Mickey Keating takes the adage “less is more” to heart in his “Carnage Park,” and it pays off pretty well.
This no-frills horror film about a murderous psycho who terrorizes people unlucky enough to wander into his corner of California hill country has no fancy special effects or supernatural goings-on. Its dialogue would probably fit on a couple of sheets of paper. But it sure is creepy, in a throwback sort of way.
The story, told in fragmentary fashion with a choppy timeline, seems briefly as if it might be a hostage tale. Two robbers (James Landry Hébert and Michael Villar) botch a bank heist and take a bystander named Vivian (Ashley Bell) with them when they flee.
But that’s just a sideshow. The felons blunder into the domain of a former military sniper (Pat Healy) who is still pretty good with a rifle. He has apparently been doing unspeakable things to people who come his way for some time. It’s “Deliverance” for the midnight-movie set, juxtaposing eerie silence and noisy slaughter.
Keating, who wrote and directed, eventually narrows the focus to Vivian, and Bell makes a fiercely determined woman in jeopardy. Alan Ruck, as the local sheriff, also adds interest.
“Carnage Park” is a deliberate effort to re-create exploitative, stalker-type scare fare of yore. It’s set in the late 1970s and uses an enjoyably garish soundtrack and a muted palette that is practically devoid of colors to help capture a grindhouse feel. The story’s mighty sparse, but it’s unnerving nonetheless.
(At Screenland Crossroads.)
Not rated. Time: 1:30.