Independent films are quickly becoming the new mainstream. Movies that feature amateur actors, relatively unknown filmmakers and low budgets are so commonplace that there are almost as much of them as there are standard Hollywood big budget productions. The indie psychological thriller Gut is a good example of this and while the film is full of indie-esque qualities, it could have very well been an expensive star-studded affair. The actors in it aren’t of the highest caliber and the direction is a bit underwhelming at times but the story is solid and the emotions the film elicits are pretty decent.
Taking place in Anywhere, USA, Gut focuses on Tom (Jason Vail), a strapping family man with a wife, Lily (Sarah Schoofs) and a daughter Katie (Kristianna Mueller). He has a regular 9-5 office job and has a pretty good life. That is until his best friend and coworker Dan (Nicholas Wilder) interrupts it in a very disturbing way. Out of sheer boredom and curiosity, Dan purchases a DVD from the internet. The movie contained within features a woman getting sliced open in what seems like a bizarre snuff film. Once Tom views the video, he and Dan enter a world of voyeuristic torture and a series of psychologically-unnerving events.
Originally released in 2012, Gut is a messed up film through and through but it isn’t overly graphic and filled with many horror movie tropes. It’s more of a thriller that relies heavily on suspense and facial reactions from its stars, mostly from Jason Vail (Tammy, The Cabin). I suppose one can compare Gut to the 1999 Nicolas Cage vehicle 8mm, a slightly better film but not as gory as Gut. Vail is the main lead here and he does an adequate job looking scared and trying to protect his family from the horrific effects of the creepy video. The real star would have to be Nicholas Wilder (The Paradigm Shift, Flogging Margaret). He plays nerdy Dan beautifully with an ease and comfort that few actors possess. His character thinks that the video is harmless and his warped brain is analyzed as he and Tom fall deeper and deeper into the madness caused by said video.
Written and directed by Elias (The Horror of H.P. Lovecraft, The Voice Inside), Gut is one of the more lingering psychological thrillers. With its steady pacing and lackluster audio quality, it has a strong sense of realism. The two leads aren’t seasoned actors and their lack of experience actually does the film justice. It’s almost like a documentary and Vail and Wilder are being shot in their natural habitats. The world that Elias has created here is fresh and full of tension. It’s a world that seems to only be inhabited by these two men whose descent into darkness is documented exceptionally well.
Gut may not be a great film but it has some pretty great moments. Wilder’s acting would have to be the film’s biggest highlight and the subject of snuff films is touched on but not explored as much as it probably should have. Gut is more about the characters and the relationship between two men that begins to deteriorate once they take a trip into the very disturbing unknown. If you are looking for an offbeat and at times, warped psychological thriller, then go with your instinct and give Gut a try.