How many movies are there that really utilize the full potential of a bowling alley? Hmm, there’s Kingpin, The Big Lebowski, and, umm… well that’s about it. And none of those were horror films (well, Kingpin may fall into the horror category depending on how you look at it). The Italians made a terrible and seldom-seen Alien rip-off sequel entitled Alien 2: On Earth that featured an off-screen massacre at the “hands” of evil alien critters that took place in a bowling alley, but, in all honesty, that was about it. Fortunately, horror and bowling have found a new home in Ryan Nicholson’s excessively outrageous Canadian splatterfest, Gutterballs.
Owing more than just a nod to the over-the-top grindhouse exploitation films of the '70s and '80s, Gutterballs has arrived on DVD from TLA’s Danger After Dark label. The story (and I use that word sparingly) involves a ragtag group of competing leaguers that consists of violent jocks, loose women, and a transvestite (among others). The tension between these morally nihilistic individuals goes from bad to worse one night when the jocks gang rape one of the ladies (who wears a short skirt sans underwear — which director Nicholson is more than eager to point out to us in a gratuitous up-skirt beaver shot) and ram a bowling pin up her crotch when they‘re finished. This is just the beginning of the film, too, kids.
The next night, an unknown killer (who wears a bowling bag over their head) begins to off all of the social outcasts that inhabit the film in various gruesome and bizarre ways: one couple is suffocated whilst performing a “69” in the men’s room; the transvestite gets an unwanted sex change operation; the jock is penetrated by a sharpened bowling pin; etc. In the meantime, the oblivious bowlers continue to play their game, never really going out of their way to find out where their “friends” are or why an unknown player called the BBK (Bowling Bag Killer) keeps racking up the points on the scoring system.
In a nutshell, Gutterballs is an extremely violent and oversexed exploitation horror film that is so lacking in any socially redeeming values that it will make you cry: the word “fuck” is used in at least every sentence (sometimes more); people shed their clothes at the drop of a hat (we even get to see penises in this film — although I wonder if they’re not all the same stunt cock since they’re all the same size); and there isn’t a single likable character in the entire feature. On the plus side, there‘s enough nudity, sex, and gore to keep the grindhouse fans it was made for happy, and it makes for a great but potentially dangerous drinking game.
TLA’s presentation of Gutterballs brings us the movie in a grainy-looking 1.78:1 widescreen ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The feature has a lot of the look and feel from the original grindhouse flicks it pays homage to, but it’s very clear that this movie was shot on digital video throughout. Accompanying the feature is a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack which doesn’t won’t disappoint any viewer that knows what he or she is getting into. No subtitles or closed captioning are available (which is a bit of a pity, as I have no idea what the final line of dialogue was — not that it really matters or anything).
Special features include an audio commentary with director Nicholson, a behind-the-scenes featurette, a still gallery, and numerous trailers for Gutterballs and several other Danger After Dark releases.
Excessive nudity and sex. Over-the-top violence and gore. And a killer that wears a bowling bag on their head. All set to some funky synth music and lots of neon lights. Gutterballs isn’t something that I’d peg as family entertainment, but the right kind of audience will love every sleazy minute of it. Plus it has bowling!