Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to…
Canada! Say what? Canada not only produces imaginary girlfriends, sands saturated with oil, and great comedic actors like John Candy and Michael J. Fox but actual films too? It’s true! Although after watching this week’s Foreign Objects pick you may wish it wasn’t… You will realize however that films like this are the reason Canada will always be a third world country. Of course I kid. Canada has produced several great films including Maelstrom and the works of David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan.
In the spirit of FSR’s 31 Days of Horror, this week’s film is Gutterballs, an ode to old-school slasher flicks of the eighties. You can tell it’s the eighties because the “kids” are all dressed like preppies and punks (although it’s possible fashion trends just take a really long time to reach Canada), and “kids” is in quotes because they all suffer from Porky’s-syndrome and look to be in their thirties. Also, the black guy gets referred to condescendingly as “Webster”, and one of the characters channels Principal Vernon when he says “You mess with the bull you get the horns.” Two rival groups of friends show up at the Xcaliber Bowling Center after hours for some fierce ball action, and we discover some bad blood between a slutty girl on the asshole team and the main dick on the super-asshole team. After a brief scuffle they all get kicked out, but when the slutty chick returns for her purse the super assholes grab her, rape her in the arcade, and shove a bowling pin between her legs. Both teams return the following night for a rematch, but a mysterious stranger wearing an upside-down bowling bag for a mask starts killing them off one by one.
The opening credits for Gutterballs features a montage of the masked killer preparing his arsenal of sharpened bowling pins well before the rape occurs that actually triggers the need for the revenge killings… and this logistical inconsistency is the least of the film’s problems. I won’t drone on about the abysmal acting, the inane script, or the predictability of the killer’s identity (even when you think you’re wrong, you’re still right.) This is a slasher film after all, so those characteristics are par for the course. And that’s not a knock against the genre… Black Christmas and Halloween are both classics. Instead, let’s focus on the most talked about aspects of the film… the rape and the gore.
The rape scene attracts the most discussion in reviews and comment boards due to both it’s length and presentation, so allow me to join the fray. Writer/director Ryan Nicholson has said “I shot that scene to provoke a reaction, hatred against the men inflicting the deeds and to provoke sympathy with the victim.” Hatred and sympathy are both pretty lofty goals, and neither are really achieved. The rape occurs over ten minutes to the sounds of Canadian pop music and obnoxious dialogue, with three of the guys taking turns fucking and smacking her around before a fourth rams a bowling pin into her bloodied vagina. The asshole rapists are cartoonish in their acting, dialogue, expressions, and appearance, and it’s hard to hate two dimensional characters in a slasher film played for laughs. Having the victim go commando in an extremely short skirt (more of a belt really), behave in an incredibly stupid manner, and later crawl around with her tits and ass hanging out are not the best ways to garner sympathy either. Before someone claims I’m saying she asked to get raped, understand that she bends over to bowl and we all get a nice, long shot of her lady lips. This is not the behavior of a realistic or sympathetic woman. And like every other character in the movie, she’s utterly unlikable, has zero personality, and is nothing more than a body to be abused.
If Gutterballs has one bright spot it’s in the killing and gore department. Nicholson’s in-house effects department, Life to Death FX, does a good job with a small budget. While most of the murders are bloody messes, the first is actually the most creative… a couple engaged in a supposedly real 69 on the bathroom floor are suffocated on each others dirty bits. A pre-op transvestite gets a bowling pin jammed into his mouth and his dick graphically sliced down the middle. (“They gave Sam a mangina!” says one of the dead guys’ friends.) Sharpened bowling pins are jammed into eye sockets and assholes, a girl is strangled with bowling shoe laces, and another gets her head smashed between two bowling balls. One of the gorier deaths is via a ball-waxing machine. A face is sanded down and burned before eventually collapsing in on itself. A shotgun comes into play later in the film giving us a head blown graphically off and a blast to the torso of a half naked chick that results in a gory and wet mix of breasts and steaming intestines.
Gutterballs is sexually explicit, excessively violent, wonderfully gory, and exactly what Nicholson and his Plotdigger Films intended to make. From his website… “With our graphic and ultra-violent content, Plotdigger Films believes in showing everything, uncut and unrated. The content is shocking to some and offensive to others.” Unfortunately, no where in his mission statement does it say anything about making good films.
The Upside: Some creative kills and good gore effects; you can’t go wrong with Loverboy on your soundtrack; the very rare funny bit of dialogue including some laughs at a condom machine and the line “You’re lucky the buffalo beat me over the fence, otherwise I’d be your daddy.”
The Downside: The acting is ridiculously bad across the board with the solitary exception of Dan Ellis as the janitor; poorly written dialogue that mistakes “fuck” for a necessary part of sentence construction (as well as for something witty, funny, or authentic); easy to predict who the killer is; mixture of sex and violence fails; “controversial” rape scene is neither shocking nor offensive, but it is silly and boring.
For more on Gutterballs, check out the film’s official MySpace page.
What’s your favorite Canadian film? And if that’s too difficult, what’s your favorite eighties slasher film?