Deer Crossing centers on retired detective Derrick Stanswood (Christopher Mann, The Wire) who is called by a successful doctor about an unsolved case involving his wife Maggie and their son Cole. Chasing after loose ends in a corrupt town, Stanswood has no idea that Maggie has been held captive over the last eight years by farmer Lukas Walton (K.J. Linhein) who is raising Cole as his own son in a wrongful world full of its own horrors.
Deer Crossing is an independent film from Greater Philadelphia area group Potent Media, and over the last year it has garnered significant buzz and a distribution deal through Osiris Entertainment. In addition to Christopher Mann, it also stars genre favorites Doug Bradley (Hellraiser) and Ernie Hudson (The Crow, Ghostbusters). Since wrapping in the summer of 2011, it has enjoyed the sort of success all independent productions dream of. One look at the film will show that it’s well-deserved.
Despite its modest budget ($40,000), the film has a clean, professional look that holds its own against most of Hollywood’s output. In a time when the genre seems inundated with remakes, Deer Crossing seems to pick up where horror left off before reboot fever took hold. Director Christian Jude Grillo takes his cue from films like The Devil’s Rejects with its cast of quirky characters and grim violence.
The cast of characters is one of the areas where the film shines. K.J. Linhein is excellent in his portrayal of twisted hillbilly, Lukas Walton. He is the last guy anyone would want to run into while passing through a rural town. His violence towards Maggie and his manipulation of Cole are terrible indeed, but filtered through his worldview, his behaviors are a series of games. It’s how he gets off. Linhein takes the role to the extreme, and delivers a villain that is truly menacing. Most disturbing is that the more we see of the world portrayed in the film, the more we see that Walton is right at home in it. The town is full of corrupt people. From drug and human trafficker Gayle to her thug Dick (played marvelously by Tom Detrik of Potent Media’s Booley), there isn’t a shred of redemptive qualities in anyone. Maggie and Cole are the only innocents here, and their only choices as the film goes on is to give in to the world’s corruption or die.
In my interview with Grillo, he told me that Deer Crossing is a film about the human monster and nothing could be truer. Grillo’s film shows us that the human monster is the most terrifying of all, and no one who encounters it is quite the same afterwards. While more of a crime thriller than a horror film, it has many elements that would appeal to the horror audience such as its corrupt villains and sometimes oppressively dark atmosphere. Highly recommended.
Deer Crossing debuts on DVD today. Special Features include deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer, and a photo gallery.