Written and directed by Mickey Keating (His fifth feature length film.) and starring The Last Exorcism (1 & 2) actress Ashley Bell, Carnage Park feels like Rob Zombie, Quentin Tarantino and Wes Craven had an orgy and the result was this throwback horror treat. This film feels like it clawed its way out of the 1970’s and staggered bloody and torn into 2016.
Pat Healy (A personal favorite.) channels his inner Michael Rooker. His troubled Vietnam vet kills strangers who have the bad luck to stumble across his domain. (In fact this feels like the type of role that Rooker specialized in “back in the day.” Back in Michael’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer days.”)
Healy’s Wyatt Moss is armed with a sniper rifle and has booby traps set up all over his stretch of the desert. Alan Ruck plays Wyatt’s not so sharp brother who happens to be the sheriff of Macklin.
Vivian (Bell) is a farmer’s daughter who is arguing with the local loan officer in Macklin Bank. In mid insult, Scorpion Joe and his partner decide to rob the place. They take a satchel full of money and Vivian.
Similar to Tarantino’s From Dusk Till Dawn the film changes pace after it starts out to be, apparently, a heist picture. Although the film’s prologue shows Wyatt shooting an unfortunate man dead after pontificating like Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now.
The heist is shown back to front. Joe (played by James Landry Hébert) and his wounded partner are running from the sheriff of Macklin. His partner, a very large man, dies and Joe cannot dump the body by himself.
He 0pens the car’s trunk and forces Vivian to help him get the corpse out of the car. Everything goes downhill rapidly from there as shortly after Wyatt runs into Joe and Vivian.
Carnage Park feels like a splendid mix of House of a 1000 Corpses, The Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn. There is a trace of From Dusk Till Dawn in there as well as a good bit of Wolf Creek. Although Wyatt Moss is not as complex or oddly entertaining as any of the Firefly clan or Aussie madman Mick Taylor.
Ashley Bell is the Bruce Campbell (or Alison Lohman) of this picture. Her character goes through seven shades of hell in this film. Mickey Keating obviously used Sam Raimi’s treatment of Campbell as a template and ran Bell through a gauntlet of ever increasing painful scenes.
Bell’s Vivian is a tough cookie though and she fights back every inch of the way. There is very little humor in the film, except for the meeting between Vivian and the loan officer. (Not the best scene in the film but it does offer a bit of amusement.)
The struggle of Vivian to escape the madman with the rifle is painful to watch. It is not difficult to imagine that many of the cuts and scratches on the heroine were real.
Carnage Park feels like a step back in time to horror films, think Wes Craven here, that were gritty and raw. This is a real Drive-In movie theatre treat that relies heavily on the old “crazy people live in the desert” theme.
The film is not perfect. At one point a long portion of the film is set in a pitch black tunnel. Not scary so much as frustrating, this portion feels out of place. Keating does not give his audience a night vision aspect so viewers have to rely on sound to guess what is transpiring.
(Another annoying bit has to do with Sheriff Moss (Alan Ruck) and that damned “dress up” cowboy hat. It looks like the sort of thing a kid would wear on Halloween. The thing makes Ruck’s character look like the village idiot and not the town sheriff.)
Setting the picayune complaints aside, Carnage Park is a decent horror film. On a scale of one to five, Keating’s film ranks a solid four.
It will keep the viewer entertained and in those too dark moments in the tunnel, fans of the genre can count up all the other horror films that influenced Keating’s project.
On a final note: Keep an eye out for Darby Stanchfield who has a “blink and you will miss it” cameo.