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Carnage Park (Blu-ray Review)

Carnage-ParkThe continued pairing/relationship of IFC Midnight and Scream Factory of bringing some independent, lesser seen modern horror films continues with the film Carnage Park.  This one stars horror genre vets Pat Healy (Starry Eyes, Cheap Thrills, The Innkeepers) and Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism).  Directing and also writing the film is up and coming genre player Mickey Keating.  He’s been making his presence known lately with films like Pod and Darling.  Carnage Park is the latest and its made its way through big time festivals like South By Southwest and that little one known as the Sundance Film Festival.  The throwback film makes its way to the Blu-ray format on November 1st!

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Film 

It’s 1978 and a bank robbery gone wrong forces two criminals to take a hostage – the young-but-resilient Vivian – as they go on the run. But things go from bad to off-the-rails berserk when Vivian and her captors wind up in the crosshairs of a deranged ex-military sniper, who ensnares them in his deadly game of cat and mouse.

What initially had me attracted to Carnage Park was actor Pat Healy.  I’ve been a really big fan of his since I saw him in Ti West’s The Innkeepers many moons ago.  He also kicked plenty of ass in a terrific dark comedy thriller Cheap Thrills that I highly recommend.  Here in this film he’s sort of all around it as a psycho military vet picking off people in the desert.  Healy chews the scenery as expected and fully commits to this role.  It’d be easy for an actor to go over the top with this and lose the integrity of the film, but Healy manages to keep this thing in line and on track while having a bunch of fun.

Carange Park, on its surface, is an obvious throwback to these sort of roadtrip horror films and grindhouse desert features from yesteryear.  However, the film doesn’t sit and harp on that, doing its own thing.  It may have a guideline for its look and feel, but its not afraid to only use that to suggestion and uses more modern techniques and choices than anything else.  By doing that, its much more entertaining and really captures the essence and spirit of what its paying tribute to and excelling where just trying to copy would have not made much of an impact as this did.

This film is a chase film with a unique little “Most Dangerous Game” twist on it.  We pretty much watch Ashley Bell get hunted by a sniper in the desert mountains for a good 80 minutes.  The film also exercises making interesting narrative decisions, deciding to fill us in on the backstory on how people got to this point throughout certain moments in the film’s first and second act.  These serves as good tension breakers and allow a nice rest from some of the intensity going on for most of it.  As the film keeps going, the settings do get more intense, more creepy and more sinister.

I had a lot of fun with Carnage Park.  More than I expected to.  It features rock solid performances from its leads Ashley Bell and Pat Healy (With cameos from Alan Ruck and Larry Fassenden).  The look, feel and effectiveness of this movie lead me to believe its director is on the cusp of doing some really terrific things in his career.  We’ll have to see.  But speaking of see, see this one.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail:  While Carnage Park‘s aesthetic wipes out a lot of the color, this image is still an impressively crisp and detailed one.  The picture is sharp and feels very intricate when it comes to the textures and little patterns or details on objects.  Seeing the makeup of ratty bushes, dirt trails or even the dust patterns and finger prints on the cop car keep the image afloat with a nice look.  A scene features a man with his foot caught in a bear trap and you can make out the rust from the dirt on it as well as see the wetness, blood stains and dirt buildup on the jeans of the victim.  This goes along with a lot of detail in the film of old beat up or shiny new classic cars from the era appropriate 1970s.

Depth:  This film features some pretty solid depth work, with the mountaious scenes looking spacious and free.  Backgournd detail to the mountains is pretty nifty, sifting through trees and trials.  Clouds show up solid in the sky as well.  Character movements are smooth and free of any attachment to the backdrop.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and carry many a shade and tint.  Detail on black objects, like the mask and sniper rifle carry on with dirt specs, scratches and more.  No crushing was witnessed during the viewing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are pretty much washed out here.  Its not a big deal as this takes pace in the desert, dealing with a lot of shades of brown.  Characters don’t really wear too colorful of clothing either.  The biggest stand out is the red light on the police care and some blood that manages to keep its brighter effectiveness among the bleached looking picture.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones, like everything else, are bleached out having everyone pale as ever in this transfer.  The look is consistent throughout the feature.  From most any distance you can see facial details like freckles, moles, wrinkles, smeared masquera, dried blood, dirt and little facial bumps.

Noise/Artifacts: Majority clean, there was some slight noise I noticed during a really brief shot of the sky at one point.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English, Spanish

Dynamics:  Carnage Park comes with a pretty rock solid 5.1 mix that has a clarity and full sounding impact to it.  There is a nice whispy, free sounding feel to the film with this track.  Foley effects like gun shots, bullets, bear traps and other things are layered, full and detailed in their audibility.  There is a free nature in relation to the balance between the vocals, score and effects in the film.  Each is given a chance to the shine, with a heavy hitting score, and not cross in the way of one another.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  The subwoofer is mostly called into action to hit beats in the film’s score and add to some jumpy moments.  There is some added punch to gunshots, but not much (Not a problem as it adds to the realism of what they are trying to do with it).  One scene has a generator running that keeps the sub active within the moment.

Surround Sound Presentation:  The carnage in the film is kept mainly to the front three channels for this film.  The rear speakers do get some moments (Bullets whizzing by), but mainly hold true to ambiance and help with the score.  Front speakers pull a good accuracy in action/dialogue placement and movement in according to what is happening on screen.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is set to a nice high level and is always clear and audible at any given time in the film.  Even the megaphone voice features nice crisp distortion and clarity.

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Extras 

Carnage Park features a reversible cover displaying alternate poster artwork.

Trailer (HD, 1:46)

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Summary 

Carnage Park is a fun little throwback to the Grindhouse thrillers of yesteryear while carving its own path and not sitting and harping on trying to check things off a list to pay homage to.  Its Blu-ray release features some really terrific video detail to go along with a solid 5.1 audio presentation.  Unfortunately, your only extras are a trailer and the ability to flip the cover insert inside out.  However, its a film that I definitely recommend checking out if you’re a fan of roadtrip horror grindhouse features.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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