Tuesday, January 27, 2009


GUTTERBALLS (dir. Ryan Nicholson, USA, 2008, 94 mins.) Ryan Nicholson has nearly brilliantly created a 1980's exploitation, rape revenge, gore fest! However, it is NOT an easy screening! He treads the line of being unwatchable, yet his pacing, editing and production design never fails to keep your attention. Those first 6 minutes (the epilogue before the main titles) tests one's adaptability to the style. It is an exceptionally awkward start, that is in the style of the mix of genres Nicholson is toying with. However, it is a bit unfortunate that the performances begin with such a stutter that it raises more red flags than it does excitement. Once the main titles roll, though, the film just LAUNCHES into an extremely explicit and nasty, twenty minute rape scene. It is the length and detail which the scene firmly sets the film in the "exploitation" genre, not unlike the classic I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. After this initial event, Nicholson makes a slightly awkward transition to the maniac inspired gore fest. The film then begins a parade of sick humored, if not inspired series of GRUESOME murders. Even the psycho's costume rocks!

Nicholson has extensive experience in prosthetic makeup and physical effects, which he displays with unashamed abandon here! The level of professionalism in makeup effects goes a long way in bringing the production up a notch and reinforces the near-parody style that is slamming away on screen. Nicholson has pushed his cast to near amateurish extremes, however the intensity level that they maintain throughout, actually speaks to their skills. Even when they are being "bad actors", they perform with such dedication that the cast clearly fills Nicholson's creation of "an accident you can't look away from". The language is so incredibly obscene that it creates a visceral audible image. The sound design by Benjamin MacDonald, with a score by Patrick Coble and Gianni Rossi, is especially remarkable in invoking 1980's disco, yet balanced with the machinery of the bowling alley, and the accompanying screaming, that fills the set. Nicholson uses the Xcalibur Lanes in all it's neon and glo-lite glory! I was surprised by the depth of the color in the background and his humorous use of the neon colored bowling balls.

There are a number of extras that speak to Nicholson's professionalism. The Making Of Featurette, running at nearly 45 minutes, seemed daunting at first. However, it was actually pretty entertaining and contained some nice behind the scenes trivia. It also revealed the cast to be more humane than anything they portray in the film. There is also a screen specific commentary from Nicholson. However, the interesting points that he raises there are also in the featurette and the rest of it is typical "motivation exposition", which I've always felt was redundant. (I.E., "this is where Bob begins to lose it... etc...") There is the trailer as well as large group of TLA Video trailers.

The video transfer is suitably rough, which reinforces the grindhouse feel of the piece. That said, the color correction keeps the scenic design popping and there are no losses in the shadows or grays. The sound design, as stated earlier, is exceptionally balanced - no whispers and booms!

In the end, I can HEARTEDLY recommend GUTTERBALLS to gore-fest freaks! However, it is NOT for the faint of heart...! It is available at TLA Video.com.

Maxxxxx says
re GUTTERBALLS: "Cranky bird!"

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