Written by Andy Koontz, directed by Andy Koontz with music by Andy Koontz comes the Andy Koontz production CLEARWATER. Filmed for a budget reputed to be $400, this black & white horror thriller takes the viewer into the sordid world of a serial killer, and the only man who can stop his rampage.
The film opens with on-screen graphics informing the viewer of the proliferation of serial killers, and how they seem to never get caught. Moreover, their victims disappear - never to be found again. We see student Melissa walking home from school (from the killer's point-of-view). Leaning into the killer's car to give directions (such a good girl), Melissa is beaten and kidnapped, unceremoniously dumped into the car's trunk. Taken to a shack on the outskirts of town, the reviving girl's pleas for help go unheard. The killer beats her again and ties her to chair in his shack, taking a series of Poloroids of the unfortunate lass. The movies credits roll as a young architect - Jonathan - readies himself for work the next morning. The killer also has woken up, simply to beat his captive again. As Jonathan makes his way to work, the killer writes a cryptic note, which he delivers in a package to Jonathan's house. Following the young man to work, the killer leaves a second note on Jonathan's SUV windshield. Jonathan ignores this note, crumpling it up and tossing it into the back seat of his vehicle when he leaves later that day. Meanwhile, Melissa's torture continues. When Jonathan arrives home, he finds the initial package. Inside are the note, several pictures and an audiotape. Playing the tape, Jonathan is shocked to hear the killer ask him to rescue Melissa, to prove that he is really a caring person. If Jonathan can find her in seven days, she will be freed. If not, the killer will have to snuff her because (obviously) Jonathan doesn't care. Jonathan finds out quickly that the killer is stalking him in insure his compliance with the demands - and he threatens to brutalize poor Melissa if Jonathan tries to get any help. Can one architect conquer his fears and unravel a madman's puzzle to save the life of a stranger?
As a low-budget film, CLEARWATER is well crafted. The editing and photography are well composed, the sound synch is tight and the original music is very effective. The film has a nice narrative flow to it, letting the audience identify with Jonathan's seemingly hopeless plight. However, the lack of budget also hampers much of the film's impact. Some scenes are poorly lit, or suffer from uneven exposure. The movie was shot on video, but graininess was added to give the film a 'documentary'-type feel. Also, there is a constant 'strobe' effect, which would be fine as a special effect, but hampers the movie because it is constant. It's like looking at an old kinescope. However, everyone involved are true fans of the genre, which shows in their performances and production effort. The cast and crew's passion certainly make up for any budgetary shortcomings.
The DVD for CLEARWATER is set for release next spring, according to a short intro by uberman Andy Koontz. To be included are extras such as interviews and deleted footage. The film is presented wide screen, but the effects (see above) have a somewhat adverse effect on the total picture quality and viewing experience (dang that flicker!). The audio, considering the budget, is very clean and clear.
Andy Koontz is man who knows what he wants, and he wants to make horror films. Despite a budget of, well, nothing, CLEARWATER is an effective thriller that rises above any production shortcomings. I hope the studio boys are looking, because Andy might just be the next Sam Raimi, and we all know what he did with a budget...
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