In the genre of "transgressive cinema," there isn't much room left for
transgression. Let's face it, if you are just treading on a pre-blazed trail, there
ain't a whole lot of transgressin' goin' on. Gutterballs tries to meet the challenge by
combining explicit sex and nudity with explicit gore in a format which I can
only as "extreme hardcore slasher" because the violence is sadistic
and outrageously over the top
and the sex is only a hair shy of actual hardcore porn.
People of both sexes
are brutally beaten and raped on camera. Buckets of blood flow out of
arteries. Intestines dangle out of mutilated corpses. People die in grisly and
painfully lingering ways which would shock Brave Sir Robin's minstrels.
Decapitation is a particularly popular theme.
In the midst of the carnage, there is sex - or maybe I should say "sexual
carnage." The first substantial nudity occurs in a brutal gang-rape which
occupies more than seven minutes of running time. The second major nude scene
involves a pair of lovebirds killed while in the 69 position in the dark. The
killer chokes the woman on the guy's penis. The guy thinks he's just getting a
really deep BJ - up to a certain point. The camera reveals the couple's
genitals with some explicitness, albeit not in hardcore detail or duration.
As the film begins, violence erupts in an after hours bowling match between
two rival gangs of youths. The proprietor of the lanes breaks up the fight and
sends the kids away at shotgun point, but when one of the girls returns to the
bowling alley to get a forgotten purse, she is raped by the other gang. When
the same two gangs resume their grudge bowling the following night, members of
both gangs are picked off one-by-one by a bowling alley madman ... or ...
madwoman. The body count is supposed to be driven by the dramatic hook of the
masked murderer's identity, although I'm not sure why anyone in the audience
would care. We know that the murders must have something to do with the
previous night's rape, and the raped woman mysteriously disappears early in
the film, so she must be involved somehow. Unfortunately her disappearance
cheats us of even the cheapest of the cheap thrills the plot might have
delivered, because without her there is no Laurie Strode character with whom
we can identify, so there is no way for us to become emotionally invested in
the plot. Each of the film's characters is so unsympathetic that the killer
actually seems to be doing them and us a favor. Since several of the victims
are brutal rapists, their losses are not mourned, and we might have some
emotional involvement if the raped woman were seen getting revenge on her
tormentors. Since she disappears, however, and the masked murderer kills
members of both gangs, we are cheated of even the kind of involvement and
catharsis provided by exploitation films like "I Spit on Your Grave."
With a couple of fleeting exceptions, the deaths are not particularly
original, but the film's redeeming grace is that the gory moments were
specifically tailored to a bowling alley setting. Think about ball returns,
hot wax machines, beer bottles, and the violent things which may be done with
bowling balls and pins. The setting also provided ample opportunities for black
humor, but those opportunities were generally squandered. Although I did
laugh out loud at one funny/scary moment, the tone of the film and the
dialogue of the characters is so consistently nasty and unpleasant that the
humorous subtext can't really flourish.
The film was made with an ultra low budget, which seemed to consist
entirely of the cost of the media. The only set is a dark bowling alley
after hours, and the dozen or so actors seem less like professional thespians
than co-operative acquaintances of the auteur. Since the script is also
any strong component of humor, mystery, or emotional involvement, there's only one reason to watch,
and that is if you want to see just how far it will go with the violence and
nudity. The answer is "pretty damned far," if that's your bag, baby.