Film Festival Movie Review

Film Review: CARNAGE PARK: 70’s Pulp Evokes the Macabre [Sundance 2016]

Ashley Bell Carnage Park

Carnage Park (2016) Film Review from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, a movie directed by Mickey Keating, starring Ashley BellPat Healy, Alan RuckDarby StanchfieldJames Landry Hebert, and Larry Fessenden.

Opening dubiously with the claim that what is contained within the film is “…the most bizarre episode in the annals of American crime”, director Mickey Keating over-promises what is about to be delivered. What is delivered, however, is more than sufficient to entertain an audience, particularly genre fans, for ninety minutes.

The premise (like that of most horror films) is fairly simple. We join Vivian Fontaine (Ashley Bell) as she is taken hostage by two criminals, Scorpion Joe (James Landry Hebert) and Lenny (Michael Villar), following a bank heist. After a high-speed chase gone awry, they find themselves having inadvertently entered Carnage Park, a vast, seemingly endless swath of land wherein an ex-militant, Wyatt Moss (Pat Healy), hunts human prey and collects their ears as trophies. Survival is anything but guaranteed, and Vivian must outsmart her assailant if she is to make it out alive.

The film is clearly in B-movie territory, a smart and assured choice by Keating. The highly-stylized pulp is on full display with a vintage touch. A washed-out color palette consists of mostly yellows and browns, and a non-linear storyline heightens the tension. While it’s a bit over-the-top (seizure-inducing title and transition sequences come to mind), it successfully manages to avoid being off-putting, or worse, downright silly – a marvelous feat for a film of this nature. (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 didn’t fare as well in that department.)

Much is hinted at without being explored in full, a disappointment due to the many opportunities to expand on rich, interesting ideas. The relationship between Wyatt and his brother, the town’s sheriff, is briefly explored, but not many answers are given as to exactly why the sheriff’s department looks the other way when it comes to Wyatt’s extra-curricular activities. In addition, while wandering the property, Vivian happens upon Wyatt’s shed, a glorious torture chamber of sorts that is wasted by way of a rush to the next thrilling and ultraviolent sequence.

It may not be the most satisfying of horror films (an unresolved ending takes the blame), but it sure is a thrilling ride and unlike anything the genre has seen in a while. As a result, it feels fresh, exciting, and different, and that is welcome any day of the week.

Carnage Park is screening at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival in the non-competitive Midnight category and has been acquired by Content Media for U.S. distribution.


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Image Source: Sundance Institute

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About the author

Drew Stelter

Drew is a 26-year-old film buff. A native Utahan, he attends the Sundance Film Festival annually. He is a member of the Salt Lake Film Society. In a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he attended the Oscars Red Carpet on March 2, 2014, after winning an essay contest through the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. At any given time he can be expected to be conversing via movie quote GIFs.

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