2012 - 91 minutes

Rated: R

Directed by: Elias

Written by: Elias

Starring: Jason Vail, Nicholas Wilder, Sarah Schoofs, Angie Bullaro, Kirstianna Mueller, Kaitlyn Mueller

Gut is an eviscerated shell of a spine-tingler. Feigning gruesome psychological deterioration, its attempts to get under the skin only try one’s patience. This is Cronenberg-ultra-light that’s stripped of the cringes, the inventiveness, and probably most importantly, a point.  No doubt there are horrific acts to behold and maybe a squirmy moment or two, but in the end there’s not much to stew over, other than pondering how this morsel of an idea was stretched to feature length.

It starts auspiciously enough. We see Tom (Jason Vail) crouching in a blood-spattered button-up, furiously choking the life from an unseen adversary beyond the bottom of the frame. How we catch up to this foreshadowed climax in is far less intriguing.

Turns out Tom is a seemingly milquetoast family man, punching away at the keyboard in his cubicle by day and returning home each evening for dinner with wife Lily (Sarah Schoofs) and their young daughter. Tom’s childhood friend Dan (Nicholas Wilder) occupies the cube across the aisle and spends most of his time trying to make Tom laugh. A dedicated bachelor – for several reasons – Dan yearns for the good ol’ days when the duo binged on horror flicks. He even watches home videos of their teenage selves sketching out treatments. Clingy much?

Outwardly accepting of, but inwardly neutered by his drone-like existence, Tom acquiesces when Dan invites him over one night to watch a purported snuff film that mysteriously arrived in his P.O. Box. The disturbing DVD shows a gloved hand bisecting a woman’s midsection and massaging the wound as she bleeds out. Tom storms out in disgust, but later finds himself exhilarated, aroused even, by what he has seen. The two friends start watching more of these films. Paranoia creeps in, suspicions arise, and the predictable people are eventually put in danger.

None of the hysteria goes nearly as deep as a gaping abdominal wound, the mystery and the mania illustrated by a never-ending series of pensive stares and sweaty foreheads. We get looks of deep thought in the office, in the shower, sitting on the edge of the bed, and staring at cups of coffee and plates of food. To name a few.  When characters do talk, it’s mostly wooden delivery that sounds more whiny than desperate when raised to high-pitch pleas. Vail is a little too effective at playing robotic and Wilder can’t strike a balance between reserved nerd and awkward creep. The writing and direction from the single-named Elias doesn’t do anyone any favors. Silted dialogue doesn’t provoke and a majority of shots in the film go on several seconds longer than they need to.

One bright spot is the sound design that suggests something is actually happening. Frantic panting in the aforementioned opening scene sets a nice tone, and there are some gurgles and muffled grunts of terror in the in-movie movies that occasionally snap us back into consciousness. An extended period of soundtrack silence during a pivotal moment works for a few seconds, but, as is the norm, goes on way too long and had me thinking I hit the mute button by accident. It wouldn’t have been a tragedy.

A failed attempt at slow burn psychosis, Gut is neither cerebral nor guttural and leaves us cold and bored.

*Gut received a limited theatrical run in 2012, and is being revived for a VOD release on Oct. 24.

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