioning the lingering effects watching such smut has instead.
That’s where Gut differentiates itself from typical “torture porn” type films, going against the grain by focusing more on psychologically invading aspects of someone watching said gutting instead of acting out crazy, gore-laden visual atrocities. Think of Elias’ film as the lovechild of “torture porn” and slow burn terror, making you think instead of reacting. I know, I know, how terrible, right? No, it’s fine honestly, as we don’t need every film to be another Saw, it’s just something I like to warn viewers of early, because Gut will most certainly not be for everyone. There’s a certain group of people who worship the horror genre’s splatterific prowess and rate films on their ability to replicate the human body’s inner working by slicing characters wide open, and for them, Gut will be a horrid waste of time. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, extremist “torture porn” fans!
Now that we’re in the right mindset, let’s take a look at the film Elias DID create, and not the one we expected.
Gut is still a film which tests the patience of viewers, setting the slow burn style on barely a simmer. We follow main character Tom (Jason Vail), a family man falling into the boring routine of married life, while his best friend Dan (Nicholas Wilder) starts becoming depressed at Tom’s lack of bro-hood commitment. Trying to rekindle their friendship with some good old fashion horror movie watching, Dan finds a suspicious looking film and plays it for Tom one night. Bewildered by the content, just a man slicing a young girls stomach open, the two wonder if the film is real, and vow never to get another one. Until another is sent to Dan. And another. Getting in deeper and deeper with the films, Tom starts to worry about what evil could be afoot, letting the film invade his psyche on a daily basis.
Now, the intriguing part of Gut, or what it meant to be the intriguing part I should say, is watching Tom, the converted family man, battle with his conflicting emotions to figure what strange attraction keeps his eyes glued to the screen while a masked man cuts open innocent victim’s abdomens. Jason Vail is the strongest part of the film, playing lead character Tom, but there just wasn’t much for him to do. Same thing for Dan, played by Nicholas Wilder, who portrays the geeky best friend character who takes offense to Tom’s sudden disappearance. Admittedly, I found Dan extremely annoying, and his interactions with Tom bothered me at times, but maybe that’s because every interaction took place at the same diner. It was like clockwork, just stringing the same scenes over and over again. Tom wakes up, goes to work, sees Dan at the diner, goes home or to Dan’s for another video viewing, then gets naked, shows the audience his ass, and goes to bed. If we’re lucky we even get an awkward sex scene. There’s not much to really take in or be impressed with, mainly just two dudes blandly talking and struggling with maturity, but the repetition gets old super quick.
Until the end that is.
While it doesn’t save Gut, Elias at least provided a moment of intrigue, posing questions instead of answers. There’s two trains of thought you can pull from the ending, even if there seems to be an obvious answer. I won’t spill the beans and ruin the ending for some people, because it might be the only positive you take away from Elias’ film, but the director at least provides some sort of cliffhanger good enough to spark a small conversation afterwards. Probably at a diner, then probably followed by awkward sex – ahhh, damn you Gut! Get your routine delivery out of my head!
In short, Gut will absolutely test the wills of horror fans and drive some insane, taking forever to establish any kind of hard-hitting action, floating quietly through scenes of dialogue not always exciting enough to hold our attention. It’s slow burn horror equal to setting a crock pot on low and letting it stew all day, taking entirely too long to achieve what payoff awaits.
Unfortunately, that’s the question some fans will still be asking – did Gut even have a payoff?
Gut is slow burn horror equal to setting a crock pot on low and letting it stew all day, taking entirely too long to achieve what payoff awaits.
Gut Review [NYCHFF 2012]