I don't think I've ever had such mixed feelings about a horror film, until seeing Gutterballs. On the one hand, it IS a gory, over-the-top slasher flick with a ton of kills and incredibly vivid special effects, and will linger in my thoughts for some time for how effective the imagery was. But the flip side of that is that it was a genuinely annoying, grating unpleasant experience. I'm really torn over whether to recommend it or not. As always, plenty of SPOILERS for the entire movie, so continue reading at your own risk.
I knew I was in over my head the very second the DVD started up. There was about a half-hours' worth of trailers for ONE movie, a slasher flick about a group of kids in the Middle East. Hell's Ground, I think was the title. Every time the trailer ended, ANOTHER ONE would start right up...for the SAME DAMN MOVIE. Geez, way to annoy your target audience, guys!
Then there's the studio's annoying logo...Watching this screeching, shaking logo EVERY time a new trailer would start really got on my nerves. First time, it was sort of funny. 23rd time? Not so much. And we haven't even reached the movie yet. Not a good way to begin this experience.
When the movie finally DID begin, the first 10-15 minutes were very difficult to understand, until I fiddled with the audio a bit. Basically though, the idea is something like this: 3 groups of losers are in a bowling alley. One group consists of "Preppie-Nerds-Frat Boys", the second is made up of "Girl Power!" types, with a cross-dresser among them. The 3rd group is a bunch of guys who stick up for the girls when the nerdy frat boys bother them. Whatever. They're all losers, so the 3 groups should have a lot in common. There's a friendly rivalry going on, but it quickly escalates, until the 3 groups start brawling. The guy who runs the alley stops the fight, and offers them all a chance to settle their differences non-violently: if they come back the following night, after hours, he will let them settle their differences with a bowl-off. Yeah, okay.
Later that night, a few things happen: First, we meet BBK, the Bowling Bag Killer, so named because of the bowling ball bag worn over their head as a mask. Yeah, nothing weird about THAT. BBK is shown sharpening bowling pins down to stakes, polishing bowling balls as weapons, etc.
Next, we see one of the girls in the "Female" group, Lisa, go back into the bowling alley. She apparently forgot her purse, and needed to give the movie a reason for existing. Inside, Lisa encounters the "Preppie-Nerds", and they decide to rape her. Yup, you read that right: a group of guys in a bowling alley gang-rape a chick for the hell of it. Well, not all of them: Patrick, the voice of reason in the group, refuses to go along.
So, there they are, raping away like the rapingest rapists in Rapetown, and it's pretty unpleasant. She gets thrown around, beaten up, shoved onto tables, you name it. One of the nerds even reveals that he's a bodybuilder. Uh, yeah. But when they all finish with her, they turn to Patrick. He refuses to take part in this, until the leader, Steve, pulls out a knife and threatens him with it. Patrick goes along with it, but then Steve reveals another stipulation in his plan: he wants Patrick to rape Lisa with a bowling pin. Grossed out yet? I was.
Patrick picks up the pin, prepares to insert it, but Steve insists he use the "wide" end. As expected, this severely mutilates the girl, and there is much blood. Leaving Lisa to suffer from her many injuries, the nerds high-tail it out of there.
The following night, the 2 rival groups(the prep-jocks and the "cool rebel" nicer guys return to bowl, with the girls there mostly to watch. They bowl in different rooms, and keep track of each other by way of the electronic scoreboard overhead. Also, a third name shows up on the scoreboard: BBK. Hmmmmm......
To be fair, BBK is a pretty cool killer. The bowling bag mask seems kind of stupid at first, but it is creepy. And the way he kills victims has a cool twist: every time he murders someone in the film, it shows up as a strike on the scoreboard. And the strike looks like a skull and crossbones. Funny, and original.
Now, any reasonable viewer of horror films would assume, at this point, that the killer would focus on the rapists, and maybe 1 or 2 of the "heroes" for flavor. Nope. There isn't any real rhyme or reason to the way victims are chosen. They exist merely to be killed in explicit ways. The first couple who die, for example, are killed while in the "69" position. The tranny is killed while on a toilet, then has his/her penis mutilated post-mortem. We aren't really able to develop any feelings for these characters, because we meet them and then they just die. And since many are killed during explicit sex acts, it almost feels like they were making a porno, ran out of money, and rewrote it as a horror film to get more cash-flow to finish the film.
The other problem is the dialogue. Every other word is "fuck". Seriously. I almost have to wonder if there actually WAS a script, or if they were just an improv group who decided to bring a camera to a bowling alley. It reminded me of the classic George Carlin bit where he imagines what it would sound like if we replaced the word "kill" with the F word in everyday cliches. Funny stuff. Funnier than this movie, at least.
Not that some of the deaths aren't clever: one in particular, involves bowling balls as murder weapons. The killer is holding 2 bowling balls, and brings both down on either side of his victim's head, crushing the skull. Another one, involving a talking ball-polisher, is impressive as well. I just wish there had been more of an emotional component to the plot, because most of the victims were people who didn't seem to deserve to die at the hands of BTK.
But die they do. People have their skulls caved in, their faces melted and polished off, they get stabbed with those bowling pin stakes(up the ass, no less!)--the effects are incredibly realistic, which is more than I can say about the acting. By the time the carnage is almost over, there's a very small group left: Lisa, the girl who was raped; Jamie, her boyfriend(who has a comb-pick thingy stuck in his hair during the entire movie...I was sorta hoping that his death would be some kind of "combing" accident); Patrick, the guy who tried to stick up for Lisa before she was raped; and the f-word spewing guy who runs the bowling alley.
Then we get the dumbest plot twist revelation scene since Scream: BBK is actually THREE people!!! Dun dun DUNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!Wow, dramatic huh? Yup, BBK is: Lisa, getting revenge for the rape(which should have landed her in a hospital--how the hell is she walking around that night???; Patrick, one of the rapists(but it's okay, because he was the "nice" one...); and the guy who owns the place, because he...is LISA'S DAD!!!!!! Dun dun DUNNNNNN, again.
Yeah, this girl who was there with all of her friends(and enemies) has apparently never introduced another living soul to her father, because no one knew who he was. Riiiight, and I own the Brooklyn Bridge. Anyway, she kills her dad as well as Patrick, and she and Jamie are the only survivors. Happy to be alive and well, they leave the bowling alley. But WAIT!! Lisa lets Jamie get a short distance ahead of her, before we see that she was concealing a gun. Before we see Jamie die as well, the movie fades to black.
The violence was impressive, on a technical level, but this was a pretty miserable movie experience otherwise. The only thing missing from this movie was the Troma logo. Oh, and the kitchen sink. 1 tree, for the torture I endured waiting for a good movie to appear. No strikes on this scoreboard.
So what do I walk away from Gutterballs with?
-Well, apparently "fuck" can be a noun, a verb, an adjective, a--
-There's a ton of potential in setting up a slasher flick in a bowling alley. Too bad this movie didn't get the memo.
-The best lines of dialogue can come from inanimate objects. (I wish I was kidding.)
-You can judge a movie by its production logo. God, that thing was annoying!
Next week: The Caretaker and Babysitter Wanted are coming in. If I see a single bowling ball in either one, I'm turning it off and mailing it right back!.