Gut opens to an intriguing start, with the labored breathing of an unseen victim soon eclipsed by the image of a man, spattered in blood, leaned over the body. Just as quickly, the image changes, and we meet the blood-spattered man in context of his daily life, presumably long before this violent incident.
Family man Tom (Jason Vail) seems stuck in the doldrums of daily life. His day to day office work bores him, and even time spent with his family seems ultimately unsatisfying. He moves through his days with a hollowed expression and clear boredom hidden by faintly feigned interest that, while terribly clear to the viewer, is either unnoticed or simply ignored by those around him. Something needs to change, and co-worker and friend Dan (Nicholas Wilder) has just the remedy: a throwback to their youth by having a night of horror flicks and fun. Tom quickly disagrees, citing a family man’s duty to spend his weekend entrenched in animated classics with the wife and kid, and the quiet boredom of his life continues, until Dan’s pestering for a movie night draws them both down a rabbit hole of inescapable horror.
There is a keenly felt darkness inherent to this film beyond the inter-cut images of death and gore. The relateable experience of an age-old friendship quietly dying amid the stifling atmosphere of suburban sprawl and nine-to-five routine is something that everyone can relate to, and yet there is something else here, something much darker and perhaps even sinister hidden just beneath the surface. All is clearly not well for Tom, but just what the problem can be is not readily apparent.
What they witness deeply affects both men, leaving a deep psychological mark that causes both revulsion and an almost addictive need to see more and more. Tom’s humdrum family life begins to disintegrate even more as the unstoppable images of what he had seen cloud his mind and make it impossible for him to keep up his charade any longer.
What makes this film truly stand out is the ease by which it slips back and forth between reality, haunting dreams, and clips of the very special film Dan had procured for his movie night with his old friend. The inability of the characters’ to define clear lines between dream and reality translates well to the viewer, who will constantly be questioning what is truly happening in the film and what is taking place in the characters’ heads. The viewer steps so well into the shoes of lead character Tom that they are practically experiencing the growing horror right along with him.
The dark atmospheric soundtrack adds well to the overall theme of the film, though it does overpower the dialogue at times, and adds a jarring note to already disturbing scenes. Special effects, all practical, are realistic and well done, giving viewers a brief taste of exactly what has the protagonist so psychologically marked. All in all, Gut is a fantastic outing that does well to draw horror fans back from the overly done CGI-filled remakes and over-promoted slasher duds currently permeating the market.
We look forward to seeing what writer-director Elias next brings to the genre.
Starring: Jason Vail, Sarah Schoofs, Nicholas Wilder, Angie Bullaro