Hmm. A vision of elaborate torture in washed-out tones on the cover. A three-letter title. Gee, could Gag be inspired by Saw? Perhaps, but fortunately not in any slavish way, limiting its connections to the idea of extended torture, and that’s hardly something Saw invented. As opposed to the Saw franchise’s increasingly risible plot convolutions, Gag keeps its setup simple: a pair a burglars break into a house where they first discover a man chained to a bed, and then are captured themselves by the resident nutjob. The ensuing drama is a claustrophobic one, with the main characters trapped in the torture room at the mercy of a lunatic who has a definite, if mysterious, goal.
The film handles the grime and oppression quite nicely, and the torture scenes are genuinely disturbing. The limited budget is apparent in some of the sound design limitations, and the quality of the performances is variable, but still, this indie effort is far from dishonorable. I can’t help but feel, though, that the opening scene’s drooling voyeurism of a naked woman’s body just before she’s gruesomely killed isn’t gratuitous in the one sense that even this sort of film would do well to avoid.
As I suggested above, the budgetary constraints are certainly felt here, particularly at the level of the dialogue, which sometimes is too faint (as is the case of an early scene in a car, where the effect is oddly documentary-like) and at other times over-modulated. The music, on the other hand, sounds just fine, and ominously fills the room. Again, though, the flaws are with the production itself, not the DVD.
And the same holds true here, though the issues are less noticeable. Yes, grain is apparent, and a few scenes might be a bit darker than they need to be (though murk is never a problem), but here the budget actually works for the film, rather than against it, contributing to a genuine sense of grime. This is a film that should make you want to shower afterwards, and the visuals do their best to slime the viewer. As for the screen format, the case presents the mutually contradictory claims of both fullscreen and 1.78:1. The latter is a myth.
The commentary by the multitasking Scott Mckinlay and Vince Marinelli is has plenty to say about how they achieved various effects, but I would have liked to hear a bit more about why. The behind-the-scenes featurette is a wonderful little how-to guide for low-budget filmmaking. Also here: two deleted scenes, an alternate ending, a music video, and plenty of trailers (including Gag’s).
One can’t help but suspect that, as the glut of torture-porn flicks floods the DVD market, the form is about to run out of gas. We’ll see. In the meantime, this is a decent effort.