THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Add another film to the "Here's why you should never pick up a hitch hiker" pile. Kaaterskill Falls is a quiet, reflective little indie from directing team Josh Apter
and Peter Olsen. The film centers around an urban couple on a weekend trip to the Catskills who have their life changed forever by a chance encounter with a quiet, strange fella thumbing a ride. Photographer Ren (Hilary Howard) and computer systems manager Mitchell (Mitch Riggs) plan to spend the weekend in the small cabin relaxing and working on a little baby-making. They start off the film zipping down the mountain road in their green new model Beetle when they spot Lyle (Anthony Leslie) on the side of the road. Inexplicably Ren suggests they offer him a ride. Hasn't she ever seen a movie before? Actually, she has her reasons for pulling over but like everything in this film, they're burried beneath the surface and don't come out for a while.
Lyle is immediately unnerving, answering questions with barely more than a grunt and rolling his own cigarette in the couple's back seat. But they don't seem put off by him and when they come across him again later that night (he was unable to get a room at the local lodge) they offer him some shelter in their cabin.
Over the course of the night tensions build between the three. Ren and Mitchell bicker (obviously not for the first time), Ren and Lyle seem to flirt, and Mitchell and Lyle have a little bit of a pissing contest. All of this comes to a head the next day during a trip to the titular waterfall.
Kaaterskill Falls is a mysterious, quiet film. The characters are not simple types but we never really know what's inside them either; The actors are very good at playing people who are hiding their true selves. There are times when they all do things that seem weird and counter to what we expect, but that's not a flaw. The film explores what these people do when they're tested. The couple is far from idealized and, while the seams may show in their relationship a little too quickly to be completely natural, they suffer from very real fears. They're concerned that they're not spontaneous and that they've sold out their youthful enthusiasms for financial comfort.
The film is a bit heavy-handed when it comes to Lyle's criticisms of modern life's impositions on nature. (It doesn't take a Greenpeace member to recognize that cell phone towers in the middle of the forest are ugly.) But the film's observations on marital strife and human relations are more interesting.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer is good for an independent release. Colors are vibrant but overall the image maintains the hazy, misty look of the setting.
The film is available in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. Both options are modest sound mixes. The film is mostly very quiet and the sound track reflects that.
The film includes a commentary track featuring both directors and all three main cast members. Unfortunately, it's of limited interest as they mostly chit-chat about tidbits from the set. It is interesting to learn, however, that the film was shot without a script and the story developed as much by the work of the actors as the directors.
A selection of alternate scenes and bloopers is also include, as is a trailer and a stills gallery.
Kaaterskill Falls is an unusually quiet film and, even though it
appears to follow some of the conventions of the hitchhiker
genre, it isn't afraid to spin off into uncharted emotional