A heist gone wrong leads to hostage taking, and then, during the getaway, the guilty and innocent alike encounter a much greater threat. Sounds a bit like Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn, but it’s that movie’s screenwriter, Quentin Tarantino, whose moves director Mickey Keating is cribbing in Carnage Park.
There are freeze-frame character intros, out-of-sequence storytelling, even a slow-motion strut toward a robbery. The only truly satisfying QT riff, however, is an audio cue: The soundtrack (mostly Seventies, of course, though to be fair, the film is set in 1978) serves up Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John,” and the booming backup vocals dwarf Alan Ruck’s ineffective sheriff as he’s introduced. The sheriff’s brother, a deranged Army sniper (Patrick Healy), is a combat-scarred cliché who abducts and terrorizes people who drive past his desert refuge.
The story never resolves the conflict between the men, but some things work: As kidnap-victim Vivian, Ashley Bell is determined and resourceful, and the film displays some gory wit during both a sequence in which she wakes up handcuffed to a lurching corpse and the clever reveal of a trapdoor. Still, much of Carnage Park is merely a sun-bleached desert creepshow, a murky soup of a murderer toying with his victims simply because he’s cra-a-azy.
Written and directed by Mickey Keating
Opens July 1, IFC Center
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 29, 2016