While most horror films these days are made up of either remakes, reboots or rehashes of films that we have already seen before (not that there is anything wrong with that), the independent horror scene is definitely the best place to be if you’re looking for something that’s more original. There have been a lot of good ones over the years and I’m always interested to see what indie horror has to offer, one in particular was this film GUT. I must admit I never actually heard anything about this film before I watched it, I didn’t know what the film was about but I believe that is a benefit cause I won’t have any high or low expectations for it. So you’re probably wondering what the film is about anyway? Well, read on and I’ll tell you.
The film tells the story of Tom (Jason Vail), a family man with a wife and daughter who works in an office with his childhood friend Dan (Nicholas Wilder). Despite living a pretty good life Tom feels distance and detached by both the world and everyone around him, particularly Dan who feels that their friendship is slowly drifting apart. In an effort to fix their friendship, Dan invites Tom to his place to watch a mysterious film that he has just received in the mail. After watching the film together, Tom is completely disgusted by it and he tells Dan to get rid of it. However despite his disgust, Tom strangely becomes fascinated by film and he wants to see more. As both Tom and Dan watch more and more of these mysterious tapes, it eventually leads them down a dark path that will turn their lives upside down.
I won’t reveal what other things that happen in the plot cause that would go into spoiler territory but what I can say about it is that while I don’t think its a good as it could have been, I thought that it was still a solid horror film that marks a decent debut for writer/director Elias (yes, that is how he is credited in the film). The plot was both original and strange, plus it even has a David Cronenberg-esque feel to it that I quite dug (I wouldn’t be surprised if Elias used Cronenberg as his main influence on this film). While it isn’t a full-blown horror film, it’s definitely more of a psychological character study that takes its time to develop both the story and the characters, particularly the friendship between “Tom” and “Dan” which is the main thrust of the story.
Elias does a good job getting us involved into these two men whose lives are affected by watching these mysterious horrifying films. If this aspect wasn’t as well handled as was, I don’t think the film wouldn’t have really worked. Both Jason Vail and Nicholas Wilder were solid in their roles as “Tom” and “Dan”. There not greatest actors I’ve ever seen (there was a moment or two where did come off a bit amateurish, particularly during one big dramatic scene between the two of them in the last half) but for most part, they both did give adequate performances nonetheless (especially Wilder, who I thought was the stand out the two). Another thing I liked about the film was the ambiguity when it came to certain aspects on the plot, while most people would be annoy by the lack of answers but I’m glad Elias decided to keep some questions ambiguous (I could explain what they are but that would spoilers). Plus it has some rather effective creepy moments, the editing was really good and I really dug the score by Chad Bernhard a lot, which didn’t sound like a traditional score at all.
Despite those elements that I did like about it, there were some things that didn’t quite work for me. While I think that Elias’s script was solid, there were certain areas and themes of the story I would have liked to have gone a bit further with cause I didn’t feel that they were explored enough and there were times where story did become a little predictable. While there are some visually stylish moments here and there, I felt that Elias’s direction was rather too stagey and static for my liking. If he gave the film a much better visual look, it would have been able to hide the film’s low-budget quality. Plus it would have given it a bit more atmosphere as well, which I thought it lacked a bit. Also some performances from the supporting cast were rather poor (especially Sarah Schoofs, who plays Dan’s wife “Lily”) and I felt the ending could have gone a little longer.
Overall while GUT isn’t perfect horror film by any means but I still dug it nonetheless and shows some promise from writer/director Elias. If he continues to develop his skills more as a filmmaker, I think he will definitely have the potential to be a great director in the horror genre. If you are a fan of horror films, I would say that GUT is worth a look.
Review by Bede Jermyn