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Wellspring presents
Kaaterskill Falls (2001)

"Uh oh, the lone stranger's back on the road."
- Ren (Hilary Howard)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: November 05, 2003

Stars: Hilary Howard, Anthony Leslie, Mitchell Riggs
Director: Josh Apter, Peter Olsen

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief nudity, mild language)
Run Time: 01h:26m:46s
Release Date: September 09, 2003
UPC: 720917538426
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-B-B- C+

DVD Review

Based loosely on Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water, this 2001 low-budget indie from directors Josh Apter and Peter Olsen tries to do its own thing to explore the same essential and volatile dynamic of "two's company, three's a crowd." However, instead of taking place on a sailboat, as in Polanski's film, this time the setting is the rugged Catskill mountains, where a young married couple from New York (Hilary Howard and Mitchell Riggs) encounter a mysterious hitchhiker (Anthony Leslie), and all three of their lives are then set on a course to be altered forever.

Ren and Mitchell are taking time away from their hectic urban schedule to spend some a romantic weekend away, in an attempt to conceive a child. On a whim, and more likely a subtle stab at getting under the skin of her routinized hubbie, Ren picks up a hitcher named Lyle, and through a turn of events the brooding loner is invited to spend the evening in their cabin. What follows is a series of petty bickering and confrontation, alternating at times between all three people, that slowly builds upon itself until the situation reaches a boiling point.

Kaaterskill Falls is one of those indie projects that was assembled without any real working script, outside of a general framework, and the actors were given somewhat of a free range when it came to dialogue. This is probably the film's biggest strength, because instead of stilted and long-winded lines that sound highly polished, the conversations and arguments play out with a very real and very natural lilt to them. The arguments between Ren and Mitchell start and end with that same kind of out-of-left-field suddenness I'm sure most married couples have experienced, and as my wife Jeanine and I were watching this film we caught ourselves laughing out loud in spots at how achingly familiar and true-to-life the conversations and tempers flowed onscreen. The performances of all three actors (and there are only three in the entire film) are extremely believable, even if some of their actions seem almost outlandish.

Much of the film eschews flashy camera angles in favor of in-your-face closeups of all three actors. Apter and Olsen do stage a simple but beautiful (to say nothing of foreboding) dream sequence, and later what Jeanine thought looked like an R.E.M. music video during a car ride where Ren, Mitchell, and Lyle are listening to the radio. To give things that indie edge, the filmmakers employ a recurring series of artsy jump cuts throughout, which at times seemed perfectly appropriate, to the point of actually helping to sell a dramatic moment, while in others it seemed more forced and unnecessary, as if inserted for no other reason than to give a consistent flow to the visual style of the film.

It is one of those techniques that if you fixate on could, I suppose, becomes truly annoying, but hey, why not turn it into a drinking game?

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Wellspring has issued Kaaterskill Falls in a 1.85:1 nonanamorphic widescreen transfer. This was a low-budget project, and not surprisingly image detail is spotty, with night scenes looking particularly muddy and in one instance, somewhat hard to follow. Outdoor daylight sequences, in contrast, offer a quite average looking palette of fall colors, and mildly fluctuating fleshtones. A few specks and nicks are also evident.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: This disc features English language tracks available in either 2.0 stereo or 5.1 Dolby Digital surround. As is often the case with smaller, indie projects, the scope and depth of the differences between these two mixes is marginal, at best. This is a dialogue-driven feature, and there is little opportunity for flashy rear channel effects. Both tracks offer clear, discernible voices, with the Stephen Tibbets score sounding slightly more expansive on the 5.1 track.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Josh Apter, Peter Olsen, Hilary Howard, Anthony Leslie, Mitchell Riggs
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Production Stills
Extras Review: Directors Josh Apter and Peter Olsen, along with cast members Hilary Howard, Anthony Leslie, Mitchell Riggs provide a full-length, scene-specific commentary for this release. While they readily admit to "drinking heavily" during the recording of the track, the energy level remains rather subdued throughout, and the few snippets of moderately interesting content are sandwiched between long stretches of meandering conversation. The obvious influences of Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water gets touched on briefly, but overall this track is on the dry side.

There are two Deleted Scenes, available in full-screen format. The first, Alternate Dinner Scene (07m:18s), is a slightly different take on a sequence that already exists in the finished film, and the differences seem relatively minor. The Chase Scene (02m:35s), on the other hand, offers a new extension on a particular scene that in the original ends with the old dramatic-shot-of-a-face-in-the-window shot. Too bad the print is really, really dark. A dreaded Blooper Reel (10m:19s) is also included, and like most clips of actors flubbing lines, seems like a nothing more than a space filler.

Aside from a theatrical trailer and set of nine production stills, the disc is cut into 20 chapters, and does not feature any subtitles.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

If you're looking for Knife in the Water, get Knife in the Water. However, this loose variation on the Polanski debut is certainly worth a peek for this film's picture-perfect dialogue alone.


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