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Cutting Moments   B / A+

ei Independent Cinema

Year Released: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directors: Matthew Bozanis, Douglas Buck, Lawrene Gise, Tim Healy, Leslie Hucko, Casey Kehoe, Gino Panaro, Dietmar Post, Craig Wallace, David White, Hsia-Huey Wu.
Cast: Gary Betsworth, Nica Ray, Jared Barsky.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

As far as low-budget horror anthologies go, you could do much worse than this slick collection of short films dealing with various horrific themes. The final one (from which the anthology got its title) deserves special praise. But first, here's a run-down on all the tales preceding it.

The first short, "Crack Dog," is an easily digestible (if not soon forgotten) quickie that focuses on a shotgun-toting pizza delivery guy and his cute, drug-addicted pooch who likes to smoke crack and tear apart gangsters and other lowlifes. It's pointless, but fun.

"Don't Nag Me" is a well-shot and directed piece about a World War II veteran who murders his nagging wife, but discovers that even in death he can't shut her up. It's cliché-ridden and predictable, but a solid effort.

"Bowl of Oatmeal" finds a lonely slob in a dreary apartment taking advice from a bowl of oatmeal (no, I'm not kidding). I won't tell you what the oatmeal tells him to do, but I'll hint that it involves stealing lots of raw meat. Offbeat and oddly disturbing, if you dig that sorta thing.

The forth entry, "Principles of Karma" is an edgy slice of twisted teen angst. A bored slacker punk tries to find new ways to add excitement to his life in a typical suburban wasteland -- with some strange consequences. The ending of this one left a little to be desired, but the next and final tale made up for all the misgivings I'd had about the previous shorts.

The last film, "Cutting Moments," is an unforgettable masterpiece. It was directed by Douglas Buck with a skill and craftsmanship that's breathtaking. At 20 minutes in length, it is one of the most disturbing, unsettling pieces of cinema I have ever seen. It moves at such a slow pace that nothing seems to happen in the first 12 minutes or so. We observe a family on the brink of disaster. A husband (Gary Betsworth) who has lost almost all attraction to his wife (Nica Ray). A young son (Jared Barsky) who seems on the brink of psychosis -- he doesn't talk much, but neither do his parents. The family atmosphere is very depressing, and there are indications of the father's sexual attraction to his own son. We begin to understand the wife's feelings of worthlessness and insecurity about the deterioration of the beauty she once had.

It is a mark of brilliant filmmaking that all of this is perceived without any dialogue pointing it out. There are very few lines of dialogue during the entire 20 minutes, actually, as it relies mostly on the powerful images to tell the story. We can feel the tension building from the very first frame, and the denouement is excruciatingly painful, surprising, and extremely tragic. I won't give it away, but I will say that "Cutting Moments" contains one of the most distressing -- yet emotionally true and heartbreaking -- scenes I've ever seen. It is by no means a pleasurable cinematic experience, but the raw power can't be dismissed. It's painful, but somehow cathartic. And extremely sad. This one will stay with you, disturbing you long after the credits roll. "Cutting Moments" alone deserves an A+, but the entire anthology garners a B.

Review published 02.04.2000.

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