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Review: Cleverly derivative ‘Carnage Park’ grinds out homage

Ashley Bell in "Carnage Park."
(IFC Midnight)

Most B-pictures imitate other movies, but writer-director Mickey Keating’s “Carnage Park” steals so freely that it almost becomes derivative in an original way. Equally inspired by Quentin Tarantino, the Coen brothers and the seediest of ‘70s drive-in exploitation, “Carnage Park” is a frequently repellent film that’s nonetheless cleverly constructed.

In essence, this is the story of two bank robbers and their hostage, who make the mistake of driving onto the desert property of psychopathic marksman Wyatt Moss (played by Pat Healy) — who then hunts them for sport. That premise, though, barely describes the film.

After a bit of quasi-philosophical opening narration that recalls “Blood Simple,” Keating bounces between the mayhem out in the wilderness and flashbacks to what led the characters into Wyatt’s trap. The local sheriff (Alan Ruck) shows up to help, but his longstanding connection to the killer prevents him from getting too involved.

As the hostage, Ashley Bell gives a strong performance, even though too much of it consists of her screaming in terror. Genre stalwart Larry Fessenden also has a memorable cameo as another of Wyatt’s prey, and Giona Ostinelli’s Morricone-esque score, coupled with a handful of old country-pop classics, adds to the overall vibe of retro-homage.

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None of those elements entirely mitigates how violent, abrasive and over-familiar “Carnage Park” is. But Keating does recombine the commonplace into something impressively intense and nightmarish. He puts a personal stamp onto well-worn material.

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‘Carnage Park’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Playing: Laemmle NoHo7, North Hollywood

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