Gutterballs (2008)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #155

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Number of Views: One
Release Date:  18 January 2008 (USA)
Sub-Genre: Slasher/Splatter
Country of Origin: Canada
Budget: $250,000
Running Time: 96 minutes
Director:  Ryan Nicholson
Producers: Michelle Grady, Roy Nicholson, Ryan Nicholson, Dan Walton
Screenplay:  Ryan Nicholson
Special Effects: Jon Funk
Visual Effects: Lars Simkins
Cinematography: Mark Atkins
Score: Patrick Coble, Gianni Rossi
Editing: Lars Simkins
Studio: Plotdigger Films
Distributor: Plotdigger Films, Danger After Dark
Stars:  Alastair Gamble, Mihola Terzic, Nathan Witte, Wade Gibb, Candice Lewald,  Jeremy Beland, Trevor Gemma, Nathan Dashwood, Scott Alonzo, Jimmy Blais, Danielle Munro, Megan Lambert, Saraphina Bardeaux and Dan Ellis as BBK

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Suggested Audio Strike:

Trooper We’re Here For a Good Time (Not a Long Time)

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How far does one go before the line is crossed? If there were a mark in the sand then Ryan Nicholson did a pretty good job of wiping it out with this one. Two years earlier he had been one of the first to take advantage of the “Torture Porn” trend created by Hostel with Live Feed, a visibly low rent but watchable exploitation flick which is now long forgotten. While it had more than its share of grue, it was hardly what you would call stupefying so he decided to push the envelope that bit further with his next project Gutterballs. He hands-down succeeded.

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Gutterballs is an homage at heart. It harks back to the eighties slasher flicks of yesteryear, mimicking Happy Birthday To Me, Maniac and even Halloween with its blatant poster art. It wears its heart proudly on its sleeve at all times, presenting us with a smorgasbord of loathsome teens, some inventive dispatches and the perfect location for a good old-fashioned lock in – a largely deserted bowling alley. As something of a whore for The Big Lebowski and Kingpin, it had me from hook to sinker.

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Before I proceed any further I must make one thing abundantly clear. If you find it troublesome lowering your bar of expectation and enjoying a movie warts and all then turn back now. If you are still with us, then don’t come crying to me when the end credits roll. Gutterballs is a travesty, no doubt. However, many of its indiscretions are easy to overlook should you have in your possessions a six-pack or nice bit of bud. Nicholson clearly hasn’t any intention of creating high art and makes no bones about his decision from the offset.

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There are three chief offending factors in Gutterballs which will invariably detract from the experience for many. The characters are beyond hateful, we’re talking muculent dickweeds every last one and barely a redeeming feature in sight. Reprehensible doesn’t cut it. The expletives which spew forth from their hateful cavities, in particular the repeated use of the word ‘cunt’, potentially set some kind of record. And, if those two aren’t enough for you, then there is a protracted rape scene which appears to revel a little too much in its festivities.

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The scene in question cums relatively early on, thus potentially alienating many of its addressees before the route he is taking has even become clear. While I don’t believe it to be truly exploitative, more a little less than tactile, it does tread some pretty thin ice…with shitkickers on. It appears to be simply padding out the running time, by making it utterly overt what kind of discomfort is being disseminated. Let’s just say that John Wayne’s saddlebags deserve a credit. The business end of a bowling pin is utilized in this deflowering and a gutter fashioned.

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We are left with a bitter aftertaste although it is so unabashed in its shameless approach that it actually suggests no harm, no foul on Nicholson’s part. Once this is dealt with, it becomes business as usual and we enter more familiar Slasher territory. The performances are shocking, although it is notable that they veer towards campy apparently for a reason. One receives the impression that this was a pre-requisite and much of the knowingly stilted dialogue is evidently ad-libbed. There is no doubt in my mind that this is wholly intentional.

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Considering its swollen cast of reprobates it takes around half of its duration before we get to the meat but, once this arrives, it’s just like we’re back in the eighties. Nothing has changed, although I don’t remember any flick from that epoch being so flagrant with its splatter. Except possibly Scott Spiegel’s 1989 stalk-fest Intruder and it is here that it seems Nicholson has shopped for much of his inspiration. It is similar in tone, the performances are of the same standard, and the bloodletting is equivalently excessive…plus spare.

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From the first double-kill, which features possibly the only ever filmic introduction to ‘death by 69’, it does away with tension, shelves any futile attempt to scare and becomes all about the red stuff. This is where Gutterballs gets it on the money. Nicholson is quite the auteur you see; having vast experience in multiple fields which have enabled him to work alongside such behemoths as fellow Canadian David Cronenberg for one. He has also designed prosthetics and FX for an over-abundance of successful TV series’ which include Smallville, Supernatural and Stargate SG-1 to name but three.

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We are in hands far more than merely capable and it is as though he crams in every technique he has learned to this point just for the sheer helluvit. Heads are blown wide open, eyes gouged, faces hot waxed and, in a moment even I winced at, a penis is dichotomized without so much as a cut-away, fashioning a female sex organ from the trimmings. I shit you never. The victim in question is like an extra in a John Walters flick or Divine’s lesser-known brother/sister, whichever you prefer and takes the campiness to a whole fresh level. But Keeper’s personal darling would have to be Steve.

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Steve is perchance the most repugnant ‘shit nuts’ of a character ever devised and spends the lion-share of his lengthy screen time cussing, bitching over his broken foot or querying where his ‘whores’ have gotten to. Talk about the fungus among us,  this guy takes it to whole new unexplored levels. If you allow yourself to hate him just enough, then he remarkably begins to grow on you. Either that or you simply become whittled down enough.

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The plot, with all its disappearances and red herrings, is pure silage and Nicholson has the audacity to throw in a Scooby Doo-like reveal at the close which beggars belief. By the time we are at this juncture, we’re at least five beers down and have lost much of the ability to question. On a marginally more positive note, the ‘Bowling Bag Killer’ appears on the scorecard with each kill culminating in a strike which is a nice touch and there are affectionate nods to 80s flicks Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and 976-Evil too for the clever dicks.

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If you are willing to overlook its failings, which are numerous but intentionally so, and the fact that the standout performance comes courtesy of a Waxatronic ball-cleaning machine, then you are in for a rather splatter-tastic 30/96 minutes. Do the math and you’ll know whether it’s a trip worth taking. Just don’t come crying.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 5/10
Grue Rating: 5/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Fill your bowling bags. The kills are where it’s at, once the bodies begin to pile up the rot stops…it’s as simple as that. The FX is actually very well handled for the most part with standouts coming in the form of a close range shotgun face blast and death by Waxatronic. The genital mutilation scene however is enough to bring tears to the eyes of a eunuch. As for skin count, Nicholson’s film offers a veritable smorgasbord, from extreme close-ups of commando-clad bowling vixens to the sighting of one too many members for Keeper’s liking…it’s all here and flapping happily.

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