Two professional thieves break into a house in search of a safe, only to discover a man beaten beyond recognition, tied down to torn mattress in a hidden room. They decide to help, only to become trapped by a serial killer whose torture methods will have them begging for death.
Gag opens up with a dark scene of a girl, chained up, bound, naked, and scared. A tube is strapped to her mouth. A man is in the room, and as he approaches the girl, we get worried. What is he going to do? What horrible, unspeakable acts does he have in store for this poor woman? Then we see him put a rat into the tube, and we think ‘wow, is he really going through with this? In the book American Psycho, there is a similar rat-in-tube torture (using a different orifice), but we didn’t see it play out in the movie…will we here?’
Before anything else can happen, we see the guy hit the girl in the head with a hatchet, and the movie cuts to the opening credits, and we are left with a ‘huh, why did that just happened?’ And that question kind of sums up the rest of the movie, which is unfortunate because it seems there was a lot of potential left on the cutting room floor.
The basic plotline is fairly simple: two burglars, Tony and Detroit (played by Vince Marinelli and director Scott W McKinlay, respectively) break into a house, looking for the safe. Instead, they find a beaten man tied down with a gag in his mouth. At this point, it reminded me a little of The Collector, a movie that came out in 2009, a full three years after Gag. Unfortunately, instead of moving forward while continuing to build tension, this one takes a different path and quickly loses itself as it throws twist after twist at the audience in hopes that one might stick.
Back to the story itself. The burglars untie the guy, thinking maybe he’ll tell them the safe combination. Suddenly, the lights go out, and when they come back up, we see the guy is bound again, the burglars are now tied together, and another guy is frying pennies on a portable hot plate. He drops them on the bound and gagged guy’s stomach, then leaves. Tony gets free, unties the mystery guy, and goes looking around. Next thing you know, *twist alert* it turns out the bound guy, Brian (played by Brian Kolodziej, from movies like Malibu Spring Break and the other The Girl Next Door), is actually the bad guy, he’s just sneakily switched places. He drugs Detroit, then keeps up his “hostage” act when Tony returns.
To continue giving details will just get confusing, with all the little twists and confusing turns Gag takes. It’s a little disappointing, really, because the movie goes from scary parts, like when Tony is walking around the house and a bloody hand reaches out from under a bed, to falling into the role of yet another Saw-type movie, with little “games” and tough choices filling out much of the middle. There’s the choice between a mysterious injection or another person getting cut. There’s the girl performing sex acts on her own brother or getting shot in the head. There’s the tube attached to Detroit’s mouth, and broken glass and razor blades dropped into it. And all the while, none of this serves any other purpose than to hammer away at the fact that the killer in this movie is ruthless and crazy, something we already knew at the beginning.
Gag is Scott W McKinlay’s directorial debut (he went on to release his second picture, Creep Van, in 2012). However, it was not his introduction to the film business; he had previously done a little acting as well as working with Troma Studios in a production/crew capacity on Terror Firmer and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger 4.
My hope is, he continues forward and keep making movies, because while I didn’t like this one so much, he has great potential. Gag seemed to suffer more in the writing department (written by Kirk Sever) than in the visuals. The gore is pretty good, albeit often existing for the sake of existing. While it flows in many convoluted directions, it does, indeed, move forward without dragging too often, avoiding one reoccurring indie film mistake, although it does employ the character waking up from being knocked out technique to advance the timeline a little too often. The end is better than most of the lead-up, but doesn’t quite make up for it. I have no doubt that, given the right script, we will see a lot better from McKinlay soon.