Live From SXSW's Screening Room
DEPRIVATIOND: Jesse Scolaro; with Neil Driscoll Jr., Jeremy Davidson, Kellee Stewart, Carlos Trevino, Melanie Torres, Mary Monohan, Larissa Raphael, Deana Barone.
Narrative Feature First Films, World Premiere
The first chilly tickle of dread crawls up early, when high school friends Steven (Driscoll Jr.) and Thomas (Davidson) reunite at the Port Authority in New York City after years out of touch. It's a simple, innocent moment, really -- the tomcat-cool Thomas is in town to give his girlfriend "time with the kid" back home, and he and Steven play huggy roughhouse like in old times. There's awkwardness, of course, but there's also just something off about Thomas -- and something off-putting in his eyes -- that makes everyone uncomfortable, if the shaking, grainy footage full of jump cuts, long takes, and close-ups hasn't already. Credit Davidson -- who, along with Driscoll Jr. as the tall, dark, and depressed host turned downtrodden sidekick, is an astonishing improvisational actor in an astonishing improvisational film -- for eliciting that. His Thomas ends up crashing at Steven's apartment for what must be weeks, and the slide from well-adjusted New Agey teetotaler to sexy beast is slow, certifiable, and severe. Sick secrets are revealed, and sick acts are committed, while the dread that tickled early eventually rips through writer/director Scolaro's shockingly fine debut feature like a hand saw through aluminum. (Westgate, 3/14, 7:30pm)