Thank you to Anna Ganster of Gut Productions (and one of the producers) of the film for providing me with a DVD screener for Gut.
Gut is a fairly well done independent horror film from one-name director and writer Elias. It is the story of two long-time friends, Dan and Tom. Tom is the married guy with a little girl at home, and Dan is still the 30-year-old kid, trying to keep life interesting and fun for his friend so he doesn't fall into suburban oblivion. When Dan shows Tom a strange snuff-like film of a somewhat disturbing nature, it has a profound affect on both of them. The obsession slowly takes over their minds until there is no turning back to normal.
For my tastes and preferences, Gut is sort of a hard movie for me to pin down. On the one hand, I've always loved these kinds of quiet, methodical tales about obsession and a descent into madness. On the other hand, I've still got so many questions! I don't mind a little ambiguity in my films but this one had just about too much. The plot flows well but it is very constricted, never giving the audience anything beyond just what they get to see on screen.
And speaking of what you actually get to see on screen, the "snuff" film that Dan and Tom watch is incredibly lame. There is apparently nothing more to it than a man's hand cutting open a woman's stomach and sticking his had in it a bit. Sometimes a certain image or scene from a particularly disturbing movie will stay in my head for a few days, but they are usually a lot more powerful than a simple sliced gut. Yet this is enough debauchery to completely take over the minds of two grown men? And they are supposed to be old horror fans? Maybe there is more to it than what we are shown, but that was the main image that was repeated throughout the film. It's not shocking in the least, and certainly not enough to turn these two men crazy.
I rather enjoyed the acting by most of the parties involved, especially by Nicholas Wilder, who plays Dan. He is very natural and believable all the way through; I have and do know guys like him and Wilder reminded me of every single one of them. He plays funny, jealous, obsessed, scared, and mad all with ease. Jason Vail as Tom, though, gave a rather disjointed performance. He's good in the first part but when things get serious and more emotional, he fails. Almost all his lines suddenly sound rehearsed and unnatural, and in his one big moment where he has to watch a much more... uh, personal version of the original Gut snuff film, his emotion is too subdued and unbelievable. He really could have went for it, but he held back too much and the scene doesn't have the kind of power that it should have.
The other two supporting characters are the respective women in the lives of these guys - Tom's wife Lily, played by Sarah Shoofs, and the waitress Dan has a crush on, Sally, played by Angie Bullaro. Lily was equal parts annoying housewife at times and still-interested sexual partner the other times. Sally is very hot and flirtatious (love the two-tone hair color, by the way) but she doesn't get nearly enough screen time outside the coffee shop. Her side of the story would have been so much more effective if the audience could see a bit more of her and Dan's budding relationship.
The ending is sadly very predictable and really rather boring. I saw the whole thing coming and was really hoping that the filmmakers could throw a little extra cog in the wheel to bring the story together and make it more interesting (or at least give it a little more impact) but they just went for the easy and predictable scenario. Nothing has been learned and nothing is resolved. So what's the point of the whole thing? I personally didn't get anything out of it.
Gut had pretty good potential from the beginning, but fails to follow through with that until the end. The filmmaking is quite professional-looking, with good mood lighting in certain scenes and some nice camera angles and compositions (something I always look out for in indie films). The editing is clean and flows with the right pace to match the tone of the film, without having to use anything gimmicky. These guys know how to tell a story with a camera... they just kind of need to work on the story more for next time.