Grillo's got a pretty twisted sensibility. Wicked, actually. Deer Crossing is full of subversive behavior and nefarious characters. There's an eloquent speaking backwoods killer, a tormented father/husband who neglects his selfish past, an eye-patch wearing creep, and a naked lady chained to a railroad tie. There's incest, sodomy, drugs and rape. And what's impressive is that Grillo shows great restraint, keeping Deer Crossing from delving too deeply into these exploitative cliches, separating his film from the pack of other low budget indie horror.
There are some terrific action sequences, as well. Grillo has an eye for good action pacing, getting plenty of fast moving coverage to keep the action scenes alive and running. Some of these sequences easily could stand up to Hollywood standards.
The downside is the slower parts of the story. I love one take dialogue scenes. They're great moments for the audience to be a fly on the wall, watching some real moments between characters. But, like a good photograph that fills the picture with negative space or peripheral information, a one take filmed scene needs to engage the audience with equal information, or non-information. Unfortunately, some of the dialogue scenes in Deer Crossing demonstrated a need to edit, to throw out the uncomfortable actor's pauses, as much as some of the superfluous dialogue.
It also suffered some from too much going on. Christopher Mann (The Wire) does well, but his troubled detective character ultimately takes away from what should be the focus of the film -- Michael Chancelor (Warren Hemaway), the father, whose self indulgent ways lead to crippling guilt, after the kidnapping of his son and wife. Both Mann and Hamaway play characters who deal with terrible losses, but their stories split the emotional cache of the audience. The story of a father of a kidnapped boy seems, to me, to create more impact.
Overall, I really dig Christian Grillo's vision, and willingness to go there, more than I wholly appreciated this film. He made some good directional choices, but I would like to have seen the film streamlined, rattling off at about 90 minutes of face paced thrills. Regardless, see this movie. It's subversive and twisted. And, more importantly, you need to watch Grillo. He's got danger in his mind. If'n he keeps it up, he might become something of a Ketchum or a Laymon of the genre movies.