Film Reviews

Gummo, or: Dead Cats Will Haunt Me

The Film:


Where to Watch:

If you can’t find this at your library, you may want to give up unless you can find it online. I would not advise you to rent this movie unless you are very comfortable with looking at dead cats (none of which appear in this post).

The Premise:

I love the IMDb summary, which reads “Lonely residents of a tornado-stricken Ohio town wander the deserted landscape trying to fulfill their boring, nihilistic lives.”

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

I know I say this a lot, but this is a strange one.  It’s closer to a series of vignettes than a film with any sort of traditional narrative structure.

The film follows Solly and his friend Tummler, as well as some other post-1974 tornado residents of Xenia.

At the beginning of the movie, Solly drowns a cat; then he and Tummler engage in some hardcore bicycling—just this extended scene in which they bicycle around as heavy metal music plays. When they arrive at their destination, they trade a bag of dead animals for cash, which they use to buy milkshakes.

teenage boys with grim facial expressions bicycle in a residential neighborhood

Then Tummler pays to have sex with this mentally and possibly physically disabled woman. Solly goes in to see her as well, and she tells him his fortune: “Your wife will die in a hay fire.”

a blonde woman with heavy eye make-up says "It says your wife will die in a hay fire" to a teenage boy
Whatever happened to “Your life line is very long” or “Avoid strangers with one eye”???

Solly and Tummler then hang a dead cat from a tree and beat it with sticks.

Later, Solly is working out with weights he has made by taping a bunch of utensils together. He goes into the basement and lifts while listening to “Like a Prayer.” His mother comes downstairs and tells him not to stunt his growth by lifting. She then starts tap dancing and trying to make Solly smile.

a woman in front of a mirror practices dancing while a boy throws punches at his reflection
“If you don’t smile, I’m going to kill you.” It’s like a cripplingly depressing version of Billy Elliot.

Meanwhile, Tummler is spending time with his father’s group of friends. There is a lot of arm wrestling, which becomes wrestling in general, complete with breaking chairs.

Solly and Tummler reunite to break into another boy’s house, who is their competition in the killing animals department.  The boy’s grandmother is resting there hooked up to a machine. Tummler turns off the machine and she dies; in his words, “She’s always been dead.”

Other people of interest(?) in Xenia include Helen, her blonde older sisters, and their black cat, Foot Foot. Early in the film, Tummler is going to kill the cat, but Solly stops him, as it is a house cat. Helen brings the cat inside, and the sisters hope the cat isn’t pregnant because they’ll have to drown any kittens she births. The two older sisters’ favorite hobby is to watch this guy with a really strange haircut play tennis.

We also have Bunny Ears, a kid who wanders around wearing nothing but shorts and bunny ears, never speaking. He likes to hang around on a bridge above the highway and spit onto the traffic below. Apparently he also enjoys playing the accordion in public bathrooms. He later makes out with the older two blonde sisters in a pool in the rain.

a shirtless pre-teen boy wearing pink bunny ears sits on a public toilet while holding an accordion
It’s not possible for me to add any insightful commentary to this image.

Towards the end of the movie, Foot Foot goes missing, and the girls ask people to look out for her.  Solly and Tummler are practicing loading their guns while aiming at a dead cat:  Foot Foot.  At the end, Bunny Ears runs toward the camera holding the dead cat.

close-up of a black cat with green eyes
RIP Foot Foot.

The Critique:

I was already nervous about watching this film because of the IMDb discussion boards (even though you can dismiss the IMDb discussion boards 90% of the time).  A few of the top subjects include: “This is one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen,” “Why did you decide to watch Gummo?” and “how graphic is the animal violence?”

If you are opposed to killing cats and animal cruelty in general, this may not be your movie. In fact, if you have ever walked by a cat without kicking it or immediately thinking, “Motherfucker needs to die,” you may want to pass on this film.

I, personally, don’t ever want to see another dead cat. No more Nature specials, no more Narnia, no more The Fly, no more Lion King.

The Rating:

Small Pink Panther - Angry 1/5 Angry Pink Panther Heads

I’m going with 1/5 Angry Pink Panther Heads because a) I didn’t understand this movie and b) the Pink Panther would probably be opposed to the amount of cat killing in this film.