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Gutboy

If you’re ready to start 2024 in the most wonderfully weird way possible, Tubi has you covered with the oddball puppet caper “Gutboy”.

Gutboy

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Morbidly Beautiful is thrilled to introduce our new Tubi Tuesday Editor, Conor McShane.

If you’ve read any of my other writing for this site, you may know that I’m a sucker for a unique, handmade film, one far too strange and scruffy to be made via traditional means. Tubi has a vast library of indie horror movies that probably played at a festival or two before being shunted off to streaming obscurity, and sadly, many of them probably deserved that fate.

But once in a while, the Tubi gods toss you an honest-to-goodness gem, a unique vision made all the more delightful by its unexpected appearance in your algorithm. Such was the case when 2017’s Gutboy: A Badtime Story caught my eye.

Gutboy seems to draw its story from the kind of ancient folktales that exist throughout the world, one where people can sell their skin and keep on living or survive on the bottom of the sea without being especially aquatic.

It has a loose revenge-tale framework, as a naive nude fisherman named Goot (voiced by Will Cooper) is coerced into selling his skin to a wealthy Capitalist named Besto (writer/director Nick Grant) rather than part with his beloved fishing pole, the source of his livelihood. When Besto manages to get ahold of the pole anyway, aided by the brutish and corrupt law enforcer Kug (Anthony Herrera), Goot rechristens himself Gutboy and joins forces with a similarly flayed woman — named, naturally, Gutgirl (Misty Foster) — to enact his revenge.

Oh, did I not mention that the film’s technically a musical? Or that Gutboy fished Gutgirl out of the ocean? And that she falls in love with him, granting him a kiss and a wish? And that there’s a couple of “Golden Giants,” played by real people in gold boy paint, and they wrestle for an uncomfortably long time for Besto’s amusement?

Because that all happens, along with a whole lot of other strange stuff on the duo’s road to retribution.

Plot isn’t Gutboy’s main concern; it feels rather like an interconnected series of stories involving a common cast of characters tied together into a loose narrative. 

That’s not meant as a dig, either.

At times, Gutboy feels like some demented puppet revue that rolled into your local hamlet and set up in the middle of the town square, ready to delight and appall a passerby with the cheerful brutality of an old Punch and Judy show.

Its humor often veers towards the absurd and scatological, with at least one sequence guaranteed to piss off the anti-abortion crowd (not that they’d be likely to watch a movie like this anyway, I suppose).

It has a rough sort of societal critique, presenting the forces of Capitalism and Law and Order as corrupt, greedy, and debased — but feels more like it’s elbowing the ribs of power in the way a court jester might have openly mocked their king and kept his head.

At its most basic, it’s about providing the curious viewer with a rollicking, tongue-in-cheek, and singular good time, and it delivers on all those fronts.

Gutboy is the product of writer/director Grant, with puppet design by Daniel Patrick Fay via his company Standard Toykraft. I wanted to know more about the merry band of weirdos who made this film, but sadly, their website no longer seems to be active.

It was released by Troma, the legendary purveyors of schlock, but it feels quite a bit different from their usual fare, though I’m not the biggest Troma-head, so I could be wrong.

In a way, all the mystery makes Gutboy even more interesting, an indie oddity made by a relatively unknown crew, packing up their puppet show and moving on down the road, disappearing as quickly as they appeared.

It’s Grant’s only feature film credit thus far as writer/director (the film’s production company, Rook Productions, released another film in 2020 called Pasture that looks quite a bit different), and it’s unclear whether they’re still making movies. Hopefully, we’ll get another oddball release from these cheery misfits someday, but if not, Gutboy is a heck of a calling card all on its own.

Mileage may vary on whether or not you’ll enjoy this one, but if you like your horror films made scrappy and held together with spit and glue, then the odds are high that you’ll be as charmed as I was by Gutboy.

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