Carnage Park (2016)
I got to see an advance screening of this film at IFC Center here in NYC. Written and directed by Mickey Keating, this film felt 100% different from the last film of his I saw, called Darling. Darling was a small production, taking place almost exclusively in a building in Manhattan. It was black and white, simple, and more like a modern day Repulsion. This movie is as different from that as possible. This movie was of a much larger budget, the set being an expansive desert, and the colors and production much more grand. In fact the whole movie was on a grand scale, most likely an attempt to prove that small indie movies can feel like larger productions on a small budget.
In this Tarantino-esque crime/action/horror movie, the plot is reminiscent of many different movies, with two guys on the run from the law after robing a bank. They take a female hostage and they end up in what looks like what Leatherface and his family would build if they were in the desert and wanted to have an amusement park of horrors.
The bulk of this movie falls on the shoulders of Ashley Bell, who is best known as Nell in the Last Exorcism movies, the first and the sequel. She does a fine job of being angry, scared, tired, and worn out all while running through the desert in a cute dress. She is good in this role, and I am sure she will be acting for a long while. The psychopath to her damsel in distress is played by Pat Healy, who is channeling his inner Dale Gribble, psycho mode. Or your creepy uncle who talks of God and America and conspiracies who you desperately want to get away from at the family picnic. Larry Fessenden, NYC actor, director and producer, has a cameo as well. Lastly, we are treated with a supporting role by Alan Ruck, best known as Ferris Bueller's best friend.
The directing is good, though at times you feel like the movie is trying to be some other movie, but as time goes on it works through that and feels like its own movie. The cinematography is beautiful, all the shots look amazing, the desert has never been more creepy. One of the most amazing things about this movie is the soundtrack and sound design. Using at least one song I recognized, a couple that sounded like they may be trying to sound like other songs, and these weird sounding Thai pop songs that sound like they are from the 1960s, it all blends together with the sound effects, desert sounds, and creepy laughter to form one of the best sound mixes I have heard in years. In a couple years I may not remember much of the movie, but the sounds will be in my head for a long time.
After the movie there was a Q&A with Ashley Bell and Larry Fessenden, moderated by Michael Gingold, former editor of Fangoria Magazine. There were some fun stories told, a few laughs, and all in all it was an enjoyable evening.
7 out of 10 stars for the movie.