I'm not sure how much I cotton to this new breed of direct-to-DVD indie horror. I blame the Internet, because from where I sit, many of these movies seem to focus on combining relatively explicit 'adult activity' with the jugular ripping. Not that it bothers me, it's just that the World-wide-pornorama has apparently given guys the go-ahead to expose their willies for any old person to see - such as in Gutterballs - is the world coming to an end?
Gutterballs rolls a 7-10 split (and I'm done with my bowling puns now) combining nothing but trashier-than-trashy elements with an intentional B-movie ethos. Like a 7-10 split, this type of movie is hard to pull off, (or pick up, I suppose) and for Gutterballs, the bottom of the frame finds pin 7 just missing the 10. Not for lack of trying though, as Gutterballs layers on sick gore and bounteous nudity in a sleazy package. A team of totally unlikable characters keeps viewers at arms' length, keeping this movie from picking up the spare, if you will, but it's still an impressive throw.
However, I won't spare you plot details, as ridiculous as they are. Gutterballs finds an unlikable bowling alley manager inexplicably renting out a pair of lanes, after hours, to two groups of warring caricatures. Group one consists of evilly abusive, misogynistic frat-boys, while group two consists of cute chicks, random dudes, gay stoners and a transvestite.
It's pretty clear that brains were set to stun for this endeavor, so we must suspend disbelief for as long as possible.
Everyone abuses the hell out of each other for a while before the leader of the frat-gang is brutally pummeled by a member of the 'weird' team. The only recourse is for the frat-boys to work up to a little semi-pornographic gang rape. Next night it's back to business: stupid bowling alley manager is constantly insulted, gang leader constantly screams "fuck off and get me a fucking beer" to everyone, rape-victim is acting all weird and a mysterious killer with a bowling ball bag on his head does really awful things to everyone.
Man, where to begin? In many ways, this is one of the weirdest movies I've seen. I can't come close to putting myself in the mind-set of writer-director Ryan Nicholson. But, you've got to give the man credit for making a damn fine sexually explicit, graphically violent, morally repugnant, willfully bad B-movie. On the plus side, after a 'slow' start - if you consider gang rape slow - plenty of cringe-inducing, hyper gory and disgusting murders take place, among which a super-bloody neck slash and BME Pain Olympics-worthy groin atrocity stand out. Actually, that gang rape and a later bowling-pin-to-face bludgeoning seems less to echo Terror Train and more Gaspar Noe's Irreversible. But a better trick, and far more difficult to grasp, is how Gutterballs avoids being painfully self-conscious. Most times when someone sets out to make a 'bad movie' it turns to complete crap - you can't duplicate good intentions gone wrong. Gutterballs takes its so-over-the-top-it's-corny mis-en-scene seriously. It's not a movie that winks at you, it's grabs you by the lapels, slams you into a locker, then says 'boo' as you slide to the floor. Even though it's beyond unbelievable, and its performances egregiously caustic or not-so-good, you never feel insulted - nauseated maybe - but not insulted, and that's no mean feat.
You may quickly tire of the F-word, (Scarface gets a run for its money) become filled with hate and rage spending time with these chuckleheads, blanch at all the sexual violence and gaze in wonder as a dude's face gets turned into a soup tureen, but you'll never forget Gutterballs, not you.