War. Revenge. The self-fueled cycle of the war machine creating killers and then not knowing what to do with them once they aren’t needed anymore. All these themes and more are explored in James Balsamo’s latest flick, I SPILL YOUR GUTS. Sure the name is a bit 42nd Street-ish … it’s supposed to be. This is the man that brought us HACK JOB (my review); a film full of gratuitous gore, topless Nazi chicks, and Gwar fighting off an invading space monster. Balsamo’s 2011 film was over-the-top and really fun, but can he stop on a dime and switch gears to make a more mature film that deals with more mature themes?
The flick begins in the war-torn desert where Joe (Billy Walsh) and Dennis (Balsamo himself) are in the military hospital. Dennis was gravely injured while trying to save Joe’s ass and the doctor doesn’t think he’s gonna make it through the night. So Joe, who gets my vote as being this year’s biggest doucherocket, antagonizes Dennis on his death bed and tells him that he’s gonna take the credit for being the hero; that he got his release papers and is gonna go party it up and have a great life; and even tells Dennis that he’s gonna tell everyone that Dennis was a whimpering pussy when under fire. I told ya he was a doucherocket!!
Joe’s words, though, do the unexpected and wake Dennis outta his comatose-like state and really piss him off. He then sets off on a trail of bloody revenge killing every and anyone who gets in his way (starting with the doctors and nurses in the military hospital). Somehow Dennis makes it back to New York (I guess either no one notices a horribly deformed soldier or he can breathe under the ocean!!). Dennis continues to slaughter anyone associated with Joe in very grizzly ways leaving the police baffled. Really? A tall, maimed, masked man walking the streets of New York with a bloody machete doesn’t stand out? Dennis leaves more DNA behind than I do after watching late night Cinemax movies!! Everything builds up to the expected stand-off and fight to the death between Dennis and Joe.
Balsamo’s previous flick was an anthology film and the stories were well crafted and tightly shot. In I SPILL YOUR GUTS, Balsamo’s debut feature, the story and the pacing stumbles a bit. The main story of Dennis seeking revenge on Joe winds its way through a lot of side plots that never really go anywhere. The overall film could’ve benefited from another run through the editing room just to tighten everything up. Some characters come and go giving no explanation as to their role in the overall film, and other people seem to have accidentally wandered onto the set. The editing is also a little choppy in places and about half way through, the film almost felt as though the plot got derailed. Balsamo introduces some sub-plots that don’t go anywhere but eventually comes back to the main story at hand. Dennis’ motivations also seem to be a little confusing at times. It’s completely understandable why he wants to kill Joe — hell; I wanted to kill Joe. But Dennis is also a war hero who risked his life for his best friend but is now killing tons of innocent people. I guess we all have our off days!!
It may seem from the above comments and observations that I had a lot of problems with I SPILL YOUR GUTS. Yeah this film isn’t perfect, but ya know what? I found myself having a lot of fun with it. Balsamo puts a lot of energy into his films and you can tell that he’s a certified horror lover. His kills are very squishy and he just looks like he’s having a blast playing the killer. There’s a lot of little issues with this film, but there’s also a lot to enjoy about it as well. Balsamo seems to be a young filmmaker who’s finding his voice in the genre. He’s making over-the-top films with lots of gratuitous violence and gore, but it also turns out he has a lot to say. This is most definitely an anti-war flick that examines how the machine so easily cranks out killers but then has no way of dealing with them once they get outta control. It also asks the question of what to do once these trained killers are no longer needed in the battlefield. Balsamo has the skills and talent to pull off such films, he just needs a little more experience to fully find his own voice and style.
Example: the soundtrack is a barrage of hard core thrash and death metal. Personally I love this kind of music and in the right spots it can be very effective. The problem here, though, is that Balsamo plays this music really loud at the time of every kill. The music takes you out of the moment and kills (a-hem) the tension. But this is something that Balsamo will learn as he progresses and matures, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he will indeed progress as a filmmaker.
I SPILL YOUR GUTS definitely delivers on it’s promise to show a lot of gut spilling action. Balsamo’s not afraid to show all the nasty details of each gruesome death and he’s having a blast doing so. The energy in his film’s is infectious and ya just can’t help but have a good time. I SPILL YOUR GUTS isn’t a perfect film but it is a really fun flick made by a horror fan for horror fans. Balsamo just needs a little more experience to find his own voice, and I for one am looking forward to seeing his future films as he “finds his way.” Check this one out.
Director: James Balsamo (& writer, star, producer, cinematographer, editor, & special makeup f/x artist)
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 8 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer