An uneasy dread hangs over "Sunset Edge," a densely atmospheric portrait of disaffected youth by artist-filmmaker Daniel Peddle that flouts preconceived notions at every unconventional turn.
Set at an abandoned trailer park in rural North Carolina, the genre-defying film initially follows bored, cellphone-toting teens (Jacob Kristian Ingle, William Dickerson, Haley McKnight and Blaine Edward Pugh) whiling away a summer afternoon rummaging through the already ransacked homes.
Attention then shifts to a socially outcast young man (sensitively played by Gilberto Padilla) who makes a disturbing discovery about his past.
It's inevitable that the twin stories will intersect in the third act. Despite the teasing psychological thriller overtones, most expectations are upended.
The film, tonally reminiscent of 1987's "River's Edge," sets a hauntingly evocative stage with its images of rot and decay (poetically photographed by Karim Lopez) and a naturalistic soundtrack that heightens the Southern Gothic feel with buzzing insects, insistent breezes and dry, crunching grass.
But Peddle has more in mind than creating a stylized mood. His first narrative feature makes some astute observations about adolescence and identity, including that of the culturally shifting American South, in a way that is at once immediate and timeless.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.