“Flashbacks and ‘Second Sight’: The Ravine” by Ken Hall

The combination of noir, suspense, and spiritual and fantastic elements prevents the film from being an ordinary inspirational piece.

This inspirationally themed film, written for the screen by Keoni Waxman, Robert Pascuzzi, and Kelly Pascuzzi, and directed by Keoni Waxman, is adapted from a book by Robert Pascuzzi. The content of the book is derived from a factual incident, a horrifying crime in which a father murdered his wife and one of his sons and then committed suicide. The film employs a temporal structure featuring flashbacks and present-time sections detailing the revelation of the crime to the relatives and friends of the murdered members of the Turner family, Rachel (Cynthia Evans) and one of her sons, Evan (August David Scott). The details of the crime are gradually revealed in flashback sequences. Flashbacks also reveal the less recent past of important characters including Danny Turner (Peter Facinelli), the man who commits the crime, his brother Tony (Kyle Lowder), Mitch Bianci (Eric Dane) and his wife Carolyn (Teri Polo), a close friend of Rachel, and a person with no direct relationship with the Turners or their friends, Joanna Larson (Leslie Uggams).

The crime is officially investigated by the sympathetic Detective Ben Lee (Byron Mann) and, more importantly to the narrative, in an unofficial capacity by Mitch. The flashback structure and the unofficial investigator, a type of private detective, locate the film at least partially in the noir and detective generic frame. Not satisfied with any official imprimatur on the case, Mitch pursues the hidden motive for the murders even after being told that no doubt exists that Danny was the perpetrator.

Interwoven with the investigation and the flashbacks about the crime and the friends and relatives of the Turner family is a parallel narrative about Joanna, a woman who seems to possess second sight. Joanna sees visions which apparently either forecast events or help to elucidate occurrences, like the Turner killings, which seem inexplicable. Her visions began as a young girl, as a flashback scene shows, when she experienced a vision of the death of her father as it was occurring. She functions in the present day as a bridge between her perceived otherworldly reality, from which she gleans information about the people ensnared in the tragedy, and the painful world of the survivors. Award-winning actress Leslie Uggams turns in a noteworthy performance, particularly in a haunting narration voiced over scenes of Danny’s crime; and the rest of the cast is quite adequate.

The combination of noir, suspense, and spiritual and fantastic elements prevents the film from being an ordinary inspirational piece. The screenplay and its presentation pull no punches regarding the violence and horror of the murders. Although Danny’s actions defy rational explanation, they provide a grim opportunity for spiritual growth for at least some of the survivors.

Ken Hall (Ph.D., University of Arizona, 1986; MA, University of NC-Chapel Hill, 1978) is professor emeritus of Spanish at ETSU, where he had taught since 1999. His publications include Professionals in Western Film and Fiction (McFarland, 2019), John Woo: The Films (McFarland, [1999] 2012), John Woo’s The Killer (Hong Kong University Press, 2009), Stonewall Jackson and Religious Faith in Military Command (McFarland, 2005) and Guillermo Cabrera Infante and the Cinema (Juan de la Cuesta Hispanic Monographs, 1989). His essay, “Femme Fatale Assassins and the Time Clock” was published on Retreats from Oblivion on Nov. 17, 2021.

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