Carnage Park (2016)
Reviewed for TheBluFile.com by Dustin Putman(Release Date: November 1, 2016)
When bank customer Vivian (Ashley Bell) is taken hostage following a robbery gone awry, her main concern, as one would imagine, is to survive her ordeal and escape from captors Joe Clay (James Landry Hébert) and Lenny (Michael Villar). She has no possible way of knowing an even graver threat lurks amidst the desert hills, a lunatic sniper named Wyatt Moss (Pat Healy) who has killed upwards of two dozen passersby and has no plans of putting up his gun anytime soon. Written and directed by Mickey Keating with a noirish verve reminding in its best moments of Quentin Tarantino by way of Ti West's "Trigger Man
" and Tobe Hooper's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
," "Carnage Park" tightens like a metal coil until a finale that falls mostly flat. Until this overly dark, slackly edited third act, the film has the enraptured viewer firmly in its grasp.
Ashley Bell (2013's "The Last Exorcism Part II
") is tremendous as Vivian, diving into a physically and emotionally draining lead role with the strength and cleverness to match her vulnerability. Vivian's initial financially strapped circumstancesshe is trying to save her ill father's dirt farmmust take a back seat when she is thrust into an unthinkable nightmare, and Bell carries the picture throughout. As intense and no-nonsense as the narrative is, it is also decidedly thin, even at 81 minutes. And so, while Bell and a calm-nerved, wild-eyed Pat Healy (2014's "Cheap Thrills
") make for oft-sensational adversaries, a sneaking feeling of repetitiveness enters the proceedings as these two play cat-and-mouse games amidst a dusty, remote wasteland. The third act, especially, loses some crucial urgency in its visual murkiness and too-frequent fade-in/fade-out transitions. What remains is a keen eye for performance and dialogue, and a vivid propensity for evocative, yellow-hued imagery courtesy of cinematographer Mac Fisken, all the better to slip back in time to its 1978 setting. "Carnage Park" is a solid, unsparing thriller, but its potential for greatness slips just out of grasp during its climactic stretch.
For over three-fourths of the running time, "Carnage Park" shoots up the competition with a razor-detailed 1080p transfer that lives up to its yellow-tinted digital photography. The clarity of its sun-burnt images is excellent, while dimensionality is top-notch. The red of its viscera pops and gushes all the more noticeably among the desert surroundings. When the action relocates in the third act to the underground tunnels of the sniper's lair, the transfer struggles to keep up with low light levels. Heavy banding verging on pixelation rears its irksome head, while black levels turn muddy and gray. Until this segment, the high-def picture is frequently stunning to look at. The technical issues near the end, however, knock the overall presentation down a notch. The superb 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio has no such pitfalls. This is a powerful lossless mix from beginning to end, creating an immersive aura with its juggling of music, sound effects and dialogue that puts all of its surround channels to potent use.
- Theatrical Trailer (1:46, HD)
"Carnage Park" premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival to mostly positive notices, and was quickly snatched up by IFC Midnight. Scream Factory's Blu-ray release should earn it some new fans who may have missed the film during its limited theatrical run. Though the movie overall is imperfect, when it works, it works like gangbusters, delivering copious thrills and a heavy dose of tautly modulated suspense. Additionally, Ashley Bell is fantastic in the lead role. "Carnage Park" is very light on extras, but the film is worth seeking out on its own merits. Recommended.