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Movie Review: Carnage Park

Movie Carnage Park
07.01.2016by: Chris Bumbray
6 10

This review first appeared during the Sundance Film Festival

PLOT: A young woman (Ashley Bell) taken hostage by bank robbers is stalked in a deadly stretch of land by a psycho Vietnam vet (Pat Healy).

REVIEW: While the news out of Sundance typically heralds all the high-tone, sophisticated, awards-bait movies that land distribution deals, there’s a parallel version of the fest going-on every night after Midnight. That’s when the genre directors come out to play, with each year sporting a mix of old pros (with Rod Zombie’s 31 this year) and hot up-and-comers.

So far, one of the hottest midnight titles to emerge this year is Mickey Keating’s CARNAGE PARK. An ambitious crime flick/ horror mash-up, it’s another seventies exploitation tribute, to the extent that it even starts with a TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE style disclaimer. While this psuedo-seventies aesthetic is quickly becoming a cliché, CARNAGE PARK is distinguished by Keating’s obvious flair behind the camera and some interesting performances.

The first act is terrific. While Keating’s obviously - to some degree anyway - doing Tarantino, it has energy to burn, with the premise that a bank robber named Scorpion Joe (James Landry Hébert) covered his exit by taking Ashley Bell’s innocent Vivian hostage. As unbalanced as Joe seems, he’s nothing compared to Pat Healy’s Wyatt, who hunts trespassers with his sniper rifle, has set up traps all over his fenced-in compound, and believes taking life is his right for the way he was treated after returning from the war.

Bell - of THE LAST EXORCISM - makes for a plucky heroine. She’s has a good sense of intensity and nicely imbues the character with some real southern grit - which befits the setting. However, this is Healy’s show all-the-way. He plays Wyatt as a real nut, nicely evoking seventies exploitation players like Marjoe Gortner with his twang and rangy look. Alan Ruck, of FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF also has an effective part as Wyatt’s defiantly sane and decent sheriff brother.

Keating’s given CARNAGE PARK a really nice look, mimicking the gritty, grindhouse 16mm look of classics of the era. Even better is the giallo-style Italo-exploitation score by Giona Ostinelli. However, after a really good first act, CARNAGE PARK settles into a more routine horror-thriller and really starts to run out of gas in the last act. The cat and mouse chase thing has just been done to death lately and once the crime aspect is abandoned in favor or horror it starts to feel formulaic. It started to feel very similar to the recent Michael Douglas thriller, THE REACH, only with the gore level ramped-up to eleven.

Even still, Keating shows some real promise with this, his follow-up to the well-regarded RITUAL, POD & DARLING. He definitely seems like an idiosyncratic, edgy new voice in genre cinema, although to be sure the movie is far more effective when it’s a crime thriller than as a horror flick - Healy’s creep-ed-out Wyatt aside. While it doesn’t quite work as well as it initially seems like it’s going to, CARNAGE PARK is a worthwhile, low-budget horror outing and worth keeping an eye out for.

Extra Tidbit: CARNAGE PARK hits VOD on July 1st.

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