Directed by Laura Zoe Quist
If there is one thing that I admire more than a director who’s willing to toss themselves smack dab into one of their projects, it’s when they rise an old form of moviemaking from the dead, and give it a renewal of sorts. Laura Zoe Quist, who’s 2013 film-noir styled Raw Cut gives the term “mÃ©nage-a-trois” a plus-1 upgrade, and takes the whole psycho-sexual thriller to another level. The film itself takes a simple enough premise, builds up the tension very slowly, and punches you in the gut with a twist (and twisted) conclusion.
Quist, who also has pulled acting, producing and writing duties in the past, now sits in the big chair for her second go-around and not only manages to produce an interesting story, but carve out a nice role in the photoplay herself. She plays Stephanie, who is the fiancÃ© to wealthy braggadocio Adam (Daniel Ponickly) – their luxurious refuge in Wyoming serves as the focal backdrop for the movie. For one unforgettable weekend, the two will play host and hostess to Adam’s longtime college pal, Jack (Christopher Soren Kelly) and his blushing bride, Amanda (C. Ashleigh Caldwell). Among the interesting side-notes to the plot is the long-ago tryst that Adam and Amanda had back in college..talk about AWKWARD. Stephanie is a budding filmmaker and this weekend she has set aside a plan to work on her thesis, thus setting our steamy tale in motion.
The idea here is to make a “found-footage” horror movie, according to Stephanie, and although Jack and Amanda aren’t actors by any stretch, they agree to give it a go while Stephanie happily shoots away. While we see the uneasiness of Amanda in her scenes, Jack takes on more of a playful guise, hamming it up with his tried and true friend in multiple situations – just keep that “tried and true” thing fresh in your mind for a short spell, as we’ll be contrasting that term in a few moments. The movie plods along in its presentation as we watch the foursome eat, drink, chat, and get frisky with each other (oversexed is a kind designation, to be honest) all the while our wanna-be director keeps the camera firmly planted at her side. We lose the whole “horror” back brace fairly quickly here, and keep it on a level that borders on the fringes of untrustworthy and latent as far as secret relationships go.
Adam hasn’t forgotten about his previous time spent with Amanda (and she apparently hasn’t either,) and as we see the two (ahem, three) out of the four film a scene for the movie, Jack’s worst suspicions are clear and present, and then the fun begins. I won’t let on too much more but I can tell you this – what you think will happen doesn’t, and I’ll leave it right there. Overall, the performances are spot on because frankly, the idea was to have a group of performers play a bunch of self-involved, egotistic exhibitionists, and the mission was accomplished to perfection.
You’d want to slap the taste out of anyone’s mouth in the foursome if you met them on the street (okay, maybe I’m alone in my thinking,) but the portrayals are noteworthy, and for that I applaud the actors. If there were a dragging-down note of the movie, it’s the pacing – I can understand the need to build up the story, but in order to get things rolling we have to sit through a myriad of dialogue in order to cross the threshold. However, no worries – the film has a few twists and turns that will get your attention, so if you love a good high-temperature, mind-bending thriller, Raw Cut is a nice slice to bite into.
2 1/2 out of 5