Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its sixth year in October! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down to my favorite horror film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days. That said, there were more on this list that DID have a theatrical run than in previous years which means the horror genre does seem to be on the upswing. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video On Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay or digital download.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st, 2015 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column five years ago!) and worked and reworked the list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth nothing or missed being on the list by a little bit for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
CARNAGE PARK (2016)Directed by Mickey Keating
Written by Mickey Keating
Starring Ashley Bell, Pat Healy, James Landry Hébert, Michael Villar, Bob Bancroft, Larry Fessenden, Andy Greene, Alan Ruck, Graham Skipper, Darby Stanchfield
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
While the film is derivative of many a movie you’re bound to know, CARNAGE PARK offers up a glimpse of what DARLING and POD director Mickey Keating is capable of given a bigger budget. Keating keeps things relatively small scale, but still manages to get great performances out of his actors as well as keeps the pace of this gory heist road movie at a breakneck pace.
A pair of villainous types make their way through a desert, one of them is shot and screaming and everything from the way the shot is set up to the dialog is straight out of RESERVIOR DOGS. Apart from Keating’s previous works, where there are similarities to other films such as REPULSION with DARLING, this homage is obvious as it apes the opening scene of this iconic movie. With this scene, some folks might scoff at Keating for imitating a truly iconic movie. Personally, I think this is where the genius lays in CARNAGE PARK. It definitely pays homage to films like RESERVOIR DOGS (which in itself is an homage to many a film), but it also plays with those expectations one might have with these films. Just when you think you know where this film is going to go, Keating veers off course and turns all expectation ass-upwards. Keating is paying homage more to the films that inspired Tarantino like Fredrick R. Friedel’s AXE and KIDNAPPED COED here and that distinction makes CARNAGE PARK so much more than a knockoff one might have found in the bargain bin at Blockbuster in the nineties. Keating’s film has a grit to it, from the choice of secluded desert scenery for the bulk of the film to the grimy way the caracters portray themselves, to the warped music played through the loudspeaker that echoes across Wyatt Moss’ (CHEAP THRILLS and THE INNKEEPERS’ Pat Healy’s) property.
Turns out these no-goodniks have wandered onto Wyatt Moss’ property unknowlingly and he meets trespassers with the business end of a sniper rifle. After taking out the vehicle of Scorpion Joe (LOOPER’s James Landry Hébert) and the wounded Lenny (Michael Villar)—aka the two no-goodniks, we find out they have kidnapped the debutante daughter of a well to do businessman named Vivian (THE LAST EXORCISM’s Ashley Bell). Just when you think this is a movie about a kidnapping, captor and captee must team up to survive against a mad sniper (Healy). Meanwhile Wyatt’s brother (FERRIS BEULLER’S DAY OFF’s Alan Ruck) toils over whether or not his brother has finally crossed a line he cannot cover up and battles his conscience to take him out. The story turns into a cat and mouse game where Healy’s Wyatt takes aim on everyone.
It is Pat Healy who really shines in this film. Often cast as the nebbish good guy, here he is a bonafide madman, laughing at voices in his head and taking way too much joy in the hell he unleashes upon the rest of the small cast. Healy is fascinating and terrifying, in many ways like the lived in characters of Tobe Hooper’s TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. He is a character that has so much more story in him that this single nightmare allows, but gives little to nothing back in terms of how he ended up as this madman with a rifle. Ashley Bell is, as always, awesome as Vivian, somewhat pampered rich girl, freaking out from this situation, but showing a lot of gruff and tough when her predators show a moment of distraction or weakness. It is truly fascinating to follow Healy and Bell through this obstacle course from hell.
CARNAGE PARK ends abruptly. Again, harkening back to the age of rogue cinema where proper cinematic tropes are ignored. While I want to praise this film for the ballsiness of simply dropping the mic and walking away, most likely, the budget ran out and the decision to simply roll credits was necessary. Still, this reminds me of the startling endings of some of the best grindhouse films which most likely ran into the same obstacle. CARNAGE PARK is Keating’s biggest film to date and proves that he can handle the open plain as capably as he does one setting, indoors films. I hope CARNAGE PARK opens the doors for bigger budgets and bigger ideas for Keating. I loved the attitude and feel of this film which accentuates its coolness with musical beats, surprise arterial explosions, and screams for bloody murder. It’s an ode to grindhouse in the purest sense that saves the scratched film filter and goes straight for the essence of what grindhouse is all about. Highly recommended.
#29 – CARNAGE PARK
#21 – THE CONJURING 2
#22 – THE MIND’S EYE
#23 – DARLING
#24 – SUN CHOKE
#25 – THE HALLOWS
#26 – OVER YOUR DEAD BODY
#27 – SUMMER CAMP
#28 – EMELIE
#29 – BASKIN
#30 – I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
#31 – SOUTHBOUND
2015 #1 – THE CANAL
2014 #1 – PROXY
2013 #1 - MANIAC
2012 #1 – THE WOMAN
2011 #1 – THE LAST CIRCUS
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 15 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller and on his new website collecting posts for AICN HORROR as well as all of the most recent updates on his various comic book projects on MLMillerWrites.com.
A quick plug for my own work. I have a new comic book coming out this December called THE JUNGLE BOOK HOLIDAY SPECIAL: BAGHEERA’S SECRET. It’s a one shot reteaming my original JUNGLE BOOK artist Carlos Granda and myself (the same team who created PIROUETTE) and it is available to order now via Previews order# OCT162113. I’m getting pages of this book by the day and this book looks absolutely amazing so far. Fans of jungle adventure are going to love it! Please support me by telling your local comic book store to order tons of issues of this comic! Much appreciated, folks.
Look for Johnny Destructo, Stephen Andrade, Christian DiBari, and my own ramblings about random horror films on CultPop/PoptardsGo and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday (or so…)!
Finally, if you are having trouble with the text running over the images, refresh the page and that should do the trick.