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Sunday, 5 October 2014

Gut (2012)

We've all seen something on DVD or online that we shouldn't have watched and I'm no exception. In my case it took place just a couple of years ago, it is an experience that stays with me to this day. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't help myself. The constant whispers of its name and it's dubious qualities from those around me were becoming ever louder, until one day I could resist it no longer. It was a surreal experience, watching something that I was certain went against everything that I knew was good and decent. What was even worse was that I watched it through to the very end, occasionally with hands over my eyes and ears, nevertheless, still right to the very end - Believe me, I'm not proud. Long after watching it I found myself often thinking and sometimes even dreaming about the horrors that I had witnessed and heard on that online clip - so much so that I have never even once told anyone else about it, that is until now. Suffice to say that I still feel ashamed to this day, I will never watch an episode of Glee again. 

Now, there are of course less terrible things that could be viewed than Glee (though some would argue, not very many). For example, hard-core torture, 'gore porn and so-called snuff movies for example spring to mind as instances of similar disturbing visual experiences. As those who have the dubious honour of reading a number of my self-indulgent posts will already know, I'm not a particular fan of the 'gore fest horror' genre and its ilk. I find it boring, predictable, often misogynistic and quite simply lacking in any feature of likability. As for the so-called snuff film, well I've never watched one and quite frankly never will. 

However the Psychologist in me has often wondered whether, given the opportunity and intention, just how I would react to seeing real, undiluted horror. I'm sure, like the vast majority of people, I would want to think I would be suitable appalled by what I was seeing. In sincerely hope and believe that it would be the case. 

But what if the unimaginable turned out to be the case, that the effect on wasn't negative? What if it turned out to be quite the opposite? Would there be guilt and what would I do to cope with that ugliest of secrets? 

This is a question bring me neatly (its almost as if I plan these posts) to the subject of this article and a recent film that wonderfully and expertly explores those very questions in a film that I was asked by the production team earlier this week to review, Gut (2012). Quite simply, this film is an astonishing piece of work.

But first, the synopsis:

“Something is missing in Tom’s life. Every day he goes through the motions, becoming increasingly detached from those around him. His best friend Dan thinks he has the answer, a mysterious video he’s got to see to believe. What Dan shows him leaves Tom unsettled, flooding his mind with disturbing images and desires, and binding the two friends together with its ugly secret.

As he tries desperately to forget what he saw, Tom’s mounting feelings of guilt and disillusionment quickly give way to paranoia and fear. One video soon follows another and another, blurring the line between reality and voyeuristic fascination, and threatening to dismantle everything around them.”

You may be mistaken (as was I before I watched it) that Gut is simply another excuse for an independent horror gore spectacular - quite the contrary. What in fact this film is is a clever and measured psychological study of two things; the changing relationship between two adult men who have been friends since adolescence, and the possible effects of watching something that can effectively change the course of your life.
There's nothing like discussing a good snuff movie over lunch....

Thus, the relationship between Tom and Dan is the central driving force for much of the film, consequently the pace is at first measured and patient as we observe the two men at very different stages of their lives. This is an element of the film that will not please those who wish their horror to be a bloody flesh-ridden gore-extravaganza from the first few moments of a film  - but frankly, who cares? For me the relationship between the two men, whilst remaining critical to understanding the consequent proceedings, is also rather familiar to us all and something we can instantly relate to. After all, we've experienced similar relationships ourselves or known of people like Tom and Dan, whose friendship has transgressed from childhood to adulthood, yet is slowly growing apart as maturity (or lack of) and responsibility sets in. 

In Gut, we observe early in that the two friends, while still working and occasionally hanging out together, have both matured and progressed into adulthood in very different ways. Tom is married, has a young child has all the middle class trappings of a twenty something. Dan, on the other hand is still holding on to the vestiges of his adolescence - he is single, lacks some social skills and is distinctly immature. What unites both is their relative dissatisfaction with their lives and particularly their boring office jobs. However there is a distinct fly in the ointment - Tom is so disillusioned with his life that he is contemplating moving away for a fresh start, something which Dan is distinctly unhappy about.
My face before watching glee.....

