January 16, 1998 in Seven

‘Gravesend’ A Gritty, Grainy, Exciting Debut For Young Director

By The Spokesman-Review
 

It used to be that the easiest way to get into the movie racket was to make a horror flick. That’s how Sam (“The Evil Dead’)’ Raimi started.

In more recent years, though, the coming-of-age gangster film has supplanted horror as the spawning bed of up-and-coming filmmakers. Michael Corrente gave us “Federal Hill.” Rob Weiss gave us “Amongst Friends.” Nick Gomez gave us “Laws of Gravity.”

And now we have “Gravesend,” written and directed by 22-year-old film-school dropout Salvatore Stabile - who was just 19 when the film was shot.

If nothing else, this quirky little movie shows what a committed filmmaker can do with almost nothing. Shot for over a year at night, on weekends and holidays, “Gravesend” cost barely $5,000 in initial costs (although it took Stabile another half million to get it on the big screen).

The rough edges show. It’s shot in grainy black-and-white, the contrast sometimes leaves you looking at little more than shadows, the focus seems haphazard and the scenes sometimes go on a bit longer than necessary.

But unlike many more polished productions, there’s something special about “Gravesend.” Stabile, whatever his limitations, continually shows us potential for more.

His plot is fairly simple. Four buddies get together for their regular Saturday night drive-around. Suddenly, insanely and ridiculously, someone is dead.

The rest of the movie involves the quartet of friends trying to find a way to dump the body. Murphy’s Law intervenes and the number of corpses gradually rises.

Over the course of its 86-minute run, “Gravesend” evolves into the worst Saturday night ever.

If this sounds like a drama, well, it is. But it’s to Stabile’s credit that we occasionally laugh, if a bit uncomfortably, at what’s going on. And we muse, too, at the harsh consequences of life in this small corner of Brooklyn, in sight of the Coney Island ferris wheel.

Stabile gets the most out of his ensemble cast of unknown actors. Improvising from situations created by Stabile, the actors, especially Tony Tucci who plays a gun-toting sociopath, show an instinctual ability to bring out each character’s authentic voice.

In the end, though, it is Stabile who puts things together. His sense of what works is never better displayed than during one extended scene that is played to Louis Armstrong’s “It’s a Wonderful World.”

That scene is both touching and grippingly tense, which is a good summation of this moving and exciting debut film.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

“GRAVESEND”

***

Locations: Magic Lantern Cinemas

Credits: Written and directed by Salvatore Stabile, starring Tony Tucci, Michael Parducci, Tom Malloy, Thomas Brandise, Sean Quinn, Macky Aquilino.

Running time: 1:26

Rating: R

This sidebar appeared with the story: “GRAVESEND” *** Locations: Magic Lantern Cinemas Credits: Written and directed by Salvatore Stabile, starring Tony Tucci, Michael Parducci, Tom Malloy, Thomas Brandise, Sean Quinn, Macky Aquilino. Running time: 1:26 Rating: R

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