There are a few things we need to get straight before we begin. I’ve known Abe Levy and Silver Tree for many years and have participated in the making of many of their films. I occupied the box office and sold tickets to Max 13, I served as on-site sound recordist on It’s Alright Ma, a few scenes of The Aviary and shot some “behind the scenes” footage of One of Our Own. Abe shot a music video for local bay area rockstars, The Velvet Teen, and I made a Making Of short. Abe served as cinematographer on my own short film, Replica. We know each other.
Another admission - I love movies that take place in the woods. First Blood, Red Dawn, Deliverance, the second half of Return of the Jedi, and The Legend of Boggy Creek to name a few.
So - on the one hand, you could say that Deep Dark Canyon is a movie made by a good friend of mine that takes place in the woods and therefore I like it. Fair enough.
But that would be unfortunate, because there is so much more to talk about.
Deep Dark Canyon is the tale of Nate and Skylar, two young brothers on the run. While out hunting deer one morning, they take a shot at what they think is a buck hiding behind a stump, and instead, find they have shot and killed the town Mayor. Not a great way to start the day. The brothers maintain it was an accident, and appeal to their father, the local Sheriff for help, but there is only so much he can do. The Mayor’s wife believes premeditation can be proved and presses charges against Skylar. Nate attempts to free his brother from custody, and two deputies are killed as a result. Now handcuffed to one another, the brothers flee into the woods, with Mayor’s well armed family, and their father, in pursuit. Here’s the trailer.
The acting in Deep Dark Canyon is superb. Spencer Treat Clark (Nate) and Nick Everman (Skylar) bring a real depth to their characters. You feel for them, despite their actions (was that shooting really an accident?), and experience their increasing dread as things just get worse and worse. Ted Levine (Sheriff Bloom) is outstanding as the boys’ conflicted father. His onscreen presence has both weight and texture. His baritone voice commands attention and respect. Also making appearances are Matthew Lillard and Justine Bateman.
Both Silver and Abe grew up in Sonoma Country, CA, near the town of Guerneville, where most of the movie was filmed, and they have chosen the locations carefully to maximize the imagery and mood.
Like a great cup of coffee, the cinematography by Dan Stoloff is rich and full bodied. Lush greens and browns color the forest and early morning fog haunts the frame as the brothers run deeper into the woods, and further into their own personal hell.
But what I really love about Deep Dark Canyon, is that it goes for it on a large scale. Because of the costs involved, almost all independent films (made for under one million) are either dramas or comedies. Independent genre films are almost never seen, and almost never good.
That all changed in 2004, when Primer was released. Primer was made for $7000 and is a wiz-bang-time-travel-science-fiction film that won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. See it.
In 2009, Ink appeared. Ink is a ambitious fantasy film that cost $250,000 and was an internet distribution sensation. Your jaw will drop. No, really...it will.
To put Deep Dark Canyon, an action film made for roughly half a million in the same company as these other films is high praise. Movies should move. They should take you places. Deep Dark Canyon is not only a great movie, it serves as a wake up call to other independent filmmakers that films can exist outside the walls of your green screen studio. Be bold, be brave, and be inventive. Take risks. It’s worth it.