It Cuts Deep is reminiscent of The ‘Burbs: a low-impact, schlubby comedy that slowly segues into dark territory through a bridge of plausible deniability.
We open with a scene so essentially horror movie it reads like it might be parody: two young people gettin’ it on, a man with a machete (held just so, so it gleams for the camera) interrupts, slashes the boy, the girl pleads, then he slashes the girl.
We cut directly to Sam (Charles Gould), whom I immediately thought of as a discount Paul Giamatti, looking a bit vacant and schmucky. Was it a flashback? Was it imagination? Was it a badly-edited jump cut? We’re unsure.
Sam has a much prettier girlfriend, Ashley (Quinn Jackson), and she wants to get married and have kids. Sam is reticent, the sort who struggles with saying “I love you,” and hides behind crude humor. He pretends to misunderstand, and expects that she is trying to talk him into “butt stuff.”
Nothing new here, fairly on-the-nose comedy from the 80s or 90s. An episode of Friends, maybe.
The two gently squabble on their way to Sam’s childhood home, where they are going for a Christmas vacation. Sam’s parents are out of town and they have the place to themselves. That is, until the arrival of Nolan (John Anderson), the hunky childhood friend of Sam’s that seems to be after a bit of Ashley’s Christmas pudding. At least, it appears that way to Sam, who is either observant or paranoid about this whole thing.
The scenario slowly escalates, with Ashley thinking Sam is increasingly crazy, Nolan appearing increasingly brazen, and Sam increasingly afraid for his relationship. But all just vague enough that they pretend nothing is going on when they talk to each other between clenched jaws.
Throughout, we get glimpses into Sam’s mind, but still we are unsure if these scenes are flashbacks of true events or something more imaginative.
This film is well-made and snappy, and the performances are believable. Strangely, based on very little information initially, I care about these people. It sets up predictable cliches more than once, only to deliver something else, which is kind of refreshing, really. Pacing a touch slow, but only in the way relationship comedies are slow, and as it transitions, the tension rises.
Watch out for writer/director Nicholas Payne Santos — this is his first feature film, and I strongly suspect he’ll deliver plenty more.
Dark Sky Films announced it has acquired all North American distribution rights to the new horror-comedy IT CUTS DEEP, the film is planned for release in November 2020.
Rating: 8 out of 10 Discount Paul Giamattis