Famine (2011) – Ryan Nicholson

If you’ve ever seen his 2008 slasher, Gutterballs (or read my review here) you probably know that Ryan Nicholson is a sick fuck. I, of course mean that in the best possible way, and I’m sure he would consider that a compliment anyway. His resume is actually pretty interesting. He’s been in the make-up/special effects business for Sci-Fi and horror for years (IMDB lists his first credited gig as The X-Files in 1993). So he knows the business. Blood and guts are his bread and butter. Recently, he’s been behind the camera and using his expertise to make his films as bloody as possible. His most recent installment, Famine, is no different.

Fortunately this one was almost as bloody and considerably more palatable (mainly due to the absence of a 15-minute gang rape scene). Famine is a little bit off beat and not to be taken too seriously. I think it’s purposely a little silly and comical. Once you let go of worrying about every little plot hole it’s a pretty fun movie. That being said, I’ve never been a fan of movies that are intentionally bad out of laziness. That is-“if I make this bad on purpose, I won’t have to bother making it good.” That’s a cop out. Famine didn’t feel like that to me-but it’s somewhat had to tell.

The plot was a little weird and hard to follow sometimes. It all takes place over one day and night in a high school (in Canada, I think, judging by the accents.) First of all, the title is somewhat misleading. The word “famine” makes you think of some sort of desperate, state of nature kind of survival or something. No, the “famine” is a voluntary overnight lock-in with no food in the school gym as a show of solidarity for the starving peoples around the world. Ok so that’s out of the way. We find out that the school had a famine a few years ago and one of the nerdy students tried to bang one of the hot teachers but the teacher accidentally had his face melted off by acid from the chem lab.

So now the students, who are basically all big-boobed girls in slutty outfits, and dudes who look like they got kicked out of a 90’s grunge band, are each being picked off and sliced up by a mysterious killer who’s running around in the school mascot costume (the person in the costume is director, Ryan Nicholson. He played the killer in Gutterballs too.) So the students try to survive and figure out who’s carving up their friends. Of course there are like 15 people in the school and 9 of them are suspects. The rest are just there as fodder for the masked murderer and his knife. The ending turns out to be a bit of a twist. I knew something was coming, but I didn’t quite guess this one.

Ok, so the plot is iffy, the acting is sub-par (even if it’s on purpose, it takes away from any scariness the movie might have.) The main character looks and acts a lot like Molly Shannon from SNL, so that takes something away from the mood too. In general, the way the characters are developed (if at all) is clumsy and ineffective. For the most part, we know who we’re supposed to hate and who we’re supposed to be suspicious of, but do we really like anyone? You actually hate just about everyone in the movie. Even the main character is weird and hard to sympathize with. That takes away from the overall feel of the movie even if it’s supposed to be a gag.

Anyway, I guess that’s not really the point. Nicholson just wants to show us some great death scenes and shower us with blood, and maybe get back at some high school bullies by proxy. Take the movie for what it is: gross, gory, and entertaining. Even though it won’t get a good score, If you can stomach it, it’s probably worth a watch.

  1. Is it scary: 2- There are some suspenseful moments but the main themes of this film are blood and boobs. So don’t expect to lose much sleep.
  2. Originality: 3- It feels just like any other generic slasher. The way the plot unfolds actually makes it feel like a copy of Gutterballs.
  3. Blood: 7- It wasn’t the bloodiest thing in the world, but you’ll probably consider taking a shower afterwards. There are definitely some nasty scenes.
  4. Believability: 2- Nope. There were Grand Canyon sized plot holes and all the blood, cleavage, and lame humor in the world won’t make up for that.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 5- Locked in a high school overnight isn’t exactly the scariest place. There are lots of long corridors and dark hiding places though. The camera work isn’t the worst but there’s nothing to amazing there.   

Final Score: 19/50


Gutterballs (2008) – Ryan Nicholson

Ready for a little cooking lesson? Get a big mixing bowl and start with 3 parts Jersey Shore. Pour in a generous helping of Kingpin and a dose of I Spit on your Grave. Then sprinkle a dash of Jerry Springer and some Jim Belushi-caliber comedy for good measure. What do you get? Well, you’re going to get stabbed, and probably Hepatitis, but you might also get Ryan Nicholson’s 2008 slasher/cult favorite Gutterballs. The movie is incredibly gory and fucked up. Nicholson is trying to be over the top and to disturb you. And if you have a soul, he’s succeeded.

