Somewhere between the steamy atmosphere of film noir and the warped logic of psychological thrillers emerges "Deepwater." David S. Marfield makes his screenwriting and directorial debut with this fascinating thriller, and from the looks of things he has quite a promising career ahead of him. A complicated examination of truth and perception, "Deepwater" is a thought-provoking indie film with style to burn. This small gem now makes its way to DVD courtesy of Monarch Home Video.
Just discharged from a hospital, young drifter Nat Banyon (Lucas Black) makes his way to Wyoming to find work and a place to stay. With no family and no money, Nat latches onto just about any stranger he meets. Enter Herman Finch (Peter Coyote), the manager of a small motel who offers Nat a job repainting the building. Finch seems to harbor many skeletons in his closet and shares mysterious relationships with just about everyone in town. First, there's his wife, a sultry Native American woman named Iris (Mia Maestro). Her eyes quickly turn to Nat, and the opportunity to escape her monotonous lifestyle brings about passionate feelings. Then there's Pam (Lesley Ann Warren), a world-weary waitress who apparently knows more about Finch than she is willing to tell Nat. There's also Walnut (Michael Ironside), a sleazy used-car salesman who apparently engages in other dealings with Finch.
As in the best film noir, nobody is who they initially seem to be. As Finch's hidden agenda comes closer to the surface, Nat becomes increasingly cautious. When a series of murders takes place, Nat is convinced that Finch has something to do with it, and he sets out to expose him. His affair with Iris heats up to boiling point, but she has her own secrets, too. For the bulk of the film, the plot is rather confusing, but this is part of the point. As layer upon layer is peeled away, the story becomes more and more intense. Just when we think we are coming to the truth, Marfield throws a curve that shatters all of our expectations.
The cast of "Deepwater" is excellent. Lucas Black perfectly captures the paranoia and laidback ignorance of the drifter, recalling the spirit of Fred MacMurray in "Double Indemnity." Peter Coyote has a plum role, effectively chewing the scenery as a delectably nasty villain. Mia Maestro finds just the right touch of humanity in her character, while also displaying her innate sexuality. Lesley Ann Warren is perfect, as always, in a small but significant part.
Scott Kevan's cinematography is also praiseworthy, taking the relatively plain rural setting and creating an almost dreamlike atmosphere. His photographic skills defy the movie's low budget, helping to create an almost poetic visual experience. The editing is brilliant as well, with music video-style effects that reveal the characters' stream of consciousness. Charlie Clouser has also composed a masterful score, making great use of guitar.
Monarch Home Video has delivered the film in a letterboxed widescreen transfer that appears close to 1.78:1. The image is slightly soft, with occasional grain and speckles. There is also an ever-so-noticeable jitteriness to the picture, more easily detected on close inspection or on larger screens. Other than this, the print is fine, with solid black levels and vibrant colors. There don't appear to be any compression artifacts or edge enhancement.
The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo track that seems to be hyped up quite a bit. While dialogue is mostly soft, music and sound effects come blaring through the speakers, keeping you constantly reaching for the remote control. On the whole, the audio comes across rather harsh.
Special features include a five-minute behind the scenes special with interviews by director Marfield, composer Clouser, and other cast and crew members. For such a short running time, it is an interesting featurette with some useful information. Aside from this, there is a trailer and one deleted scene.
Monarch Home Video's DVD release for "Deepwater" is essentially bare bones, but the film alone makes it worth checking out. This is a small movie that deserves as much attention as it can get, especially for its director. "Deepwater" is an evocative throwback to the film noir of the 1940s, and David S. Marfield displays a shining talent. He has taken the tried-and-true characteristics of the genre and given them a new twist to create something truly riveting and largely original. Throw in a fantastic cast and the expert visuals, and you have one little indie film that should definitely be seen.