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by Charles Tatum

"Gut Check"
4 stars

"Gut" is an uneasy little film mixing elements of both "The Ring" and "The Human Centipede", and turning in a nifty ninety minute exercise in creepiness.

Dan (Nicholas Wilder) and Tom (Jason Vail) are lifelong friends who now work in an anonymous office doing anonymous office work. Tom is a family man, married to Lily (Sarah Schoofs), and has a cute daughter. Single nerd Dan is stuck in adolescence, obsessed with horror films, and his friendship with Tom is all he has going for him. While the film opens with an act of violence being perpetrated by Tom, we are not sure what is happening until the film's climax. Director Elias then uses his editing skills to give us a realistic peek into the lives of these two men. Dan orders a DVD from an underground video website. The disc is disturbing, showing what looks like an autopsy being performed on a living person. Dan is enthralled with the disc, and invites Tom to watch it, too. Tom already seems to be devolving in a midlife crisis, and the video begins changing both men. They can't stop thinking about it, and Tom withdraws into his own little world while Dan starts getting a bit of confidence, asking out diner waitress Sally (Angie Bullaro).

Tom begs Dan to get rid of the discs, but Dan only comes up with more of them, and the two begin a codependent relationship centering around their bloodlust and disdain for what they are watching. Eventually, one of the victims on a disc turns out to be a person in their lives, and the entire cast is suddenly in mortal danger.

Writer/director/editor Elias does a great job setting the mood early on in the film. I was reminded of David Lynch watching this, each shot has a quality to it that makes the viewer squirm, whether it be something innocent like the daughter's bedroom, or the cold clinical autopsy violence. The cinematography looks drab (in a good way), and the low budget allows the film makers to make use of believable locations that feel like real homes, not a "decorated" set.

Wilder and Vail are fantastic. I believed their friendship, we don't always attract people in our lives who are exactly like us. Schoofs, and Bullaro, play supporting love interest roles nicely. The musical score is also creepy, almost industrial and noisy as the film progresses. The gore effects are also good, without overwhelming the viewer with blood and guts. A few scenes drag here and there, and the ending can be read a few ways. The cast is small, and this intimacy forces the viewer to focus on the two central characters in the film. The roles require quite a bit of nudity and sexuality that never feels exploitative, although sometimes Elias' use of F-bombs feels a little forced.

This is one unsettling film, perfect for late night viewing by horror fans. As a fan of weird underground stuff that most people shun, is it wrong of me to associate with some of this a little too much? I recommend "Gut."

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originally posted: 12/01/12 18:24:02
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  26-Oct-2012 (NR)
  DVD: 28-May-2013



Directed by

Written by

  Jason Vail
  Nicholas Wilder
  Sarah Schoofs
  Angie Bullaro
  Maria Victoria
  Kirstianna Mueller
  Kaitlyn Mueller

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