Color, 2008, 96m.
Directed by Ryan Nicholson
Starring Dan Ellis, Nathan Witte, Mihola Terzic, Alastair Gamble, Candice Lewald
Plotdigger (Canada R0 NTSC), Shock (Austria R0 PAL), TLA (US R1 NTSC), Neo (France R2 PAL) KNM (Germany R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
A deliberate attempt to make the most extreme, repugnant slasher film imaginable, Gutterballs is a neon-drenched genre offering with all of its exploitative elements exaggerated so far that good taste is left in the dust within the first 90 seconds. Apart from racking up one of the highest profanity counts in movie history, it's a film drenched in gore, verbal venom, sexual violence and mutilation, Canadian vintage rock, and gaudy '80s color schemes. Love it or hate it, there's never been anything else quite like it.
At the Xcalibur bowling alley, a bunch of foul-mouthed jerks get together after hours to bowl thanks to a permissive janitor. The worst of the bunch is Steve (Gamble), a bully who winds up leading a gang rape against Lisa (Lewald), the girl who jilted him and crushed his foot with a bowling ball during an altercation. The next night, Lisa (possessing miraculous recuperative powers considering what she endured with a bowling pin) returns to the scene of the crime where another night of fun and games is in progress. However, a mystery player named BBK has shown up on the scoreboard, and the splattery, bowling-themed body count quickly begins.
Featuring a gory death every few minutes or so and a mean streak a skyscraper wide, Gutterballs spares no one and manages to one up itself even after the grueling, now infamous early rape sequence. A transvestite probably gets the worst of it in the film's tasteless apex, but there's also a pretty unforgettable death by 69 sequence (involving some jolting, very realistic prosthetics) and other juvenile outrages ensuring you'll rarely be bored even if you desperately want to see every character dispatched right away. The storyline is basically Intruder with bowling pins, of course, and the film seriously overplays its hand during the finale, which tries to outdo Tenebrae for sheer climactic carnage but resorts to at least three twists too many. That said, it has a certain guttersnipe ferocity that makes it hard to turn away from the screen, and the decision to pepper the soundtrack with tunes by bands like Saga and Loverboy was a smart one. (Unfortunately some of those are missing from the American DVD release from TLA's Danger After Dark label, which is now strangely very difficult to track down.)
The first DVD of Gutterballs to make it down the alley came directly from Plotdigger Films, the imprint of director Ryan Nicholson (who also directed Live Feed and tried to outdo this with the grotesque abortion splatter film Hangar). That one was fully uncut and contained an amusing director's commentary, a 42-minute making-of featuring behind-the-scenes footage (lots of latex and grue here) and interviews with the cast and crew, a trailer, and a stills gallery. That same package was essentially replicated for the aforementioned American version, which just sported those soundtrack changes and apparently went out of circulation fairly quickly. The uncut version also surfaced as a special edition in France as a double-disc edition along with a stripped-down single variant, while Germany got a brutally censored cut that's best avoided at all costs. The one common denominator all of these releases share is that they all look pretty lousy, though for different reasons. The Plotdigger release is presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer but looks weirdly squished, and even when switched over to 4:3 it doesn't really seem right either. The other releases are all pretty murky and unimpressive, though the neon colors look nice and bright. Most are 2.0 surround though the Danger After Dark disc has a 5.1 mix, which doesn't make a huge difference.
Perhaps the weirdest wrinkle came a few years later when Plotdigger issued a very limited (69 copies, of course) "Pin-etration Edition," which manages to make the pool table rape scene even fouler with the addition of brief hardcore insert shots involving something that really doesn't look like a bowling pin at all. It certainly makes the film even more extreme, of course, though whether that's a worthwhile thing is going to be up to personal taste. Not surprisingly, that disc went out of stock very quickly, but an Austrian version managed to pick up the slack for a wider audience. It's essentially no frills (just a gallery as an extra) and still looks very dark and mushy (perhaps this film just wasn't meant to ever look all that good), but if you want to see this even nastier alternate presentation, this is probably going to be the only option for quite a while.
Reviewed on September 17, 2013.