Dances With Films Movie Review: CENTRAL PARK

Horror is one of the broadest genres in cinema and within that broad scope, a passion for many of the more focused subgenres is abundant. Among those more narrowly examined categories, slashers may have some of the most hardcore and devoted fans who rabidly search and devour all the content they can get their hands on. Although drenched in good intentions, CENTRAL PARK is a movie that no one needs to dig for. 

In modern day New York, Harold Smith Jr. goes to a prep school with his friends, but after a Bernie Madoff-type financial disaster, he becomes the subject of ridicule when it's found that his father is at the middle of the crisis. To blow off steam, he and his inner circle decide to go party in Central Park but are slowly picked off by an unknown assailant. 

None of this matters. The plot is inconsequential and completely shoehorned in and for some reason, writer-director Justin Reinsilber decided to muddle things up with a strange subplot involving a very concerned teacher and the New York City Police Department. A number of strange and hanging plot lines are tossed around and never particularly get invested in and explored. Viewers spend time with at least four central characters, none of whom are interesting, but even worse they are just genuinely vanilla. They are loosely put into the standard horror trope categories, but much like trying to fit a square peg into a circle, they just don't fit. The character development, the very infinitesimally small amount of it that exists, is lopsided and bland. 

Something that can make a slasher stand out is the kills. Even movies that have a plot that gets eye rolling, something like THE MUTILATOR or THE PROWLER, can go down as an entertaining and thrilling entry in the genre because of the creative kills. Unfortunately, CENTRAL PARK strikes out here yet again. Once the ball gets rolling on the deaths, they are the kind of standard affair slasher fodder that you see on made-for-television horror movies on ABC Family. More often than not, the movie gears up for what may be a brutal fatality but then cuts away or pulls the camera to focus on the face of one of the helpless teenagers. This can be an effective technique in a better movie but the camera unit and director just don't quite have the chops to pull it off. 

Perhaps the most offensive action of all is the cardboard cutout killer that the film introduces. With some plot shoehorned in to try to lend credence to the thought behind the kills, that falls flat, the murderer somehow manages to wind up looking as if Agent Smith from THE MATRIX had been run through a graphic processor from a Playstation One. A lot of allusions are made as to what the purpose of his killing spree is, it seems that it is not as random as it seems, but the muddled story makes it nearly impossible to know what the true motive is. 

Justiin A. Davis is the most focal character and is given little opportunity to show off his acting chops and he gives a few moments of solid performance but unfortunately the film itself is just too much of a roadblock to shine through. The rest of the performances are some of the most lifeless and forced deliveries seen in any sort of indie slasher. 

CENTRAL PARK ends up promising much more than it can deliver. It ends up being a by-the-numbers genre affair that doesn't have anything that exceeds expectations. Often times in these straight-to-video horror titles, something fun, unique, or clever can be seen even amongst otherwise messy productions. Somehow, against all odds, CENTRAL PARK doesn't deliver in any facet of a movie watching experience, trodding right past "so bad its good" territory and firmly planting itself as just bad. 

Ryan Larson