Writer/director Nicholas Santos’ horror comedy It Cuts Deep is an odd feature that should appeal to viewers interested in offbeat, awkward comedy movies and slasher film completists. Other viewers may find themselves perplexed.
Why Ashley (Quinn Jackson) and her boyfriend Sam (Charles Gould) are together is the first mystery of the film, and why Ashley wants to marry him is another. On Christmas vacation in Sam’s hometown, which he hasn’t visited for 10 years — the same amount of time that a double murder took place there — Ashley wants to talk marriage while Sam does everything he can to avoid the subject, which includes an almost non-stop barrage of self-deprecating and sophomoric unfunny (intentionally so, it should be noted) jokes.
Unsubtly inserting himself into the couple’s life together is Nolan (John Anderson), who claims to be Sam’s best friend. Initially, Sam shows an irritated grudge toward Nolan, but Ashley finds him interesting. As matters proceed, Nolan becomes more aggressive in his behavior, and Sam isn’t far behind. As the two men play mind games, the plot slowly becomes a mystery of the less romantic and more deadly kind, leading to a third act that goes headlong into full horror territory.
It’s hard to make a case for the chemistry of the characters because Sam is at odds, in one way or another, with both Ashley and Nolan. Boiling things down to individual performances, then, Jackson is the standout of the three leads, grounding not only the other characters but pretty much the whole film with her performance. Gould nails the cringe-inducing man-child character of Sam, and Nolan also sends shivers down the spine as the mysterious pal from the past.
The style of comedy in It Cuts Deep isn’t meant to make viewers laugh, but rather to make them feel ill at ease, and the horror isn’t so in-your-face that it will make viewers scared — distressed and anxious, yes but not really scared. Santos has crafted an acquired taste film; viewers will need to take the 70-something-minute gamble to see how well it works for them. For me, it was worth the watch but a revisit to dig deeper isn’t likely.
It Cuts Deep, from Dark Sky Films, is now available in select theaters and on VOD + digital platforms.