You don’t watch a film like Carnage Park for the ground-breaking story, you watch for the nostalgic look and feel of the film. Certainly, one could say it is a homage to Tarantino or more appropriately seedy ’70s exploitation films, but the film actually does stand on its own.
Basically, two bank robbers take a young woman hostage and escape into the desert, trespassing on the property of a psychopath. Psycho enjoys hunting people and is really good at it. Predictably, he decides that the bank robbers and their hostage are part of his next hunt. The story isn’t told linearly, but through a series of flashbacks that keep the story interesting, as you watch poor actress Ashley Bell wander around a deserted land of horrors. Actor Pat Healy plays our bad guy, a Vietnam veteran who is in serious need for some psychiatric help with his post-traumatic stress disorder.
The film’s characters are all interesting and multi-faceted. The story being told is much deeper than just pretty girl gets chased by madman, however the story isn’t what got me to purchase a ticket to Carnage Park. The film is beautifully shot with a ’70s filter that gives every frame a little extra depth. From the title card to the sweeping desert shots, you feel as if you are looking at old photographs telling you the story of one girl’s plight 40 years ago. I don’t feel as if the grindhouse look and obvious feel was just for marketing, but rather a way to tell a story, set in a different time. Sure, the feel of the film is fun, but it’s also a very effective method to immerse you in a different time period. To simply call this film a homage to the glory days of grindhouse is a mistake, as this film is original, well shot and does not rely on just outrageous violence to carry the story. It’s certainly a mistake to write this film off as unoriginal nostalgic fodder, even if you, like me, tuned in for the nostalgia factor.
The problem with Carnage Park is the last third part of the film, where it starts to feel as if perhaps there isn’t quite enough story to make it to the finish line. The director crosses the line between thrilling crime story and horror, and at times this causes the story to get lost. For instance, we only get tidbits of our bad guy’s backstory, which is great for horror, but less great when you are telling a gripping crime drama. However, I personally don’t see this as much of a drawback to the film.
All in all, I give this film 3-and-a-half stars out of five. It isn’t a film for everyone, that’s for sure. However, those who enjoy grindhouse movies will find this film to be a well thought out, deliberately shot, self-aware movie that’s a refreshing addition to the genre.
Carnage Park is currently streaming on Netflix.