Like every bit of film and music today, Ryan Nicholson’s “Gutterballs” is steeped heavily in the eighties with his slasher setting down in the decade while even the score and soundtrack take from it with shameless glee. And while normally that may be enough reason for me to dislike it, I found that his nostalgic placement made sense in the long run and only added to the camp. Nicholson’s slasher wants to be from the time where slashers were common cinematic fare, but sadly it’s just more of a wish than a reality.
“Gutterballs” may not be the best slasher film I’ve ever seen, but rest assured it’s one of the more original I’ve seen in a while. It’s a typical revenge story involving a vicious crime, a gang of colorful villains waiting to be offed, and the inevitable unveiling of the mystery person (or persons) behind a grotesque series of murders at a bowling alley. Like many of the slashers from the eighties, Nicholson can never decide on a tone for his movie. He markets it as a horror comedy, it begins as a horror comedy and suddenly it takes a very dark and disturbed turn when we witness a disgusting gang rape that sets the story in motion. Is this supposed to be tongue in cheek, a stern horror movie, or both?
In spite of that flaw, it doesn’t take away the generally entertaining experience that is based mainly around one setting but makes a great use of it by turning the bowling alley in which two teams constantly battle, in to a genuine character and atmospheric set piece. Nicholson also puts to use the dark corners and dank corridors by staging some funny and sick deaths that don’t always involve a knife or bowling pin. Nicholson shows a knack for creativity and a daring personality in providing murders that aren’t run of the mill like most slasher films out there. I mean, how many movies feature a double death by 69ing? It’s a scene that made me gasp at its idiocy but smile at its courage in providing such a silly death that works on many levels.
And to amp up the fun, every time the killer offs one of the moronic bowlers, a skull and crossbones appears on the score board for all to see. The remainder of Nicholson’s horror flick revolves around the saps going off to run an errand, getting cornered by the killer, and murdered in ways that must have taken a committee to concoct. While the costume of the killer is pretty lame, Nicholson more than makes up for it with an interesting whodunit plot device that keeps us guessing, and deaths that is never repetitive and always disturbing to watch. Though Nicholson turns his characters into cartoons, their murders are always demented, sadistic, and gruesome making “Gutterballs” a slasher film very worthy of the viewing. In spite of the clunky climax, confused tone, and exaggerated characters, “Gutterballs” is a strong and entertaining slasher film with some creative gruesome murders, and (for once) a great psycho.