Screenplay, Hatton, David Drayer. Camera (color), Howard Wexler; editor, Ari Macht; music, Jonathan Price; art director, Matthew Karchesky. Reviewed at Dances With Films Festival of the Unknowns (noncompeting), Santa Monica, July 26 , 1999. Running time: 104 MIN.
With: David Drayer, Chase Masterson, Lyle Schwarz, Paul Wadleigh, Dick Rois, Doug Sadler.
Sammyville,” a would-be thriller by writer-director Christopher Hatton and co-scripter/star David Drayer, sadly squanders a crackerjack premise with hackneyed storytelling and dramatics rendered even flatter by an uninspired cast. While description of pic on paper may lure various festivals, results onscreen will limit its post-fest future.
Inspired by real-life “private” Oregon forest hamlet run and owned by fearsome coot Sammy and his six-shooter (shown docu-style with uncomfortable affection over end credits), “Sammyville” sets up fine thriller mode as child welfare agent Miranda (Chase Masterson) searches for kidnapped boy she suspects is being hidden in Sammy’s domain while Cam (Drayer) returns to the area and unwittingly confronts his childhood demons in the woods. Cam’s quest for justice is triggered by Miranda’s obsession, which is so poorly established (and ineptly put across by Masterson) that the heroine looks and sounds silly and the drama soon unhinges. Final plot twists play like a talky, creaky scene onstage; had much of the high-tensionaction been shown rather than described, this could have been a real nail-biter. Tech credits in 16mm are average.