With a name like Carnage Park it can’t possibly suck, right? We put the catchy horror title to the test and find snipers, descents into madness and a minefield of bear traps.
| Wanna watch? Carnage Park is currently streaming on Netflix |
When you watch a horror movie trailer, you never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes, it’s a mini showing of the entire movie. These are the worst — they show the best parts and when you realize it partway through, it’s a rather disappointing movie experience. Others are subtle, almost nothing, barely hinting at something lurking beneath the surface. Most fall somewhere in the middle, setting up the premise, giving you a few jumps and leaving you thirsty for more. And while that model works well enough, sometimes the trailer ends up being really different from the actual movie itself.
This is the case with Carnage Park. I stumbled upon this title while surfing through my Netflix menus. The little synopsis intrigued me, so I pulled up the trailer on YouTube. It went down well and I finally hit play, settling into the couch and sipping my beer.
What I really like about Carnage Park is that it does start off like another movie, like the movie you expect from the trailer. After a prelude of a dude getting shot super dead, our story truly begins in the middle of some more carnage, obviously, as a car veers down the highway with sirens chasing it. Scorpion Joe (James Landry Hebert) is at the wheel, driving one-handed while trying to help out Lenny (Michael Villar), his partner in crime. The duo has just robbed a bank but it went less-than-perfectly, as Lenny has been shot.
When Scorpion Joe finally pulls off on a side road and gets out to check the back seat, Lenny has died from his bullet wound. RIP Lenny, we hardly knew ye. Then there’s a knocking from the trunk, and we are introduced to a somewhat hysterical Vivian (Ashley Bell, who has several horror films on her resume, plus some appearances in The Walking Dead). Poor Vivian gets to help Scorpion Joe roll his dead friend’s rotund body into a ditch, then (unwillingly) takes shotgun as he drives off again.
They trade insults back and forth, then a blown-out tire makes them pull over. Vivian’s escape attempts have earned her the unenviable position of being handcuffed to the steering wheel. Scorpion Joe inspects the tire, finds a bullet embedded in it, then foolishly challenges the hidden sniper to take him on. Scorpion Joe’s head explodes against the driver’s side window as Vivian screams. RIP Scorpion Joe, we knew ye enough to not like ye very much.
Shortly, the sniper reveals himself, walking up to the car and observing the handcuffed Vivian. She tries to explain herself to her would-be rescuer, and here is where things turn away from what you thought you knew after the trailer. Sniper-guy is Wyatt Moss (Pat Healy) and he doesn’t seem to buy Vivian’s claims of innocence, spouting off serial killer-type talk about how everyone thinks they’re innocent but they’re not. Then he whips out some chloroform and Vivian takes a nap.
I definitely thought the movie was going to be about Vivian teaming up with her captors to survive the sniper stalker. However, it turns out to be more of a single-survivor story, as Vivian wakes up in an abandoned lot and wanders about, confused. She’s drawn to a tall plywood bulletin-board looking thing, with a Victrola in front of it. For lack of anything better to do, she plays the record on the Victrola, which starts this freaky air-siren wailing sound. Then there’s a crack, and the sound of impact. A small hole appears in the plywood near her head. Crack crack — two more holes appear, moving closer to her. She realizes she’s being sniped and makes a run for it as the bullets kick up dust around her.
Vivian runs through the desert scrubland, hiding from the sniper as he hunts her. Along the way she finds some pretty messed-up stuff that shows she isn’t his first victim — by a long shot (ha). She comes across bodies tied to posts, straight-up executed. She finds a half-dead woman in the brush, who quickly becomes fully dead. She even finds a guy with his foot caught in a bear trap in a lot with bodies of gutted, abandoned cars lying around (reminiscent of the car graveyard in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre). She does a disgustingly bad job of freeing the guy’s mangled foot from the trap (they use up a lot of their blood budget with this scene) and they show this amazing close-up shot of her nearly bare foot, running past a number of open bear traps, that just makes you cringe.
Meanwhile, we get some background on Wyatt, who is brothers with the sheriff, and they are definitely not on good terms. The sheriff warns that two bank robbers have kidnapped a local girl that the nearby populace will be quite upset over if she doesn’t return. We get a few flashbacks, too, of Vivian going into the bank that was robbed and arguing for a loan from the dickish banker to save the family farm.
As time goes on, Vivian goes more and more Rambo, at one point ambushing the sniper who’s walking around the desert in full Army clothes and a gas mask, stabbing him with a stick and shooting him right in the head/chest area. This is one of my main beefs with the movie in that: 1) she didn’t double check that he was fully dead, and 2) that a shot point-blank to the gas mask didn’t kill him.
Things worsen as she finds Wyatt’s murder cabin, sneaks around inside, and then hears someone sneaking up on the door. She gets stabby with a pair of scissors only to realize that it’s the sheriff, not Wyatt. D’oh! (It’s also reminiscent of my least-favorite scene of The Descent. Girl, you do not want to channel Juno, trust me!)
Wyatt returns to the cabin (though we only hear him, we don’t see him) and the stalking gets more intense, as Vivian makes the ill-informed decision to go into a trapdoor in the murder cabin, which leads into Vietnam-style tunnels. There’s lots of flickering lights and Wyatt apparently has a sound system down there. It plays all these weird snippets of dialogue and soundtracks from Army movies. He also has a lot of creepy dolls lying around, which, if you weren’t sure about hating him before…
I actually had a stop the movie with five minutes left to go meet a friend, so I returned and watched the last bit hours later, so maybe that affected how I felt about the ending. Vivian kind of descends into madness, and hunches down and just waits out all the weird sounds and shadow stalking from Wyatt. Just when you think it’s going to be a fade-to-black-lost-in-the-dark-The-Descent kind of ending, morning comes and a shaft of light breaks through the shadows, leading Vivian up to the surface. She staggers out of a mine entrance, laughing raggedly to herself, and we pan up to the horizon.
So while I wasn’t expecting this type of movie, I definitely liked it. I think it would be cool to have a movie where the kidnappers and the kidnapped have to work together to survive — in fact, I think I’ve seen one, but I can’t remember which that would be at the moment. But this one was cool too. I just think the end was a little vague, though I guess you could argue that she went crazy after killing the sheriff and imagined being chased by Wyatt through the tunnels. That might be an interesting take. Either way, it was definitely a fun way to spend an afternoon, and I am going to avoid going into a bank for a while anyway, just in case.