As a consequence, watching their similar yet differing reactions, after they witness for the first time scenes of a woman being sliced open and mutilated until the last vestiges of life leave her body, is one of the interesting factors from the start. Tom is disgusted and visibly disturbed by what he has seen, to the extent that sleepless nights and thought drifting days follow the event. He can't look at his wife the same way, his sexual desire is gone and as for the moment when he plays with his daughter - well lets just say that the memories of mutilation stop any sense of play in his mind. Whereas Dan, while also shocked, displays far more signs of interest and gradual excitement in the snuff movie, to the extent that he needs to see more, to experience more. As it turns out, both men want to see more.

The two roles of Tom (Jason Vaill) and Dan (Nicholas Wilder) are very nicely played  - something that cannot always be said of the performances in indie films. Jason confidently exhibits the dawning unease and conflicting desires after watching the depictions of female mutilation whilst Nicholas very nicely does a formidable turn of an individual who is even far more complex and troubled than he first appears. The rest of the minimal cast are also good, but it is the central two performances that the films success or failure of a movie such as this relies upon and they don't disappoint at all.

The central premise of Gut, what the effects and consequences of watching a snuff movie could have on an individual, should not lead you to simply believe that this movie is wall-to-wall gore, because it is not. Yes we do witness excerpts of the torture scenes where the abdominal slicing commences together with some rather interesting accompanying sound effects. However, much is left to the imagination - which may alienate some elements of the horror fraternity. However, exponents of Psychological horror such as Hitchcock et al knew from the start the start that imagining the violence and the horror can often have just as powerful an effect as a bucket of blood or handful of entrails. You only have to watch the classic shower scene from Psycho to observe that one of the great cinematic scenes of violence actually never shows any knife penetration and very little in the way of blood. The human imagination is an incredibly powerful tool.
My face while watching Glee....

However, do not think that the movie is without its genuinely violent scenes - there are indeed more than enough to satisfy and unsettle most. For example, the mixture of tenderness and cruelty in the murder scenes are incredibly effective as is one particular fight scene which will leave you breathless.

Another thing about the film that may not appeal to everyone is the ambiguity of some of the plot and indeed of the ending itself. Yes my friends, I'm sorry for some of you, but we are once again again faced with a movie that actually wants us to think, to ponder and to wonder. I'm attempting to remain as spoiler free as possible (as usual) and so really don't want to give too much away. However, there are questions (apart from the absolutely obvious ones) that we are being asked throughout the film; Namely, What are we actually seeing? Who is performing the acts of murderous horror? Is everyone as they really seem?  
This hasn't ended well....

The fact that we may or may not be able to answer all these questions is something that some may find annoying, in that the plot and ending are not neatly wrapped up in a traditional Hollywood 'now lets explain every damn nuance of the story' method. I simply don't understand the need that the people who have to have every avenue of ambiguity sealed up as if real life was like that - because quite frankly, its not. Life is actually rather messy, mixed up and full of far more answers than questions as the years go by. I for one love the notion that we are asked by the filmmakers to fill in some of the gaps ourselves - it is what we do in the real world anyway.

As a consequence of the ambitious plot and its ending, there is a distinct possibility of a Gut sequel - Indeed, in the bits and pieces of research (shut up you there at the back, I do do some research!) there do seem to be a few whispers circulating about a recently completed screenplay. I for one cannot wait.

I promise you, the director and writer of Gut, Elias, has produced a film that will both excite and intrigue you, not only while you watch it but long after seeing it. It may leave you asking more questions that you often may have after watching some of the more traditional standard horror fare, but it's no less satisfying. Highly recommended.

Gut is currently available on DVD in the US, Netherlands, and Germany. If you want to find out more about watching this incredible film then contact them on their Facebook page at

Gut has a website at

You can also find the Gut at its IMDB page at

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