J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

SXSW ’16: Carnage Park

At the Oscars, Chris Rock demonstrated racism directed towards Asians is still perfectly acceptable in Hollywood. In a similarly depressing development, Mickey Keating’s latest retro exploitation offering proves prejudice against Vietnam era veterans also encounters little or no objections within the film industry. Brace yourself for yet another bulging-eyed psycho killer vet when Keating’s Carnage Park screens at this year’s SXSW.

For Vivian Fontaine, this will be one of those frying-pan-into-the-fire sort of days. While getting turned down for a loan to save her family farm (and sexually harassed in the process), Fontaine is taken hostage by two knuckle-dragging bank robbers. Unfortunately, Scorpion Joe’s partner is rapidly expiring. He will be the lucky one.

Scorpion Joe manages to give the deputies the slip, but he does so by barging onto the desert survivalist compound of Wyatt Moss, who has recently returned from Vietnam in even worse mental condition than when he left. Apparently, Moss has been hunting stranded motorists like he’s a Rob Zombie character and every day is Halloween (frankly, Carnage made 31 look classy in comparison when they played at Sundance).

Of course, Moss has plans for the chloroformed Fontaine, as she quickly deduces after waking up handcuffed to Scorpion Joe’s decapitated body (it doesn’t even make sense for a hunter to opt for the less sporty quarry). Basically, she will be on her own, unless Moss’s ineffectual brother, who also happens to be the ineffectual sheriff, finally starts to man-up. In fact, it will be Fontaine who tries to protect a previous victim still writhing in a bear trap.

Thank you so much Mickey Keating smearing the uniformed veterans who served and sacrificed for their country during a time of war. Really, you shouldn’t have. Sure there is a sad tradition of the Vietnam vet exploitation horror film, but that does not mean he needed to perpetuate it. There is also a tradition of blackface comedy, but nobody therefore expects a reboot of Amos & Andy.

To be fair, the opening titles are pretty cool in an old school exploitation kind of way, but it all goes south from there. Ill-advisedly, Pat Healey seems to go out of his way to emphasize the twitchy, drawling, tic-ish stereotypes that make Moss so offensive. In contrast, Ashley Bell is perfectly professional running for her life as Fontaine. Larry Fessenden offers a bit of grizzly character as the poor sod who managed to get his chest caught in the trap at an inexplicable angle. However, there is nothing remotely credible about the decent good old boy sheriff reluctantly casting a blind eye on his brother’s killing spree.

This is just a bad movie. Frankly, it is almost impossible to discern Jack Straw once Fontaine descends into Moss’s tunnels, but by that point, nobody cares anymore. You are just waiting for Carnage to end, so you can start complaining about. The combination of predictable and offensive just doesn’t cut it. Absolutely not recommended under any circumstances, Carnage Park screens again this Tuesday (3/15) and Friday (3/18), during this year’s SXSW.

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