I am probably not the first person to tell you that Ryan Nicholson and Plotdigger Films are the real deal. This guy has had quite a strong cult following for almost ten years. I have only started viewing his films in the past six months, and I cannot believe what I have been missing. My first experience with his work was his most recent film, Collar (2014). His upcoming release is this year’s Gutterballs 2, and I absolutely cannot wait. Some of you may even just be here to skip to the end to view that trailer, and that is fine; but, I do have a few things to say about the first film. Remember, I am trying to find films that many people may not know about. Chances are, if you are reading my blog, you have heard of Nicholson’s work. However, I am sure there are plenty of people out there that do not know his work. No matter how good this guy is, and how big of a fan you are, he is still far from a household name. So this review is for the current fans to relive the original film and get pumped up for the sequel; but, it is mostly to introduce the new viewer to an amazing indie filmmaker. Hopefully, this review will help me achieve my goal by helping the horror fan find new films; while, in turn supporting indie horror filmmakers and getting their work out to a few more people.
The first thing I noticed when researching this film was the cover art. The pic at the very top of this review borrowed from one of my favorite slasher films from the eighties, Maniac. That film has also led to the creation of my favorite remake, which goes by the same title and stars Elijah Wood. In regards to Gutterballs, the artwork made me wonder if it had a nice retro feel to it. I hoped it would do a good job of paying homage to films from the time period in which I grew up. I was glad to discover that my predictions were correct. The environment this film created (from the way the opening credits ran, right down to the music) reminded me of Ti West’s film The House of the Devil. I loved the way that both of these films took me back to my childhood horror; while, at the same time, managing to create something new, memorable, and modern.
Gutterballs is beyond memorable. I was so impressed with Nicholson’s film Collar that I wondered how a mere slasher was his most popular film. I soon discovered that this is one of the best slashers ever made. The kills are bloody as hell, and incredibly innovative. I assumed he would have to get creative with his kills, since the film takes place in a bowling alley. I was pleased to discover that he was not just creative, he also made me realize that a bowling alley is an insanely dangerous place. I also love the fact that he didn’t just find interesting places to stage his kills. He managed to take every kill just a little too far. Everything in this film was over-the-top: from the sex leading up to the kill, to the blood and gore in the kill itself. With an NC-17 rating, this film delivers on nudity, sex, and blood in ways in which the common horror film viewer can only imagine.
The other aspect of the film that showed Nicholson making the old school his own, was his use of music. Gianni Rossi did the soundtrack for this movie. You will love his synthesized retro sounds that will catapult you back in time. It isn’t just back to the eighties either. This takes you back to the seventies, with electronic beats that will remind you of all of the great Italian composers of the time. Since Rossi himself is from this era, it is no surprise that this is how he works. The surprise comes from how masterfully it gets used in the film. Nicholson is obviously a fan of classic horror cinema, and it is not too often that you see this level of fandom in a modern filmmaker’s choice of music as well.
The quote from the movie cover shown above really says it all. The sex borders on pornographic at times and the rape scene is pretty disturbing. This film is not disturbing in the tradition of films like Nekromantik or the August Underground films. While those films are gross, this film’s violence has a sort of comedic satire that really lightens the mood. While the other films set out on a mission to disturb, this film entertains as well. What I’m trying to say is there just a perfect balance between grossing out and entertaining the viewer. I loved the fact that there was a certain level of comedy in a film that could be so violent at the same time. The only negative thing I have to say about the comedy, is the fact that some of the characters are so annoying that it becomes a little distracting. Sure it helps the viewer to pray for their brutal deaths right from the start; however, there are times where they are over-acting so much that they just seem too silly. I do know that there is satire in these performances, so I am not going to hold a few performances too strongly against the film as a whole.
So on to the film as a whole. It has scenes that will stick with you for all the wrong reasons. They will make you feel dirty. The gang rape scene, for instance, is the most disturbing part of the film. It goes on for a very long time. So long, that you really get to know the degenerate pricks that are carrying the whole thing out. The leader of this group of morons will quickly become one of your most hated villains of all time. His followers are all complete douchebags with the intelligence level of the very bags of douche in which they personify. The actors do a great job of making you hate them, and the killer does a great job of making you cheer for their deaths. The gore effects are basically perfect. They are over-the-top without looking fake. They will make the weak stomach cringe and the gore hound celebrate the director’s imagination and attention to detail. With all of this being said, it even has a soundtrack that is just as memorable as the film. As I have said before, I am rating films based on the genre. This film stands out in the horror world, but it goes above and beyond in the slasher sub-genre. When we rate slashers, we look at kills, gore effects, originality, and imagination. While this film goes to the next level in all of those categories, it goes on to surprise you by having a bad ass soundtrack on top of it all. I give this film an easy 10/10. It is a must-own film for the horror fan and slasher fanatic.
Check out the trailer for Gutterballs 2 and order the film from Plotdigger: