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Thursday, 9 August 2012

Carter's Abyss (2000)

Director: Joseph J Greenberg
Stars: Jason Romas and Joseph J Greenberg

We're in North Woods, Maine, in 1920, shot in what appears to be a historical village by a bunch of young reenactors. Day one just sees Carter Rittenhouse beaten up and thrown in the abyss of the title, a well underneath the toolshed, leaving him with a broken leg and a dislocated shoulder. Day two sees his cousin Arthur suggesting to the rather young sheriff that he's disappeared, nobody having seen Carter since the funeral of the elder Rittenhouse, naturally rich and influential. By day nine, the rather substantial estate will be signed over to Arthur in his cousin's absence, unless Carter, the true heir, shows back up with an explanation of his disappearance. As the days add up, as they do very rapidly, Carter finds himself trying to conjure up clever ways of staying sane but also finds himself talking to a rat. The aim here is obviously to invoke Edgar Allan Poe and it's not a bad attempt, all told, the flaws being with the people trying to flesh out the characters.

Kudos is due to filmmaker Joseph J Greenberg for putting together everything needed to invoke the period. It isn't just the setting, which is authentic, but the costumes, the cars, the details here and there that I couldn't catch out, even though my contrary nature kept looking for a satellite dish on a roof somewhere. The amateur actors are almost entirely too young for their parts, including the leads, Jason Romas as Arthur and co-writer/director Joseph J Greenberg as Carter. Worst of them all is J Marc Boissonnault, through no fault of his own, who is just insanely young to be a sheriff. None of the younger actors are entirely at home in the twenties costumes, but their two elders carry it off. John Devenney plays a capable lawyer and J C Platt, who plays James, the Rittenhouse butler, looks like a civil war reenactor, though remains conveniently mute. I've seen later Greenberg films and some of the actors remained with him for a decade. This is a capable start but he got better.

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