Unearthed Releasing: Gutterballs (2008) - Reviewed

Judging from the works of Fred Vogel or Tom Savini, some of the grisliest, most offensive horror films you’ll ever come across just so happen to be created by visual effects artists for horror movies.  Vogel’s own August Underground among the most notorious, there’s something about people who know the tricks of the trade who seem to have a stronger handle on getting underneath the viewer’s skin.  Such is the case with the late visual effects artist Ryan Nicholson.  A prolific self-taught movie effects man, Nicholson kept himself busy working in television for The X-Files as well as working on the Scary Movie and Final Destination film series. 

Sometime around the early 2000s, Nicholson formed his own production company Plotdigger Films, and began creating his own brand of extreme horror which, like Vogel’s efforts before him, pushed the boundaries of what’s acceptable in a standard slasher genre flick.  Which brings us to the late writer-director’s second feature Gutterballs, a pornographic rape-revenge horror comedy set inside a seedy late-80s bowling alley.  Ultra low-budget, trashy and utterly over-the-top in its gleeful desire to offend, this shot on 16mm gutcruncher “comedy” seeks to send-up the horror genre while driving ahead with it’s own brand of extremism and sleaze.  The end result is inane, stupid, low and foul with some occasional nifty kill scenes that call attention to themselves. 

If Bob Clark’s Porky’s were remade by Meir Zarchi, it might look and sound like this swan dive into trashy hardcore horror filmmaking.  As it stands, it’s a pretty standard slasher just everyone in it swears more than usual, somehow managing to beat The Wolf of Wall Street’s record for most gratuitous use of the F word.  Much of the cast members in this look like they acted in porn before getting a chance to break into a major motion picture (provided anyone winds up seeing it).  With enough mean-spirited cruelty and violence in this thing to make the likes of Srdjan Spasojevic blush, Gutterballs seen from afar is largely a soporific wallow amid characters who make the denizens from Very Bad Things look saintly by comparison punctuated by occasional demonstrations of the director’s gore effects work. 

Deliberately indefensible and offensive as all get out, Gutterballs is mostly remembered for pissing all over good taste, quality filmmaking and even cheap thrills.  Despite the radical onscreen deaths, including a couple killed while graphically 69ing, Gutterballs is ultimately a dirge.  It’s a film which wants to make fun of I Spit on Your Grave or Maniac but winds up sinking beneath the depths plunged by those films.  Grating on the eyes and ears, Gutterballs might give you a rough horror comedy ride if you don’t wind up popping the disc out of your blu-ray player and snapping the disc in half first.

--Andrew Kotwicki