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After a randy game of bowling at the local disco bowl-a-rama, Sarah is brutally gang raped by a group of poor loser thugs. The next day the teams reunite for a re-match, and Sarah is present, much to the shock of her attackers. One by one, everyone in the alley, attacker and innocent party alike, is graphically murdered. The masked killer uses bowling balls and pins as his or her weapons of choice. By sunrise, the alley will run red.

Gutterballs
The last time I reviewed an advanced copy of a Ryan Nicholson film I was very impatient, bitchy, and downright cruel. That movie was Live Feed, and it had an awful lot in common with Eli Roth’s Hostel. I assumed Ryan’s film was a cash-in, and I assumed wrong. When Ryan contacted me and revealed that his film was in production before Roth’s I felt bad, and asked if I could interview the director in hopes of making it up to him. I still don’t really like Live Feed, but I regret my review nonetheless.

Nicholson’s new film isn’t a great departure from Live Feed, but I think it is a genuine improvement, and more evenly skewed towards the ‘80s slasher lover’s sensibilities. Really Nicholson works better as a comedic filmmaker than a straight horror filmmaker (at least from what I’ve seen so far), and Gutterballs embraces humour beyond horror. My personal sense of humour doesn’t quite jive with Ryan’s, so I didn’t find the film exactly laugh out loud hilarious, but I prefer his colourful antics to the scary elements of Live Feed. Even when I wasn’t laughing at the comedy I was usually respecting the film’s ten steps beyond bad taste execution.

Gutterballs
Live Feed looked like a tiny budget feature made by people who hadn’t quite gotten the hang of filmmaking just yet. Gutterballs still looks pretty low on budget, but the framing and editing is much more interesting, and the visuals are quite colourful. Nicholson and his DP Mark Atkins seem to be going for a John Carpenter meets Bob Clark look for most of the film, with a bit of Bavaian colour influence, but the really gory scenes take a more decidedly ‘70s/‘80s Italian slant. There isn’t a lot of cutting or moving during the juicy bits, which is probably exactly how Lucio Fulci or Umberto Lenzi would’ve cut it.

Some of the actors don’t quite convince, but the performances are overall much better than those of Live Feed, or any other number of truly independent horror flicks. There’s a nice mix of honesty and cheese to most of the performances. Nicholson’s biggest weakness (in my opinion of course) is still his dialogue, which is still a bit more Kevin Smith than Quentin Tarantino or Alex Cox, but his actors sell most of it.

Gutterballs
But be warned, even hard-core horror and gore fanatics may be caught off guard by the brutality of the film’s violent scenes. The first act closing rape scene was actually too much for me, which I’m sure Ryan will take as a compliment. We’re not talking Irreversible levels of disturbance, but Gutterballs gives I Spit on Your Grave a jog for its money. The disc art’s claim of ‘Ten of the Most Bizarre Murders You’ll Ever See’ (taken from slasher ‘classic’ Happy Birthday to Me) isn’t a lie, especially not the one involving…well…I don’t think I can describe it here.

Video


Unfortunately, the disc I got from Ryan isn’t quite a final product, so I can’t really ‘review’ the video quality effectively. The disc is single-layered, and the compression is obvious, especially in the film’s bright, ‘80s bowling hall inspired colours. The print is anamorphically enhanced, which is more then I can say for most burned screener copies, but this isn’t reference level stuff.

Gutterballs

Audio


Again, this isn’t a final product, and though effectively mixed into 5.1 Dolby Digital, this obviously isn’t quite as things were intended to sound. I can’t really give a fair review. Some may recall I had specific issues with Live Feed’s musical score. Gutterball’s original music is far less abrasive (in the bad way), and an effective homage to the slasher films of the ‘80s. Somehow Nicholson was able to afford a few real ‘80s radio hits, which may end up being a bit of a problem for the official US release.

Extras


Nothing here, but I’ve heard there’s a lot on the way. The TLA Danger After Dark release should contain:

‘Behind the Balls: The Making of Gutterballs’
Director and Cast Commentary
‘Sexy’ Audition Reels
Blooper Reel
Teaser and Trailer

Gutterballs

Overall


Gutterballs is an effective throwback, and a professional piece. It’s really, really brutal, and nasty, and not as gleefully gory as a Peter Jackson classic (save a couple scenes). Parts of the film's first act gang rape go far enough to make me, a very jaded individual, want to turn away. I didn’t love the film, but unlike Live Feed, I’m not going to be forgetting it any time soon. Horror fans that can take the heat should look forward to the film’s TLA release later this year (probably December 9th).


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