Movie Review: Gut and Phobia

Published on May 1st, 2015 in: Horror, Movie Reviews, Movies |

By Jeffery X Martin

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When approached with the right mindset, there can be few things better than a low-budget horror film. Limited funding can force creativity and turn a small story into something greater. This is not always the case, as anyone who has been burned by a late-night drunken Netflix choice knows. Cheap computer generated effects can snap a viewer out of a movie like cracking a roasted peanut out of its shell. Unfortunately, that’s the route most filmmakers choose to take.

The guiding hands behind the films Gut and Phobia have chosen the road less traveled by, and their finished products are all the better for it.

These films aren’t exactly related; one is not the sequel to the other. Some of the same people worked on both movies, including the enigmatic Elias and the stellar Sarah Schoofs, yet these movies are connected in a stronger sense than continuity.

Gut plays on the old Internet adage, “What has been seen cannot be unseen.” Dan (Nicholas Wilder) is a schlub, a lonely and awkward man whose best friend, Tom (Jason Vail), is moving away with his family. In a desperate attempt to reconnect with his friend, Dan shows Tom a video. It’s a snuff film. It’s not something you see every day, and the sharing of such a horrible thing binds the two men in secrecy and their morbid enjoyment of it ties them in shame.

There’s a lot to be said about blame and responsibility in this film, but you’ll have to wait for it. It’s turtle-paced with sparse dialogue. This minimalist approach only serves to highlight the growing disconnect between the main characters and the world around them. The ending is as depressing as it is inevitable, but anything else would have been dishonest. It’s an excellent movie, for those with the patience for it, with just the right amount of nasty physical effects to make it memorable.

Phobia deals with isolation from a different angle with a story about agoraphobic Jonathan McKinley (Michael Jefferson) who hasn’t left his house since the car accident that killed his wife. Sometimes, his friend brings him pizza and DVDs (although it seems like Battle Royale 2 is a poor choice for someone with mental illness and an aversion to violence). His groceries are delivered by a cute girl named Bree (Emma Dubery), who seems like she might like him. But as one would expect, things begin to fall apart for Jonathan. His dead wife keeps showing up, complete with crudely stitched autopsy Y-scar. A spectral creature in black lace appears to whisper terrible things in Jonathan’s ear. Reality begins to blur and the audience is left to wonder what is real and what is not.

While not as successful as Gut, Phobia has a lot to offer fans of the genre. Debbie Rochon fans (I know you’re out there) are treated to a nice cameo, as she plays a Bible thumper. Jefferson plays his role to a T, with some great physical business here and there to really seal the performance. The script, though, meanders and threatens to bury itself with its own cleverness. There’s also a character who looks way too much like the Lipstick-Face Demon from Insidious. It’s a bit distracting. But there’s no noticeable CGI to ruin things which, again, is a welcome choice.

These films aren’t necessarily designed to be watched back to back, but it’s not a bad idea. Both of these movies tackle the hell and heartache of being both alone and lonely. They examine the awkward ways we reach out, and what happens when we completely withdraw. Gut and Phobia are well-done, solid entries into the low-budget horror field, certainly worth watching, and I don’t even have a smart-assed final line for this review.

Find out more about Gut and Phobia on the films’ websites.

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