Gutterballs is disgusting in a lot of ways and sometimes it’s just downright hard to watch. Also, I know it gets a lot of love in some circles so some of you might not agree with my review. I get what Nicholson was going for but it’s just a little too over the top for me. I know some people just watch these movies for the shock value/guts/boobs/etc. and that’s fine, but that kind of film not scary and (in my mind) it’s distinctly on a lower tier than something like The Shining or The ThingThe plot of this movie doesn’t really make a lot of sense. It’s just loosely pulled together so there’s a framework around the murders so it’s not just a snuff film.

Ok so the movie starts out with the likeliest of scenarios. A group of bros with popped collars and sunglasses, who look and act like they just crushed it at the gym for like 3 hours and then snorted up like a bunch of speed, are doing a little after-hours bowling. Inexplicably, the janitor at the bowling alley, whom these guys relentlessly harass, lets them come in and bowl while he’s doing his late-night cleaning. There are some skanks in the next lane and the bros are harassing them as well. Then another squad of bros come in and they come to defend the girls. A fight breaks out and Steve, the alpha-dog bro, has some kind of roid-rage and screams and threatens everyone. Janitor grabs a shotgun, breaks up the fight and kicks everyone out. While the girls are leaving, Steve and his friends get one of the girls, Sarah, alone and there’s a graphic and drawn-out rape scene. It’s really pretty horrible. It almost makes you want to turn off the movie except now you want to see these guys get what’s coming to them.

For some reason, everyone is back at the bowling alley the next night. Everyone. Steve, Sarah, the whole crew. And it seems like the events of the previous night are largely forgotten, though there’s some lingering hostility. So as they’re bowling, the players go off one by one to get beers or to go to the bathroom or whatever and a masked killer starts dispatching them in some of the most gruesome ways imaginable. And it’s not just Steve and his raping friends. It’s like everyone. It comes full circle at the end and there’s a big reveal when the killer’s mask is removed. Blah blah blah. That’s not the point. I literally didn’t care about the ending. I just wanted the movie to be over.

Now, the movie is not supposed to be taken seriously or even to really make sense. the point was to see how much they could really get away with. There’s one scene that really tugs at your heartstrings, though. Two young lovers have a romantic moment spoiled by this killer. Well, by romantic moment I mean a drunken 69 on the grimy bathroom floor of a bowling alley. While Romeo and Juliette are chowing down on each other’s fun parts, the killer comes in and shoves their faces even further into each other so they choke, suffocate and die. The flame of young love, extinguished before it’s time. Really a sad and touching moment…

Anyway, that’s not even the most horrific scene in the movie, but you get the picture. The movie is shockingly low-budget. The script is horrible and the acting is as atrocious as the murder scenes. I read somewhere that they say “fuck” over 500 times in the movie. They literally say it in like every other sentence.

I will say that Gutterballs doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. And it certainly accomplishes what it set out to do. If you know your stuff, you might recognize the poster is an obvious homage to the 1980 cult classic Maniac. When you take that into consideration, you can see this movie more for what it is and understand what it is meant to be.

It’s not a good movie by any stretch, but it’s not really supposed to be. Nicholson has just created a good old-fashioned splatter horror movie. And though it’s not really my favorite style, I still commend him for that.

1.     Is it scary: 2- It’s too campy and over the top to be scary. The lame humor and bizarre murders don’t let you get sucked in to the atmosphere.
2.     Originality: 4- Though there’s nothing really original about the plot, I will award a couple of extra point for creativity. Nicholson has come up with some murders that I haven’t seen before. That’s got to be worth something.
3.     Blood: 8- This thing is fucking disgusting. Imagine what your kitchen would look like if Jackson Pollock and Edward Scissorhands tried to make lasagna for an entire pro football team
4.     Believability: 3. I don’t mean to be insensitive, but if I just got raped, I wouldn’t go back to the same bowling alley with the same guys the next night. The plot is just ludicrous and nonsensical.
5.     Setting/Cinematography: 2 – Wait, bowling alleys aren’t scary. Also this thing looks like it was shot on a cell phone camera. Like a flip phone, not an iPhone.

Final Score: 19/50