Carnage Park exists in a sun-drenched hellscape where the 1970s never ended. It’s like a post-apocalypse where the new world order was modeled after Mad Max, spaghetti westerns and slasher flicks. As part of the wave of exploitation throwback flicks that fuse modern digital filmmaking technologies and techniques with the rough and in-your-face subject matter of the grindhouse era, Carnage Parks accordingly feels just as indebted to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes as it is to the work of Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth. The result is a mixed bag of blood and perspiration.
The unpredictability of the film’s first act (where director Mickey Keating fuses styles, shifts protagonists and sets up intriguing set-pieces) is unfortunately lost by Carnage Park’s rote and droll climax, with our heroine forced to stumble through a haunted house walkthrough complete with jump scares, frustratingly unlit passages, and the audio assault of what comes dangerously close to emulating one of those spooky sounds compilation CDs. Even if the stylish editing early in the film (usually paired alongside offbeat music choices and occasionally slow-motion photography) proposes a film that teases and subverts its audience, like many horror movies Carnage Park can’t help but devolve into a traditional killer-stalks-the-girl finale.
Keating (along with cinematographer Mac Fisken) certainly proves his ability to create a visual cohesiveness throughout a project, with the saturated and musty heat-stricken cinematography capturing an apt and emotionally dark portrayal of the American desert fit for the digital age. Also worth noting is some fine-tuned and subtle production design from Angel Herrera, featuring bones tied to rusted fences, curling barbed wire, and graffiti-covered wood sure to inflict splinters and stuck-out nails upon anyone foolish enough to get up close.
In a landscape that includes not only the aforementioned Tarantino and Roth, but Ti West, Peter Strickland, Jason Eisener, and Adam Wingard–among others–Carnage Park will be fighting tooth and nail for attention from genre fanatics. While films of this sort sometimes have a tendency to over articulate the tropes of grindhouse moviemaking, consequently coming across as juvenile and postured, Carnage Park is far more sure-footed in its approach. Considering that even the best films of this type (i.e. West’s House of the Devil) regularly succumb to disappointing-third-act-syndrome, the positives and negatives of Carnage Park are easy to understand. Despite the flaws one might find, it is a film that comes across as a sincere creation of an impassioned genre fan who has some talent to back it up.
Carnage Park is far from perfect, but it’s sincerely sweaty nonetheless. You can check it out on VOD beginning July 1, 2016.
WICKED RATING: [usr 5]
Director(s): Mickey Keating
Writer(s): Mickey Keating
Stars: Ashley Bell, Pat Healy, James Landry Hébert, Michael Villar, Alan Ruck, Larry Fessenden
Release: July 1, 2016
Studio / Production Co: Diablo Entertainment / IFC Midnight
Length: 90 mins