The snuff film is back with Gut, a psychological indie thriller that aims to draw us in with a deep focus on death. It's not entirely successful in this regard, but it does leave an impression as a unique addition to the horror genre.
The film follows a family man, Tom, and his co-worker and friend Dan. The two men live a relatively boring life, working in a boring office and eating lunch in a boring diner and reminiscing about the good old days - which sound like they were boring except for watching horror movies. The thing is that Tom is Mr. Serious Married Man now and has little interest in those olden days, while Tom just wants to hang out and watch horror movies like Return of the Living Dead 3.
Since Tom is embracing the boring, the only way Dan can get his attention is by upping the stakes - which means he starts ordering gonzo horror flicks that seem to consist entirely of stomachs being cut open - and which also seem to look extremely real. I'm not entirely sure this type of film appeals to me - then again, I have spent plenty of time watching YouTube videos of animals being vaporized by vehicles with friends - but Tom and Dan are soon enamored and trapped in the path of whoever makes these sadistic pieces of torture cinema.
The resulting events lead the characters into madness and violence, which you can bet makes their lives a little less boring. Along the way we learn that neither character is very wholesome - let alone very interesting - and we see their relationships with others quickly fall apart. There's some commentary about the people who chase violent thrills to be had here, which is probably the best thing to focus on in the film. If you can avoid getting too caught up in the acting (Jason Vail, who plays Tom, is especially wooden) and pacing (plenty of shots seem to hold for far too long) and get caught up in the mysteries of what is going on and why it's having such a dramatic effect on these men, you might not mind checking out Gut.
I'm not sure the whole film works. It's raw, but it's raw in a bad "we're being way too deliberate" way and not a good "we're bucking trends and making our own rules" way. The idea is interesting, and it's one of those stories that could be fleshed out more with more interesting characters and more intrigue. Worst of all, the conclusion is incredibly disappointing, wrapping up with a previously teased confrontation that doesn't answer most of our questions. Part of that problem is on the actors - again, I just couldn't get past the stiff performance by Vail - but it's also a problem that the film gives us so much information and so little conclusion.
Gut has plenty of problems but, as I said in the opening, it at least leaves an impression. The snuff-ish sequences are definitely unsettling, and the sequences that surround them - as we watch the male characters become increasingly enamored in them - provoke a lot of thought. The whole product isn't fantastic, but it at least has moments that show a lot of promise. I'd be fascinated to see what writer/director Elias has up his sleeve in the future, because Gut feels like a starting point for an intelligent horror director's career - if he can get the right people around him. Gut is worth keeping an eye out for if you're a fan of human horror, but to me it ended up as more of an interesting attempt than a winning success.
For more info on Gut, head on over to the official site or Facebook page. The film is available for rent on plenty of platforms, details of which you can find at those links.