Review: Gut (2012), starring Jason Vail

Gut (2012), starring Jason Vail
7 10

"The quietest, most introspective film about snuff films you will ever see."

PLOT: A man attempts to reconnect with a friend he feels he’s growing apart from by showing him snuff films. What could go wrong?

REVIEW: Dan and Tom were childhood friends. They were big horror buffs, and even got together to make short films. But in adulthood they grow apart. Though they work in the same office, Tom opted for marriage and children while Dan kept the bachelor life. Distressed that they never hang out, Dan coaxes Tom over to his place to watch a mysterious DVD that showed up in his PO box. It appears to be an authentic snuff film, showing a woman, tied up, having her belly slit open and her innards very gently tugged out. Dan thinks it’s just a lark, but Tom, who’s become despondent and lethargic in his father/husband role, has a much more visceral reaction.

Gut is a more complex film than its low-budget would indicate, but that is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I appreciate the levels of subtext. There is never an overt homoerotic vibe between the two men, but I got the distinct impression that Dan harbored stronger feelings for Tom than friendship. And Tom clearly finds the snuff films evocative, but in an ambiguous way. They shake him up, and make him feel something at a time when he has become numb to the world. He is horrified when he fantasized about slitting his wife’s belly open, and he can’t bear to indulge in a tickle fight with his daughter, lest he touch hers.

But then the waitress Dan starts dating winds up in the new DVD mailed to him, and they realize the films were all real. Then it becomes a game of red herrings. Is the killer stalking Dan, or is it really him doing the killing, or were the films fake, and just cause Tom to act out his shameful fantasies. Writer/director Elias was clearly going for ambiguity, and he achieves it, but maybe a little too well. I am all for a film letting you decide for yourself what really happened, and how you feel about it, but the looseness of the narrative started to lose me. I wanted just a little bit more than the abrupt ending gave me.

Even so, I appreciate the quietness and subtly of most of the film. That’s something you don’t see often in low-budget horror. Gut is the quietest, most introspective film about snuff films you will ever see. It is character driven, and has layers of subtle complexity. That quietness and subtly eventually undermines the story, but I would still recommend this for a watch.



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