Carnage Park, the new film written and directed by Mickey Keating, is an unrepentant throwback to both the independent crime and horror cinema of the ’70s. Though shot on a relatively low budget, Keating and cinematographer Mac Fisken make the most of the California desert to craft a beautiful film that is only enhanced by the performances of Ashley Bell as Vivian, James Landry Hébert as Scorpion Joe, Alan Ruck as Sheriff Moss, and especially Pat Healy as deranged killer Wyatt Moss. We even get a cameo by Larry Fessenden, and that’s always welcome. In a manner similar to genre classic From Dusk Till Dawn, Carnage Park takes a dramatic narrative twist once it has established what we think is going on (although it’s nowhere near as drastic as introducing a bar full of vampires). After a very enigmatic opening monologue by Healy over shots of the California landscape, the film opens with a shout-out to Reservoir Dogs as Scorpion Joe drives the getaway car and his best friend and partner Lenny (Michael Villar) writhes in the backseat, bleeding and gutshot after a botched bank robbery. The year is 1978, and this is supposedly based on a true story. To be honest, that claim always makes me a little leery, but I saw it as an homage to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to be honest. And there will be more of that to come. As we flash back to the beginning of the robbery, Hébert lights up the screen with a charismatic performance that establishes Scorpion Joe as a character we want to see more of. He pictures himself as a Robin Hood or Clyde Barrow and Hébert is up to the task of making the character seem like an anti-hero in the making. But that is not to be. There’s a lot of flashy editing for scene transitions and the music choices are fantastic (especially the Vietnamese pop songs in the late portion of the film), making Carnage Park move a lot smoother and more quickly than you realize. And once Pat Healy’s Wyatt Moss is introduced, things take a darker turn for our hostage/heroine Vivian. When the big shift occurs, the film switches from a crime story to something more along the lines of survival horror as Wyatt (a Vietnam Vet with a helluva knack for sniper shooting) hunts Vivian across the fenced off landscape, while we wait and see if Wyatt’s brother, the local sheriff is willing to step up and do his job. Ruck is solid as the sheriff, especially as he rehearses what he would say when the FBI finally figure out that Wyatt is a danger to everyone around him, but it is Healy’s Wyatt that is central to making this film work. After watching this, I’m convinced that Healy can play any role at any time. He has the ability to not only be menacing and downright scary, but there’s a weird tragic element to Wyatt. He’s alone and broken and gonna kill some motherfuckers. It’s a delicate balancing act, but Healy pulls it off flawlessly. Bell’s Vivian ably carries a large part of the film, but it would have been stronger if she did more than spend most of the time running through the landscape screaming before finally standing her ground and facing off against Wyatt (in his vintage gas mask?). Unfortunately, what should be a horrifying and tense final sequence – a sequence clearly paying homage to Silence of the Lambs but without the benefit of night vision goggles – ends up incomprehensible as the darkness of mysterious underground tunnels overwhelms everything, and the viewer has to rely on sound effects and bare glimmers of movement to figure out what’s happening. It’s a disappointing ending to an otherwise very satisfying film. Carnage Park opens Friday, July 1 in New York at the IFC Center and on all VOD platforms. It opens in Los Angeles on July 8 at Laemmle’s Noho 7. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.