Kaaterskill Falls Movie Review

Kaaterskill Falls is so ingenius and quirky that I don't quite know where to begin.

Do I mention that it's an American, land-bound updating of Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water, or do I mention that it was shot without a script?

Do I mention that it was originally an experiment to see if a feature film could be shot in three days (which failed: it took 13 days in the end), or do I mention that the actors cast were the first three who agreed that they were crazy enough to try the three-day shoot?

Ultimately, Kaaterskill succeeds not due to its odd backstory but because it's extremely well told (even without a script) and heart-rendingly acted (even though its leads are all complete unknowns). The story follows the same line as Knife in the Water (in fact, the original title was the rather unwieldy Knife in the Woods): Yuppie couple takes a weekend trip to the woods and picks up a hitchhiker who ends up staying with them in their little cabin. The men don't really get along, and their dirty tricks against each other seem playful until the hitchhiker gets pushed off a cliff. Husband leaves him for dead, but the wife stays behind, only to discover he isn't dead after all. Smooching and such ensues.

Hilary Howard steals the show as the wife caught in the middle (not to mention, she bears an uncanny resemblance to Water's Jolanta Umecka). She loves her husband, despite his petulance, but feels for the hitchhiker, who may be quiet but has the rugged spontaneity that her life otherwise lacks. That the emotions all come across without an actual script is astonishing, as Howard and her co-stars Mitchell Riggs and Anthony Leslie all manage to really punch up the film's subtext. (And hey, was that real bourbon they were drinking?)

While Falls isn't exactly surprising (given its faithfulness to Knife), it still manages to be gripping and totally watchable, full of clever asides (the trio bopping their heads in time with a rap song in Mitchell's VW New Beetle is priceless) and excellent photography that belies the fact that only two or three people were on the crew for the shoot. The ending also offers a twist or two that Polanski only alluded to. Check out the DVD, which features a so-so commentary track along with an outtakes and deleted scenes feature which adds in all the dirt you'd want to know on the making of the movie.

Comments

Kaaterskill Falls Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: R, 2001

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