It Cuts Deep starts with the prototypical slasher film murder. Naughty teens decide to have sex instead of studying, and are promptly dispatched with a machete. Without explanation, we then jump cut to Sam (Charles Gould), en route to his remote childhood home for a Christmas getaway with long time girlfriend, Ashley (Quinn Jackson). There’s some tension between the two of them, as Ashley clearly wants to start considering marriage and kids, and Sam is frantically trying to avoid the conversation.
Sam hasn’t been home for the holidays in years, and seems oddly distracted and out of sorts about being back at his childhood residence. When he bumps into former best friend Nolan (John Anderson), Sam takes the more handsome and successful man’s attempt at rekindling the friendship merely as a ploy to steal Ashley away.
Despite the brief opening scene that is firmly planted in genre territory, It Cuts Deep spends the bulk of its runtime aiming for comedy that it never achieves. Sam is an utterly unlikable kidult, who has a deep seated aversion to commitment and an annoying habit of responding to questions by shoehorning in the phrase “almost as long as my d*ck”. He avoids uncomfortable subjects by making jokes about anal sex, and on the (apparently rare) occasion he cooks for Ashley, it’s charred black and inedible. These gags wouldn’t have passed muster for Judd Apatow‘s slush pile circa 2004, and in 2020 this sort of blithely crude man-child archetype just seems dated.
Only after Nolan is introduced as a character does It Cuts Deep remember it is nominally a horror film. Sam is immediately jealous and paranoid, seeing something sinister in Nolan’s aggressive cheerfulness and outwardly happy married life. He’s also increasingly plagued by odd fugue states and strange hallucinations of a baby crying. Nolan, in turn, lacks any reasonable boundaries and hints at something violent in Sam’s past.
The pair are clearly more frenemies than actual friends, and as both are deeply flawed, the mystery should lie in which man is telling the truth, and what that might have to do with the opening murder. Instead, the real questions become why Ashley wants to marry Sam in the first place, or why she would spend another second listening to the bickering of Sam and Nolan’s toxic bromance.
Some of these plot points are resolved in the third act, but even at a mere 77 minutes, It Cuts Deep seems overlong. There is a lot of time wasted on dramatic music cue heavy scenes where very little of consequence happens, followed by a tonal shift of broad physical comedy or yet another lame sex joke. A final halfhearted twist only reinforces the same tired tropes that made the more comedic parts of the film tedious.
Nicholas Payne Santos’ direction is visually effective enough, and the film’s concept doesn’t really call for any ambitious aesthetic experiments. All three main performers gamely do their level best with a script (written by the director) that does them no favors. John Anderson fills Nolan with a brittle, needy energy and Charles Gould does manage to at least shade in Sam with some much needed occasional moments of self awareness.
Of the three leads, Quinn Jackson deserves a special mention. The character of Ashley could have easily fallen into baby crazy, biological clock cliche given the writing. Instead, Jackson plays her like an audience stand in, often just as exasperated with Sam’s antics as we are. It Cuts Deep feels like a short film that has been brute force expanded to feature length, without really doing much to flesh out the characters as three dimensional people, so Jackson’s smarter character choices stand out.
Rather than a cohesive horror-comedy, the film feels like two completely different script treatments that were hastily whipstitched together. The otherwise irrelevant background of the Christmas setting seems merely a cynical attempt to place higher in the streaming service/VOD algorithm as a holiday horror. The only thing that really slices to the bone in regard to It Cuts Deep is that there are any number of terrific genre scripts languishing in relative obscurity. Someone chose to green light this one instead.
WICKED RATING: 3/10