Saturday, October 21, 2017

#2,445. Carnage Park (2016)

Directed By: Mickey Keating

Starring: Ashley Bell, Pat Healy, James Landry Hébert

Tag line: "Out here, God don't pick no favorites"

Trivia: Was nominated for Best Horror Film at the 2017 iHorror Awards

Writer / director Mickey Keating’s Carnage Park is a throwback in more ways than one, fusing the flashy cinematic techniques of the Tarantino-esque ‘90s with a very ‘70s tale of terror. It’s a unique combination, but Keating somehow makes it work.

The year is 1978. Recent prison escapees Scorpion Joe Clay (James Landry Hebert) and Larry (Michael Villar) hold up a bank in a small California town. But the heist goes very, very wrong; Larry is shot in the gut, and to help them get away they take Vivian Fontaine (Ashley Bell) hostage, tossing her in the trunk of their car before speeding off.

To give the cops the slip, Scorpion Joe veers off the main road. Unfortunately, his little detour cuts straight through land owned by Wyatt Moss (Pat Healy), a reclusive Vietnam veteran who, to put it mildly, does not take kindly to trespassers.

When the smoke clears, Vivian finds herself all alone in the middle of the desert. To make matters worse, she will have to somehow make her way across Wyatt's property if she's to have any chance of surviving this terrifying ordeal, knowing full well the psychotic Wyatt is watching her every step of the way.

There’s more to Carnage Park than the above synopsis would lead you to believe, and some notable stars turn up in supporting roles, including Alan Ruck (Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) as Sheriff Moss, Wyatt’s brother, who is torn between duty and family loyalties; and Larry Fessenden as Travis, one of the many poor souls who wishes they had never wandered onto Wyatt’s land.

As for the main cast, James Landry Hebert delivers a bravura performance as the slightly deranged Scorpion Joe, and both Ashley Bell and Pat Healy are strong as the film’s two leads (Bell is especially good as Vivian, who, though an unwilling participant in the whole affair, proves time and again that she can take care of herself).

Stylistically, Carnage Park borrows heavily from Reservoir Dogs and (eventually) Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (Kudos to Horror Movie Podcast’s own Jay of the Dead, who pointed out this very connection on Episode 93). The Reservoir Dogs influence can be seen early on, when Scorpion Joe and his bank robbery take center stage. There’s even a scene set inside a car that is sure to remind you of a similar moment in Dogs. This, plus the flair that Keating brings to each and every scene (the non-linear structure, random slow-motion, snappy dialogue, over-the-top violence, etc), owes quite a bit to Tarantino’s debut feature.

Then, once the action shifts to Wyatt’s little corner of the desert, Carnage Park takes on a distinctively ‘70s vibe, with Vivian encountering one horrific sight after another as Wyatt watches her from afar (much like the mutated killers do to the Carter family in Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, which was released in 1977, a year before Carnage Park is set).

Taking into account its cinematic influences, as well as the straightforward nature of its story, one might argue that Carnage Park is an exercise in style over substance. But that style, which owes a great deal to the films and filmmakers that came before, is itself enough to make this movie a worthwhile experience.

No comments: