Starring: Candice Lewald, Alastair Gamble, Mihola Terzic, Nathan Witte
Written & Directed By: Ryan Nicholson
Many films claim to be throwbacks to horror, but few are really able to achieve this. Gutterballs is one of the few honest throwback films. It looks and feels like an 80’s slasher every moment of the movie. The indie feel benefits the movie, giving it an authentic tone that takes us in.
After a fight breaks out in a local bowling alley everyone is kicked out for the night. Lisa leaves with her friends, but goes back in when she realizes that she left her purse. There she finds that Steve and his friends are still there and are waiting to attack her for rejecting him earlier. They take what they want from her without her consent. One by one they each rape her, throwing her around, and beating up on her. Patrick is the only one of the four guys that isn’t in to it. He thought they were just going to scare her and he stands there in shock for quite a while. He feels helpless to stop what is going on, but enraged at the same time. Things escalate when Steve is about to rape Lisa with a bowling pin. Everyone else begins to hesitate saying this is getting too weird for them. Patrick really tries to stop Steve, but he just lashes out on him for this. He threatens to rape him if Patrick doesn’t use the pin to rape Lisa. He gives in and the guys soon leave Lisa there bleeding and in pain.
The next night the two teams meet back at the bowling alley to compete with one another. Surprisingly enough, Lisa does show up, but is very distant and nearly silent. Patrick tries to make amends with her, but she is far too heavily scarred and angered to accept this. One by one couples and individuals from both teams start to die. Also, mysteriously the initials, BBK show up on the screen, as if he is one of the players. Instead of having numbers by his name though, he has skulls and crossbones. Little do the other bowlers know that each skull represents every person that gets murdered at the bowling alley that night. As more and more people begin to disappear and more of the skulls stack up, the remaining people begin to worry. When only Sarah and Jaime are left, they go looking behind the lanes where the last who have left said they were going. Once they get back there the bloodbath and horrors that have been happening all night long are exposed to them.
The one complaint I have with the film is some of the characters. None of them are very easy to relate to and most are flat characters. Even the guys, especially Steve, were a little overboard. Steve really didn’t even seem like a real person to me. He never stopped yelling and complaining throughout the entire film. The dialogue of Steve and many of the others is just over the top swearing and obscenities. Being rapists, we really don’t need any further motivation to hate the antagonists.
I think even Lisa could have been worked on as a character. We are still on her side clearly and there is no excuse for the terrible wrongdoing that was done against her, but she isn’t made to be a very genuine character either. However, the 80’s slasher isn’t exactly known for in depth characters. So even though the characters seem to be lacking, it is actually acceptable since it feels like other horror films that have similar characters. There is a good variety such as a transsexual, the rude and ignorant jock types, the very easy blondes, the rebels, and the sensitive guy. Even if none of them are taken that far, there is a wide variety of types of characters that do fit in to the genre. They are not the center of the film though and it is easy enough just to have fun with the movie and the plight for revenge.
Gutterballs is a very gory film full of sex and kills. Staying true to 80’s slashers it adapts the theory that having sex is the fastest way to die. All of the earliest kills aside from one all happen to those before or even during sex. One of the most severe yet unique occurs through a forced chocking to death by a certain sexual position. Gutterballs is very resourceful with its’ kills being at a bowling alley. There are shoving pins down throats followed by genitals cut open. strangulation by bowling shoe laces, a face shoved in a hot ball waxer that severs a head with blazing hot metal and completely opens up the flesh of his head, and the bowling pin forced up the rapist for a taste of his own medicine.
Nearly every one of the deaths includes a bowling pin in some sick way. This fit’s the atmosphere perfectly, but it has a higher significance than this. It relates directly to the extensive rape scene at the beginning of the film. This scene is raw and difficult to watch, depicting the perfect tone for the horrors of rape. After being raped by 3 people in a row and treated horribly throughout, next the same is done by the one person who could have saved her. The bowling pin he is forced to rape Lisa with is the thing that gives her the most physical and emotional pain. It puts her over the top and tells her that there can be no forgiveness and a feeling that the world is full of evil. The pin is part of so many deaths because it represents revenge.
Gutterballs gives many references to other horror films. The slogan to the film is nearly identical to Maniac as “I warned you not to bowl tonight” instead of “I warned you not to go out tonight”. Especially with the setting of the bowling alley and even a lot of the characters it reminded me of Sorority Babes From the Slime Bowl-O-Rama. The death of one of the girls who is about to have sex and just waiting for the guy to come back getting strangled by shoelaces is reminiscent of Lynda’s death in Halloween.
The ending to Gutterballs was perfect and was a great touch to a fun film. There are some unclear points in the killing. Lisa is frequently gone and she does state that, “tonight is my turn”, when talking to Patrick. Yet a lot of her friends are brutally murdered. Sure she could be mad at them for not staying there, but she specifically told them to go home that night and not to wait for her. There really isn’t anything else that they could have done, but she was blaming those who had no control over the situation. The end really takes a different turn when we along with one of the only innocent characters left are given a surprise about the truth of what has been going on. The killer instincts in many are heightened as well as their desperation. Gutterballs is a true throwback to the horror slasher and revenge film. It lives and breaths it through and through while bringing its’ own originality to the table.