Mickey Keating has just been tearing through the genre over the last few years—releasing Ritual, Pod, Darling, and now Carnage Park in short order—with no signs of slowing down. But one of the great things about Keating and all of his films is that none are alike, each exploring very different corners of the genre. Carnage Park is exactly that, too—it’s Keating at his most stylish, dishing out a film unlike anything he’s done yet. In it, after botching an ill-conceived bank robbery in a desolate California town, two wannabe crooks flee the scene with a hostage and lead the local lawmen on a dangerous high-speed chase.
This is a pretty crazy little film from Keating, and for my money it’s his best film yet. Carnage Park is brimming with style and personality, it has a lightning quick start and a phenomenal lead in Ashley Bell—all of which creates a wonderfully tense, kick-ass-cool thriller that really lives up to its name. The soundtrack is amazing, too, perfectly humming against the ’70s backdrop as Keating sets up his cat-and-mouse tale from hell. And it’s all thrown right at the viewer almost immediately, which I love, leaving almost no time to get comfortable as it starts with a car blazing through a desolate stretch of highway.
The problem, however, is that the film sort of plateaus about halfway through after such a promising start—which is a bummer, too, because the first act is absolutely stunning. I think the problem came from the second half turning into something that feels very been-there-done-that, whereas the opposite could be said for the first 45 minutes or so. And it’s not like that’s necessarily a bad thing—I mean, the movie is still pretty solid the whole way through—but it certainly leaves you wanting just a little more, and I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by that.
Another thing that I struggled with was the villain, played by the great Pat Healy, who just never feels like a menacing force in the movie—he’s basically a one-dimensional psycho with a rifle that shoots at everything that comes near his land. And while I like the seemingly randomness of the violence, he just never stands out in the movie. Ashley Bell, however, is so strong here that she more than makes up for it, really propelling the film by going from damsel to badass in quick order.
So while the film treads mostly familiar ground and the second half struggles to deliver, Carnage Park is still a very solid outing from Keating who is only getting better with each and every film—it’s really just a matter of time before he puts all the pieces together and delivers his masterpiece. It’s endlessly violent, stylish as all hell, and has a wonderful lead in Ashley Bell that make Carnage Park a fun summertime thriller.