Wednesday, August 27, 2008


The isolated tranquility of any rural location has always--to me, at least--held a vague sense of sinister potential. I've never quite been sure what exactly causes it, whether it's the stark landscape of barren trees or expanses of fields or simply the fact of being miles from the next person (that you know of), but the right kind of secluded atmosphere can give a film a foreboding mood that photography or editing can't replicate. It's at this quality that Jerry O'Sullivan's 1997 shot-on-video production GUT PILE excels, making up for a film that's too bogged down in unoriginal concepts to be truly memorable.

Jeffrey Forsyth accidentally kills a fellow hunter, mistaking him for a deer, and buries the corpse in a shallow grave within the woods. The following year, he and his buddies (played by DIY-cinema guru Ron Bonk and Ed Mastin) head to the same area for a little R&R, unaware that a little justice from beyond the grave is about to be meted out.

Despite its micro-budget trappings, GUT PILE has a lot going for it: the videography is solid, with a few skewed camera angles for the right off-kilter feel, the acting is much better than most camcorder-based movies (especially Mastin, who wrings a lot of low-keyed humor out of his role), and the dialogue isn't painful to listen to for a change. But as refreshing as all of this was, it can't compensate for the times the movie falters.

At only 51 minutes, it moves a lot slower than it should, delaying its scares as late as possible. And while this is a story as complex as a revenge tale out EC Comics, it still would've been nice to have a better idea of how shaken Forsyth was by the accident. Is he remorseful? Grateful no one discovered his crime? We get glimpses, but not enough to get a handle on his character.

GUT PILE also utilizes the POV camera style that THE EVIL DEAD made popular, relying on it to such a degree that it begins to feel like a remake of Raimi's film than an homage to it. It undercuts O'Sullivan's chance of developing a style of his own, a shame since it's clear he's operating at a higher level of craft than most SOV filmmakers. I also had a problem with the movie's climax, with Forsyth spending too much time running from "unseen" (i.e. non-existent) threats, and keeping the undead hunter off-screen for far too long. At least O'Sullivan closes on a downbeat, if unsurprising, note.

It's not a great film, and at times not even a good one, but GUT PILE is still better than most video-bound movies out there. Fans of the do-it-yourself aesthetic will want to give this one a try.

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