In my preparation for writing this review of ‘Gutterballs’ the only thing that was more painful than actually having to watch the film again was the research I did in reading through the abundance of positive reviews it has undeservedly received from other genre sites.
To an extent, I can understand the foaming at the mouth fanboyism in the respect that this independent Canadian production is every exploitation nuts’ wet dream. It is a retro throwback to early 80’s slasher flicks featuring imaginatively creative ultra-nasty murder set-pieces with gore galore provided by the exceptional special make-up effects. Accompanying all this is more than generous amounts of hardcore sexual content. This is all very well, but the problem here is the movie’s dire execution in all other departments. No matter how much a hardened veteran horror fan or a young bloodthirsty gorehound might enjoy these sights with their beer and pizza there is no getting away from the fact that this is bottom of the barrel filmmaking at its most scraping.
The 8-minutes pre-title scene concerns setting up the characters and their relationships to one another. One late night in the setting of a disco themed bowling alley, a game is being played between two stereotypical groups of very different yet equally annoying obnoxious teenagers. One group is made up of four preppy pricks and the other consists of a bunch of rebel social misfits - rockers, a transvestite, the local slut (short skirt minus underwear) and her black boyfriend. After the prep arseholes harass the tranny, a fight breaks out between the two sets of friends leading them to be kicked out by the bowling alley’s owner - a grouchy foul-mouthed hick who has an intense dislike for his young customers and is partial to wielding a shotgun.
The title sequence shows us the film’s killer dressing themself up in a bowler’s uniform ridiculously accompanied by a bowling bag for an all-overhead mask and preparing weapons made out of bowling pins. Now cutting back to the misfits leaving the bowling alley the slut has forgotten her purse and goes back in alone to get it. She searches around the place while the owner is buffering the floor who is unable to hear anything due to his ears being muffled by earplugs. Having not found her purse on the tables by the bowling lanes, she goes up to the overlooking arcade where she is cornered by the other group and is viciously gang raped on the pinball machine and pool table there. This is a brutally sadistic prolonged scene clocking in at near 10-minutes that recalls I Spit on Your Grave (1978) only this ends with the woman having the wider end of a bowling pin shoved up her vagina. All this sets in motion the murderous events that follow the next night when the two groups are systematically bumped off one by one by “BBK” (The Bowling Bag Killer) when they return to finish their game qualifying as a rape and revenge movie of sorts.
That is it; the basic slasher narrative is covered. We have the isolated setting of the empty bowling alley containing only the soon to be victims of the attractive young people. The building is darkly lit in such a way similar to how the the setting of the supermarket was lit in the far superior stalk n’ slash film ‘Intruder’ (1989). There is the horrific traumatic incident in the past that is the motivation for the mystery antagonist’s mass slaughter. Only this event happened just the night before. ‘Gutterballs’ is made purely as an exploitation showcase complete with everything you would expect of such a movie that strives simply for its graphic content. This entails here a large bloody body count that is at its most stomach churning, consistent full frontal male and female nudity and scenes of explicit sexual acts all wrapped up in a nostalgic 80’s homage that tries to be a parody but the comedy falls flat on its face.
The reasons that the humour fails so hard is the bad acting and the dialogue of so-called funny lines that are just so unfunny and that the characters are just unbelievable, un-relatable and immensely unlikable. I could just not have cared less about them, which made it even harder for me to raise a smile when I just wished BBK would get a move on and put them and us out of misery. And boy, does the killer do that and then some.
The kills here are what writer and director Ryan Nicholson set out to capture on camera while injecting huge doses of pornographic imagery not concerning himself with telling a good story. This is simply what he set out to do, he achieved that, and I am not going to take that away from him. Furthermore, if you have yet to see this sicko slasherfest then I will leave these set-pieces spoiler free because if this kind of thing is your bag you are going to check it out no matter what I say and they have to be seen to be believed. I am just going to exclaim one thing though - split penis! It is just that the execution of everything else surrounding all this is just so bad. If Nicholson had of approached the material seriously or if he was at least able to write good comedy and have decent actors to deliver it and added good characterization to whichever route he chose to take with the script then this just might have been a much better movie. As it stands, it is a long spread of shit across the screen.
The production company Plotdigger Films has a sequel in the works due to go into production later this year. Entitled ‘Gutterballs 2: Balls Deep’, Ryan Nicholson is back in the director’s chair but thankfully, the screenplay is from another writer’s keyboard. Apparently, scribe Jordan Boos has stayed true to those only redeemable features of the original but has addressed all the criticisms I have talked about. As much as I disliked ‘Gutterballs’ I am willing to give the next instalment a chance because this old slasher fan never learns when it comes to his early 80’s nostalgia for the sub-genre.
* out of ****
Dave J. Wilson
©2012 Cinematic Shocks, Dave J. Wilson - All work is the property of the credited author and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.